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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

BIRDNOTE®: The World's Most Abundant Bird

Air Date: Week of

A flock of red-billed quelea perch in the branches of a tree. (Photo: Bernard Dupont, CC)

The red-billed Quelea is a small finch-like African bird that migrates long distances in massive flocks. BirdNote®’s Michael Stein reports.


CURWOOD: The red-billed Quelea is a small finch-like African bird that migrates long distances in massive flocks. BirdNote’s Michael Stein has more.

The World’s Most Abundant Bird
[Red-billed Quelea flock sounds, https://www.xeno-canto.org/389238 ]

In Africa, south of the Sahara, there’s a bird that roams the countryside in flocks—hordes, really—of two million or more. They fly in such tightly synchronized masses they can be mistaken at a distance for clouds of smoke.

[Red-billed Quelea flock sounds, https://www.xeno-canto.org/389238 ]

The birds are Red-billed Quelea. It’s estimated there are 1.5 billion of them — making them the most abundant of all wild birds.

[A few Red-billed Quelea singing, https://www.xeno-canto.org/373576 , 0.16-20 or more running behind narrative]

The sparrow-sized Red-billed Quelea, which is in the weaver family, has a stout, seed-cracking bill. The birds are mostly brown, but breeding males have red and black feathered heads.

Quelea nest in enormous colonies. A single tree may be hung with hundreds, even thousands, of carefully woven nests. Single colonies can cover hundreds of acres, totaling tens of millions of birds.

Unfortunately, their tastes include cultivated crops, like millet.

In fact, the increased planting of cereal crops over the last fifty years may have dramatically increased the number of quelea.

But setting aside their taste for crops, the sight of a couple million Red-billed Quelea swirling in unison and creating ever-changing patterns in the air is one of nature’s most amazing spectacles.

[flock sounds, https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/88107]
Written by Bob Sundstrom
Producer: John Kessler
Managing Producer: Jason Saul
Associate Producer: Ellen Blackstone
© 2018 Tune In to Nature.org   October 2018/2019 / March 2023 
Narrator: Michael Stein
ID# REBIQU-01-2019-10-7    REBIQU-01 

CURWOOD: For photos flock on over to the Living on Earth website, loe dot org.



Learn more on the BirdNote® Website


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