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
Scaly-feathered Finch

PHOWN:
Accepted: 27067
(Uploaded: 27067)

Total nests counted: 7985153

Latest weaver reference: PAPER (ecology): Frogs in weaver nests

Todays weaver type: (see more here)
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Latest weaver news

Weaver Wednesday [154] - Discovery [37]: Scaly-feathered Finch

2015-05-27 (641)

gravit8 Weaver Wednesday (species text)

Scaly-feathered Finch Sporopipes squamifrons

Scaly-feathered Finch
Scaly-feathered Finch at nest
figure from Smith 1844a
Scaly-feathered Finch collector
Andrew Smith,
figure from wikipedia
Scaly-feathered Finch map
Scaly-feathered Finch
distribution, type locality circled

Introduction

The Scaly-feathered Finch was collected and formally described by Andrew Smith, a Scottish surgeon, explorer, ethnologist and zoologist. Smith moved to Grahamstown in 1820 as a doctor, and in 1825 he was appointed as the first Superintendent of the South African Museum of natural history in Cape Town.

Smith organised an expedition to the interior and he travelled to near the Botswana border in 1834-35, collecting many new birds, reptiles, mammals and other taxa along the way.

Smith noted that the Scaly-feathered Finch was common north of Latakoo, and that he only once saw it south of that locality, namely, near the source of the Great Fish River. Vincent 1935 argues that the correct type-locality depends on which of the two localities Smith first visited. Smith's expedition account shows that he travelled from the coast to Graaf Reinet and then to Latakoo (near Kuruman). Smith first saw the species near the source of the Great Fish River (near Graaf Reinet), but it is unclear if he collected a specimen here.

Clancey (1957) and Oschadleus (2007) argued that the Scaly-feathered Finch does not occur near Graaf Reinet and thus Latakoo (ie Kuruman) should be taken as the type locality.

Currently Kuruman is favoured as the type locality. Andrew Smith wrote detailed notes in his diary on 19 March 1835 about the Scaly-feathered Finch at the Moshawing River, near Latakoo, where he also found a nest with 2 chicks.

The first illustration of a Scaly-feathered Finch was published by Andrew Smith in 1844 in his well known work, Illustrations of the Zoology of South Africa, and the Scaly-feathered Finch with its nest was painted by George Henry Ford.

Scientific citation

Estrelda squamifrons Smith 1836; Rep. Exped. Centr. Africa, p.49; South Africa; restricted to Kuruman, northern Cape Province by Clancey (1957, Durban Mus. Novit., 5, p.50).

Meaning of names

squamifrons Latin: squameus, scaly; frons, the forehead or brow.

First English name

The Scale-headed Weaver-Finch (Reichenbach 1863).

Alternate names

Damara Scaly-feathered Weaver, Scaly Weaver, Scaly-crowned Weaver, Scaly-feathered Weaver Bird, Scaly-fronted Weaver, Scuttelated Finch, The Scale-headed Weaver-Finch.

Collector

Andrew Smith.

Date collected

19 March 1835.

Locality collected

Moshawing River, Kuruman.

Type specimens

There are at least 4 type specimens in different museums: BM 1872.10.4.92, ANSP 13911, Merseyside D1774, and Merseyside D1774a.

Weaver chick movements

2015-05-25 (640)
map
Movements of weaver BE58350

During 2009 I ringed some 500 weaver chicks on the Cape Peninsula to see where they go. Southern Masked Weaver chick BE58350 was ringed along the Ottery River near Springfield Rd (blue square on map). It was 1 of 2 chicks in a nest in bamboos. It was recaptured 1.5 years later at Strandfontein, 8km south of where it had hatched. It was recaptured again precisely 5 years 5 months 5 days after being ringed, at Intaka Island, 20km north of Strandfontein.

See details of the recaptures here.

See details of the project on ringing weaver chicks here. Funding for the ringing of the chicks was received from the African Bird Club Conservation Fund and the Cape Tercentenary Foundation.

The oldest Southern Masked Weaver that was ringed as a chick was recaptured after 11 years 5.5 months in Johannesburg within 2 km of its hatching site (ring 58213057). This weaver had been ringed by Clive Hunter who conducted a detailed study of the breeding of Southern Masked Weavers.

