The Orange (Red Bishop) Weaver

Orange Weaver8,10,11,12,30,34,35,37,41
Euplectes orix and E. franciscanus
Reproduction:Very difficult
Singing ability:Poor
Compatibility:Aggressive, mixes well with other aggressive species
[Compatibility Chart]
Size:E. o. orix 5" (12-12.5 cm)
E. o. franciscana 4.25" (10.5-11 cm)
Weight:E. o. orix 21-26 grams
E. o. franciscana 14.5-17.5 grams
Approx. cost:$80 (US) per pair

Other common names

Red Bishop, Grenadier Weaver, Grenadier Bishop, Orange Bishop, Orange Bishop Weaver, Orange Weaver, Crimson Grenadier, Scarlet Grenadier.
  • E. o. franciscana is the species called the Orange Weaver (or Orange Bishop) or Northern Red Bishop, and is the most commonly encountered in aviculture. Some authors consider it its own species, Euplectes franciscanus. It ranges from Senegal to Sudan.
  • E. o. orix is called the Southern Red Bishop, Grenadier Weaver or simply Red Bishop. It is not commonly kept in captivity, and can be differentiated from E. o. franciscana by its larger size and the fact that it has black feathers under its chin. It hails from South Africa.



Area of distribution

Across northern Africa, from Senegal to Ethiopia and Tanzania, and south to Angola and South Africa.



Aggressive while breeding.

Physical descriptions

When in color ("nuptial plumage"--which occurs seasonally), the male appears as follows: black beak, the top of the head and area around the eyes are black, the abdomen is black, the wings are brown, and the rest of the bird (chin, throat, chest, nape of the neck, back, undertail, and upper tail coverts) are orange to red in color.

When out of color ("eclipse plumage"), he appears similar to the hen: sparrow-like coloration with horn-colored beak, tawny brown body color with dark streaks to the feathers, cream belly.


The cocks seasonally enter a more colorful black-and-orange nuptial plumage which the hens do not sport. Hen are generally smaller in stature than cocks. When compared to cocks that are out-of color, hens may have darker streaking on the underparts. E. o. orix hens have darker cheek patches bordered by a lighter brown, lighter eyestripes, and paler upper flanks and breast areas; the bill is paler. E. o. franciscanus hens, when compared to cocks, have a broader eyestripe that lacks the dark underline; the cheek patch is less rusty brown and lacks flecking along the lower rear aspect; the underparts are paler; the bill is lighter in color; the striping on the crown is less delineated.


No data.


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Orange Weaver cock
E. franciscana cock. Notice the orange chin.

Photo by Isidro Vila Verde.
Wild E. franciscana cock. Photo by Isidro Vila Verde.

Photo by Isidro Vila Verde.
Wild E. franciscana cock. Photo by Isidro Vila Verde.

Orange Weaver cock
E. franciscana cock.

Orange Weaver cock
E. franciscana cock.

Orange Weaver cocks
E. franciscana cocks in well planted aviary.

Orange Weaver cock
E. franciscana cock. Photo by Julio Caldas.

Grenadier Weaver cock
E. o. orix cock. Notice the black chin. Photo by Andrew Mercer.

Grenadier Weaver hen
E. o. orix hen. Photo by Andrew Mercer.

Grenadier Weaver cock
E. o. orix cock. Photo by Andrew Mercer.

Grenadier Weaver cock
E. o. orix cock. Photo by Andrew M. Howe.

Orange Weaver hen
Hen. Photo by Marty DeAngelo.

Grenadier Weaver cock and nest
E. o. orix cock and his nest. Photo by Rute.

Two weavers
E. nigroventris ("Zanzibar Red Bishop"). This bird is often confused with the Orange Weaver, but differs in that the orange color is present on the top of the head and forehead, in contact with the upper bill. This bird also has a black throat. I suspect these are both cocks since the tawny-colored bird is beginning to get black feathering on its belly.

E. nigroventris ("Zanzibar Red Bishop").

E. nigroventris ("Zanzibar Red Bishop").

Two weavers
E. hordeacea ("Crimson-crowned Weaver" or "Black-winged Red Bishop"). This bird is also often confused with the Orange Weaver, but differs in that the orange color is present on the top of the head and forehead, in contact with the upper bill. Unlike E. nigroventris above, this cock has an orange throat. The hen of this pair is on the left.

Two weavers
From this angle it is easier to appreciate the orange forehead of the E. hordeacea ("Crimson-crowned Weaver" or "Black Winged Red Bishop") cock. The hen is on the left.

