I made a shocking a discovery while changing the water dishes for the Fan-tailed/Red-shouldered Widowbirds (Euplectes axillaris):
It is a blood feather, which has been removed from the follicle. Though it looks gruesome, it was a merciful extraction; had the feather ruptured elsewhere, especially along the proximal end of the rachis, there would have been profuse bleeding.
Little Dracula is not happy about the loss of his feather. 5 August 2009
Since then, I have moved him and his bride to a larger enclosure, where they hide from me behind a hanging basket of faux foliage. I have seen them looking longingly out onto my unkempt yard, and I understand that I must somehow create a sanitary or at least maintainable simulant of a moist Afrotropic grassland in order to make them feel at home.
I do not wish to recount the story of how I acquired these birds, but considering that they were undoubtedly picked up from an import station, the blood is on my hands, not only floating in the water dish. They are extremely skittish, in general. I was relieved to see that Dracula had taken to some weaving project, at the bottom of his flight cage, which is as I had read it should be. And the “alleged” hen, who seemed to have a damaged wing at first, has made a complete recovery in my custody. Still, my habitat provisions are lacking.
The female Fan-tailed Widowbird also appears to be moulting, based on pin feathers emerging along the crown. 5 August 2009
The species does not seem to be popular in aviculture, as I find little more than field guide descriptions. Is anyone out there familiar with care and accommodations of these spooky weavers?