The weaver bird family

There are 117 living species in the weaver bird family (Ploceidae), excluding the sparrows of genus Passer, see species list here. Read more about the family here.

Latest Weaver Wednesday
Sociable Weaver

PHOWN:
Accepted: 15250
(Uploaded: 15250)

Total nests counted: 7960078

Latest weaver reference: BOOK CHAPTER: Significance of weavers

Todays weaver type: (see more here)
1 Feb 1932, Ploceus aureoflavus pallidiceps , African Golden Weaver

Latest weaver news

Weaver Wednesday [137] - Discovery [20]: Sociable Weaver

2015-01-28 (618)

gravit8 Weaver Wednesday (species text)

Sociable Weaver Philetairus socius

Sociable Weaver
Sociable Weaver,
figure from Paterson 1789
Sociable Weaver
Sociable Weaver nest,
figure from Paterson 1789
Sociable Weaver map
Sociable Weaver
distribution, type locality circled

Introduction

The Sociable Weaver was formally described by John Latham, a Scottish explorer. Latham based the details on a travel book by William Paterson, a Scottish soldier and explorer. Paterson was sent to the Cape Colony to collect plants, and he made four trips into the interior between May 1777 and March 1780. In his published narrative, he wrote mostly about plants and rarely about animals. However, on his journey to the Orange River in 1779, he described a giraffe and the Sociable Weaver.

Paterson provided the first description and illustrations of the Sociable Weaver and its massive communal nest. He compared the nest to a thatched roof which he considered an "aerial city". He saw many large nests and estimated one to have 800-1000 birds living in it.

Paterson wrote about the Sociable Weaver in December 1779 after having returned from Namibia, so the exact locality is not clear. He noted that he saw the weavers and nests soon after seeing giraffe, and he would have seen the nests north of the Orange River between Goodhouse and Warmbad, during October 1779. The type locality was restricted to Warmbad for convenience.

Soon after Paterson's journey, Le vaillant travelled to the Orange River and also illustrated and wrote about the Sociable Weaver. He collected the first Rosy-faced Lovebirds, which he obtained at a Sociable Weaver colony. Le vaillant thus was the first person to report weaver nests being used by non-weavers. Thereafter, many travellers in southern Africa wrote about the Sociable Weaver and its unique nest.

Scientific citation

Loxia socia Latham 1790 Index Ornith., vol. i, p.381 Capitis Bonae Spei interioribus [=Inland of Cape of Good Hope], restricted to Warmbad, southern Great Namaqualand, Namibia, by MacDonald 1957.

Meaning of names

socius (Latin): sharing, allied [ie sociable].

Alternate names

Republican Grosbeak, Sociable Grosbeak, Social Weaver.

Collector

William Paterson.

Date collected

October 1779.

Locality collected

Capitis Bonae Spei interioribus [=Inland of Cape of Good Hope], restricted to Warmbad, Namibia.

Type specimens

Type specimen not known to exist; the illustration of Paterson 1789 serves as a type.

Weaver Wednesday [136] - Discovery [19]: Mauritius Fody

2015-01-21 (617)

gravit8 Weaver Wednesday (species text)

Mauritius Fody Foudia rubra

Mauritius Fody
Mauritius Fody,
figure from Brown 1776
Mauritius Fody
Mauritius Fody,
figure from Daubenton 1783
Mauritius Fody map
Mauritius Fody
distribution, type locality circled

Introduction

The Mauritius Fody was formally named by Johann Friedrich Gmelin, a German naturalist. Gmelin described many new bird species in a book in 1789 in the style of Linnaeus' publications, giving a brief description in Latin and a synonomy, including a reference to the coloured engraving by Francois-Nicolas Martinet in the book edited by Edme-Louis Daubenton. The illustration in Daubenton 1783 is of a male, and the first female to be painted, but Buffon does not appear to have written about it. Gmelin noted the locality for the Mauritius Fody as "insula Franciae".

Gmelin 1789 (p903) also described Fringilla erythrocephala, based on the first illustration of the Mauritius Fody, ie. by Peter Brown, an English naturalist and illustrator. Gmelin did not realise that the same species was involved, due to the slight differences in the artwork. The Latin name he provided here was invalid. Gmelin noted the locality for this Mauritius Fody specimen as "insula Mauritii".

Peter Brown was the first to illustrate, the Mauritius Fody. He called it the Red-headed Finch and gave a description of the bird. Brown notes that his specimen was in the collection of Marmaduke Tunstall, an English ornithologist and collector. The fody would have been brought by ship from Mauritius to England, where it would have been purchased by Tunstall.

Brown's painting appeared before that of Daubenton, but these paintings were probably based on different specimens, so all that can be said about the collection details is that the type specimen was taken before 1783 by an unknown collector. This is the last weaver described by Gmelin.

Scientific citation

Emberiza rubra Gmelin 1789 Syst. Nat., 1(2), p.877 Isle de France [=Mauritius].

Meaning of names

ruber (Latin): red, ruddy.

Alternate names

None (historic: Red-headed Finch, Crimson Bunting)

Collector

Unknown.

Date collected

Before 1783.

Locality collected

insula Franciae= Mauritius. The historic distribution of the Mauritius Fody ranged over much of Mauritius, so the type could have been collected anywhere on the island.

Type specimens

Type specimen not located; the illustration of Daubenton 1783 serves as a type.

