Red-billed quelea

Native to Africa, the red-billed quelea is a small finch with a brown body and red bill. It can form nomadic super-colonies of up to 30 million birds, feeding on grains such as sorghum, wheat, barley, rice and corn. Red-billed queleas are one of the world's most abundant and destructive birds, causing US$70 million damage to grain crops each year.

Red-billed queleas are occasionally kept as pets in Australia. They have not been recorded in the wild in Queensland, but would be well suited to Queensland's tropical and subtropical savannas.

The red-billed quelea is not a prohibited or restricted invasive animal under the Biosecurity Act 2014.

Scientific name

Quelea quelea

Other names

  • Common quelea, African weaver bird, African weaver finch, common dioch, black-faced dioch, Sudan dioch

Similar species

  • Cardinal quelea
  • Red-headed quelea


  • Small finch approximately 12.5cm long, weight 15–20g.
  • Body is brown.
  • Bill is red, conical.
  • Legs are red.
  • Plumage and bills are brighter during breeding season.


  • Found in tropical and subtropical seasonally dry savannas, grasslands, woodlands, croplands.
  • Prefers thorny or spiny vegetation (e.g. Acacia savannas) during breeding season.
  • Up to 10 times more abundant in agricultural lands than in natural grasslands.


  • Not yet recorded in Queensland.

Life cycle

  • Incubation period is 10–12 days.
  • Lays average of 3 eggs, up to 5.
  • Breeds several times in same season, with 1–2 year break between seasons.
  • Can live up to 3 years.

Crops affected

  • Sorghum, cereal, wheat, barley, rice, sunflowers, corn.



  • Threatens native finches such as endangered Gouldian finch.
  • May compete with and replace other native animals that feed on grass seeds.


  • Could cause significant damage to Queensland's $400 million per annum cereal grain crops.


  • Could be a social nuisance.

Natural enemies

  • Herons, storks, falcons, goshawks, owls, hornbills, rollers, kingfishers, crows, marabou, shrikes, snakes, lizards, small mammals.


  • Early detection is essential for preventing pest establishment. If you have seen or are in possession of a red-billed quelea contact Biosecurity Queensland on 13 25 23.

Legal requirements

  • The red-billed quelea is not a prohibited or restricted invasive animal under the Biosecurity Act 2014. However, by law, everyone has a general biosecurity obligation (GBO) to take reasonable and practical steps to minimise the risks associated with invasive plants and animals under their control.
  • Local governments must have a biosecurity plan that covers invasive plants and animals in their area. This plan may include actions to be taken on certain species. Some of these actions may be required under local laws. Contact your local government for more information.

Further information