Kenya Birds

Red-billed Quelea


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Red-billed Quelea

Photograph(s) Copyright ©P&H HARRIS

Quelea quelea

Other Pics: Female Red-billed Quelea

Other Names

    French Travailleur à bec rouge   German Blutschnabelweber   Spanish Laborioso Quelea   Swedish Blodnäbbsvävare   Dutch Roodbekwever   Italian Lavoratore dal becco rosso

World: Africa: Widespread S of 17°N absent from the wetter areas of the equatorial W coast, the Congo basin and the arid regions of NE and central Somalia.

Kenya: Abundant throughout the country.

Found in bush, grassland, cultivation and savannah this is one of Kenya's most studied birds. It is, to put it bluntly, the greatest avian agricultural pest in the whole of the Afrotropical region. Being highly gregarious as well as nomadic, flocks containing hundreds of thousands and sometimes even millions of individuals can devastate cereal crops. They roost in such massive numbers that they can break thick tree branches. Being in an area where they are massing in numbers is a remarkable experience (unless you're a cereal farmer). At first light the flocks leave their roost to go for water and from a distance it looks as though a grass fire has started. The Queleas form into dense, highly synchronised flocks which look like clouds of smoke, and then, as the flock approaches you, the numbers are so vast their wing-beats sound like a high wind. We have been fortunate enough to witness this spectacle at Amboseli where we sat for 10 minutes while a single flock of Queleas made their morning trip from the swamp to the grassland to feed.

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