Pin-tailed Whydah (male) on the Barano Trail, Mission Viejo, CA September 21, 2014

Pin-tailed Whydah (male) 18662)
A male Pin-tailed Whydah in search of seed / food on the Barano Trail.  Photo taken on September 21, 2014 around 10:50 a.m.
Pin-tailed Whydah (male) 18659)
A male Pin-tailed Whydah overlooks a section of the Barano Trail in Mission Viejo, CA on September 21, 2014
Pin-tailed Whydah (male) 18633)
A male Pin-tailed Whydah appears to be performing a courtship display in flight on the Barano Trail, Mission Viejo, CA on September 21, 2014


 At around 10 a.m., after being on this local trail for about an hour, my peripheral vision was able to briefly catch a very narrow and lengthy tailed species in flight.  I had hoped for its return as from experience I knew this was either a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher or a male Pin-tailed Whydah.  The Scissor-tailed would be an uncommon, non exotic and a domestic find while the Whydah would be a bit more common and an exotic (caged release and originally from Africa – it did not fly here – i.e. migrate).  However, either would be fascinating to watch after this brief encounter.

A 20 minute wait proved beneficial (not exceptional as with a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher) as the earlier sighting was in fact the male Pin-tailed Whydah.  The flying pattern of this male Whydah was rather cumbersome and clunky to say the least.  It was neither swift nor agile.  As it landed atop of a sycamore tree waiting for insects, a unique dodging pattern occurred moments later as it was thrust itself back and forth against a barren branch plucking insects (see in flight photograph below) one by one.

I tracked the bird for about an hour and overtime the male eventually came within close proximity. He landed on the asphalt trail as I stood nearby in the shadows firing off a series of photographs with the 5D Mark III in Silent shutter mode and the Canon 400mm L 5.6 with a 1.4 extender.

I have been on this trail numerous times weekly over the past 3 years and this is the first Pin-tailed Whydah.  It’s presence apparently agitated a nearby Black Phoebe that I witnessed flying back and forth under a nearby rooftop.  Three Northern Mockingbirds and several Western-scrub Jays also appeared to be bothered by its appearance.

13 Responses

  1. Phyllis Anderson

    I have had some pin tailed whydahs in my back yard for several months now. I’ve had a male, female, and 3 juveniles. The male is there frequently throughout the day, and comes to eat the seed I put out on the patio. He is also very aggressive to the other birds feeding there, and will fly toward them to scare them off, usually with success. And, yes, he does seem to be struggling to fly up into the trees, where he appears to be “standing guard” over his territory, as he will swoop down to the poor birds that enter his domain!

  2. Great photos! I’m surprised the male still has the long tail, which I thought was his breeding plumage. BTW, I wrote a story for the Orange County Register (9/7/13) about the pin-tailed whydahs in the area. Doug Willick provided some interesting information about these birds. Here’s the link:

  3. Today, 6-29-16, in Costa Mesa 92627, between 5-6pm, on the lawn in my backyard under a bird feeder, I saw a male Pin-tailed Whydah eating seeds for about ten minutes.

  4. Thanks for this – consider making an entry at for this sighting and any other sightings

  5. Dayle

    On June 1, 2016 I saw a male Pin-tailed Whydah eating seed under my bird feeder in Ocean Beach (San Diego) 92107. He was here for about 15 minutes between 6-6:30pm. Several finches, sparrows, and doves were also feeding. He was very quick and nervous but intent on feeding.

  6. hi – thank you for this notification – it has been approved on the site

  7. My wife and I saw a male Pin tailed Whydah in Sycamore Park off of Stone Hill road at San Juan Creek, at 6:00 PM on July 16. We have never seen the bird before, and we were amazed to see it. Spent about 15 minutes photographing and observing the small long tailed, bird as he foraged, and perched about signing with distinctive song.

  8. Dianne

    I’ve been watching this long tailed bird for the past week. Finally had the chance to get up close today, so excited to identify a male Pin tailed Whydah here in Tustin!

  9. thanks for the heads up..been getting many inquiries on this species.

  10. B.J. Shultz

    I have had a Pin Tailed Whydah in my backyard for days now. They chase off the goldfinches and doves to get to the seeds on the ground. He seems to rarely eat on the ground.

  11. thanks for this helpful local info

  12. Cedric Berggren

    We have had a Pin-tailed Whydah visit our bird feeder every day for the past couple of months. He has maintained his long tail feathers the whole time and we have witnessed his courtship dance several times, recorded it on cellphone video once. He is very aggressive towards other birds, especially doves.

  13. thanks for the posting

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