Favorite foods

Small cereal seeds, live food (e.g. crickets, moths, etc.), green food.

Natural habitat

Reed beds near surface water, open grasslands, parks, gardens, farmland. Nests among tall grasses and reeds in wet areas.


This species is polygamous; males tend to maintain harems of 3-4 hens on average in the wild. When not breeding, flocks tend to become pests to cereal crops. Orange Weavers love to bathe and should be given regular bathing opportunities.

Special considerations

If keeping these birds in a mixed collection, they may be housed with larger, more robust finches such as cut-throats, java sparrows, and other similarly sized weavers. Keep an eye on the birds when they come into nuptial plumage as they may become aggressive at this time--separate overly aggressive birds from the flock to prevent fighting and injury. The "Orange Bishop" is sometimes thought to be a faded version of the "Red Bishop" which has lost its intense coloration while molting in captivity. Although most Bishops do fade in captivity (likely due to a dietary deficiency), the Orange Weaver is actually a separate subspecies of the Red Bishop. Color feeding captive birds (as well as providing grated carrots and a variety of live food) may help them to retain the depth of their reddish nuptial plumage during subsequent molts.

Orange Weavers are long-lived (surviving up to 15 years in captivity) and generally robust. They do tend to be easily stressed from capture and transportation, which can lead to head trauma and heat exhaustion. They may also be prone to obesity if housed in small enclosures or fed too-rich a diet year-round. Regular deworming for intestinal parasites including coccidia is recommended. Their enclosure should be protected from cold winds and storms, but ideally should allow the birds to experience rainfall (naturally or simulated with a misting system) while maintaining a well-draining floor.

E. orix has reportedly hybridized with the white-shouldered widowbird (E. albonotatus) and the black-winged bishop (E. hordeaceus).

Breeding season

Breeding occurs once rainfall has increased the supply of insects and seed.

Breeding tips

Birds aged 2 to 7 years are best suited for breeding. Under 2 years of age, males may color partially and engage in hissing and practice nest building, but tend to not actually breed.

Weavers appear to need fairly high temperatures for breeding to take place, and are stimulated to breed by "rainfall;" some breeders will install a mist spray system in the enclosure to use if rainfall is low and/or inconsistent. A breeding diet with a wide variety of live food and half-ripe seed should be offered. Ideally, colony breeding should be set up in a spacious, well-planted aviary because males tend to become very defensive of their nesting territories, especially towards other males of their same species. Plantings for the enclosure should include tall seeding grasses, dense shrubbery, and small clumping bamboo species.

This species is polygamous, so when attempting to breed, a small group of at least 2 to 3 hens should be provided for each male. If only one hen is housed with the cock, he may harass her during the breeding period and interfere with the nest, resulting in losses of eggs and/or chicks. If unable to provide a greater number of hens, either the cock should be removed from the enclosure once the hen begins incubation, or a second (subordinate) cock bird can be added to keep the dominant male occupied with territorial defense. If using the latter method, monitor the birds closely to ensure the dominant bird is not injuring the subordinate one or blocking him from the feeding station. Housing the same species in adjoining aviaries which permit the birds to see each other may be safer since the males will compete through the wire partition, increasing their drive to breed and distracting them from interfering with their brooding hens while protecting them from physical harm.

When the male displays, the feathers around his neck are fluffed outward. The male constructs an intricately woven nest (hence the name "Weaver") from raffia, dried grasses, strips of palm fronds, and similar plant materials. He will often accept coconut fiber. In the wild, this nest is often built within reed beds, but in captivity, it may be suspended from the aviary roof or from branches within a shrub. The nest is oval in shape. He may need to build multiple nests before a hen will accept one. As soon as he has settled one hen in a nest, he will go on to build the next nest for the next hen. Once a hen accepts a nest, she will line it with fine grasses, sometimes after laying her eggs. Each hen will lay her greenish-blue colored eggs and do all of the work of incubation and chick rearing by herself while the cock devotes his time to guarding the nesting territory.

A constant, ample supply of live food is essential throughout the breeding period. Nest checks should be avoided. Young may be able to stay in the breeding enclosure until the end of the breeding season, however, they may need to be removed from the enclosure once they become independent if they are being harassed. Hens will typically have up to 3 broods in a season, and will usually re-line the same nest for each subsequent brood.

Life Cycle

Clutch size:2-4 eggs
Incubation:Done by the hen
Hatch date:After 12-14 days of incubation
Fledge date:At 14-15 days of age
Wean date:5 weeks of age

Related Article(s)

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Orange (Red Bishop) Weaver

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