BOOK CHAPTER: Significance of weavers

2015-01-19 (616)
Sekercioglu CH. 2006. Ecological significance of bird populations. In: Handbook of the Birds of the World - Volume 11.

figure
Cover of Handbook

Birds perform important ecosystem functions. Several of these functions are listed that apply to weavers (even though weavers are not listed as examples of these functions), eg seed dispersal (see example news about paper), pollination (see news about review paper), and predation on invertebrates.

Sociable Weavers are listed as ecosystem engineers, ie. they provide a nest mass that is used by many other organisms in the environment of the weavers. Not listed in this chapter, but many other weaver nests also provide shelter and breeding sites for other organisms - see some of these examples here (web news item with photos).

Granivorous birds are listed as potential agricultural pests, and a paragraph is devoted to the Red-billed Quelea as a problem bird.

There are many more functions of birds and weavers that have not been mentioned in this chapter, for instance the nests of Baya Weavers in India provide several useful functions for local communities (read here).


Literature as featured in Weaver Watch news items

Weaver Wednesday [135] - Discovery [18]: Yellow-crowned Bishop

2015-01-14 (615)

gravit8 Weaver Wednesday (species text)

Yellow-crowned Bishop Euplectes afer

Yellow-crowned Bishop
Yellow-crowned Bishop,
figure from Brown 1776
Yellow-crowned Bishop
Yellow-crowned Bishop,
figure from Vieillot 1805
Yellow-crowned Bishop map
Yellow-crowned Bishop
distribution, type locality circled

Introduction

The Yellow-crowned Bishop was formally named by Johann Friedrich Gmelin, a German naturalist. Gmelin described many new bird species in a book in 1789 in the style of Linnaeus' publications, giving a brief description in Latin and a synonomy, including a reference to Peter Brown, an English naturalist and illustrator. Gmelin noted the locality for the Yellow-crowned Bishop as Africa.

Peter Brown was the first to write about, and illustrate, the Yellow-crowned Bishop. He called it the Black-bellied Grosbeak and gave a description of the bird. Brown notes that his specimen was in the collection of Thomas Pennant,an English ornithologist. Pennant travelled in Europe but not in Africa, so he would have obtained it from someone else. The bishop would have been brought by ship from Africa to England, where it would have been purchased by Pennant [note: in the species text, Brown misspelled Pennant as Tennant, but acknowledged Thomas Pennant in the Preface].

The type locality was later restricted to Senegal, based on Vieillot 1805 who listed specimens from Senegal and Ethiopia. The Ethiopian specimens are based on a different subspecies of the Yellow-crowned Bishop, and thus cannot be a type locality. Buffon 1778 had noted that James Bruce, a Scottish traveller, mentioned and painted the Yellow-crowned Bishop in Ethiopia.

Scientific citation

Loxia afra Gmelin 1789 Syst. Nat., 1(2), p.857 Africa (Senegal; Grant & Praed, 1944, BBOC, 65, p.10).

Meaning of names

afer (Latin): African, from Africa.

Alternate names

Golden Bishop, Napoleon Bishop, Taha Bishop.

Collector

Unknown.

Date collected

Before 1776.

Locality collected

Africa = Senegal.

Type specimens

Type specimen not located; the illustration of Brown 1776 serves as a type.

PAPER (ecology): Quill mite in Spectacled Weavers

2015-01-12 (614)
Klimovieovta M, Skoracki M, Wamiti W, Hromada M. 2014. Quill mites of the subfamily Picobiinae (Acari: Syringophilidae) parasitising African birds, with description of two new species. Folia Parasitologica 61(5):394-400.

figure
Spectacled Weaver

Abstract. Two new species of the subfamily Picobiinae (Acari: Prostigmata: Syringophilidae) are described: Picobia ploceus sp. n. from Ploceus ocularis Smith (Passeriformes: Ploceidae) and Picobia lamprotornis sp. n. from Lamprotornis superbus (Ruppell) (Passeriformes: Sturnidae), both from Kenya. Additionally, new hosts are recorded: Turdoides jardineii (Smith) (Passeriformes: Leiothrichidae) from Kenya and Tanzania, T. rubiginosa (Ruppell) from Kenya, T. leucopygia (Ruppell) from Zambia and Namibia, for Picobia dziabaszewskii Glowska, Dragun-Damian et Dabert, 2012; Pycnonotus barbatus (Desfontaines) (Passeriformes: Pycnonotidae) from Kenya, for Picobia pycnonoti Glowska, Skoracki et Khourly, 2007; Dendropicos griseocephalus (Boddaert) (Piciformes: Picidae) from Tanzania and D. goertae (St. Muller) from Kenya, for Neopicobia freya Skoracki et Unsoeld, 2014; Dendropicos fuscescens (Vieillot) from Zambia and Campethera nubica (Boddaert) from Kenya, for Picobia dryobatis (Fritsch, 1958).

A new quill mite is described from a Spectacled Weaver caught on 16 November 2012 at Soysambu Conservancy, Kenya. 5-10 body feathers were collected from the weaver.

Quill mites spend most of their entire lives inside the hollow central shaft or quill of a bird's feather. The mites move to new feathers on the same bird when it is moulting. Female mites disperse to other individual birds of the same species through direct contact, eg. from a female to her nestlings, which then carry them for the rest of their lives. Different mite genera may be specific to a feather tract and only live in one type of feather in the host plumage, eg primary feathers, secondary feathers, tail-feathers, or body feathers.

Read more about the Spectacled Weaver at Spectacled Weaver.


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