Weaver Wednesday [153] - Discovery [36]: Thick-billed Weaver

2015-05-20 (639)

gravit8 Weaver Wednesday (species text)

Thick-billed Weaver Amblyospiza albifrons

Thick-billed Weaver
Thick-billed Weaver
figure from Swainson 1838
Thick-billed Weaver
Thick-billed Weaver
figure from Smith 1840
Thick-billed Weaver
Thick-billed Weaver
figure from Smith 1840
Thick-billed Weaver map
Thick-billed Weaver
distribution, type locality circled

Introduction

The Thick-billed Weaver was formally described by Nicholas Aylward Vigors, an Irish zoologist and politician. Vigors was a co-founder of the Zoological Society of London in 1826, and its first secretary until 1833.

The Thick-billed Weaver specimen was presented to the Zoological Society of London by Henry Ellis, an English librarian at the British Museum. It is not known from whom Ellis obtained these specimens.

Vigors described nine new species from the Ellis collection and the specimens were all believed to have come from Algoa Bay and surroundings in the Eastern Cape. Two species, however, the Purple-crested Turaco Tauraco porphyreolophus and the Spotted Thrush Zoothera guttata, have their southern limits further north in the Transkei (and may have come from Durban), but the rest of the specimens probably did originate from the Algoa Bay area.

The first illustration of a Thick-billed Weaver is in Swainson (1838), showing a line drawing of the very heavy bill of a male. A few years after this species was first described, Andrew Smith found this species in 2 places: in the Eastern Cape forests (probably not too far from Grahamstown, as Smith was based there in his early years in South Africa) and around Durban (Port Natal) in 1832. Smith commisioned the first colour illustrations of the The Thick-billed Weaver - these were published as 2 plates in Smith (1840), and painted by George Henry Ford.

Scientific citation

Pyrrhula albifrons Vigors 1831; Proc. Zool. Soc. London, p.92 1831 Algoa Bay, eastern Cape.

Meaning of names

albifrons Latin: albus, white; frons, the forehead, brow.

First English name

White-fronted Grosbeak (Gurney 1860).

Alternate names

Abyssinian Grosbeak Weaver, Angola Grosbeak Weaver, Ashanti White-fronted Grosbeak, Black Swamp Weaver, Cameroon Grosbeak Weaver, Cavort chewer, East Coast Grosbeak Weaver, Grosbeak Weaver, Hawfinch Weaver, Kenya Grosbeak Weaver, The white-headed Coryphegnathus, White Nile Grosbeak Weaver, White-fronted Grosbeak, White-fronted Weaver.

Collector

Uknown.

Date collected

Before 1831.

Locality collected

Algoa Bay.

Type specimens

The type specimen is not in the British Museum (Warren 1971), and is thus probably lost.

Weaver Wednesday [152] - Discovery [35]: Blue-billed Malimbe

2015-05-13 (638)

gravit8 Weaver Wednesday (species text)

Blue-billed Malimbe Malimbus nitens

Blue-billed Malimbe
Blue-billed Malimbe
figure from Gray 1849
Blue-billed Malimbe
figure from Bannerman 1949
Blue-billed Malimbe map
Blue-billed Malimbe
distribution, type locality circled

Introduction

The Blue-billed Malimbe was formally described by George Robert Gray, an English zoologist, author, and head of the ornithological section of the British Museum. Gray started at the British Museum as Assistant Keeper of the Zoology Branch in 1831, when he would have found the specimen brought to the museum years earlier.

The Blue-billed Malimbe had been collected by Captain Edward Sabine, an Irish astronomer, geophysicist, ornithologist, explorer, and soldier.

Sabine travelled halfway around the world to study the the "oblateness" (shape) of the Earth and carried out measurements on the intertropical coasts of Africa and the Americas. Sabine had struck up a friendship with Douglas Clavering, an officer of the British Royal Navy, who agreed to take Sabine on board the Pheasant. They travelled to Sierra Leone, the Island of St Thomas, Ascension Island, Bahia, Maranham, Trinidad, Jamaica, and New York during the years 1821-23.

The first illustration of a Blue-billed Malimbe is in Gray (1849), although it is a poor illustration (the original may be in colour, the internet scanned version is not). The next potential illustration is by Reichenbach (1863), who illustrated most weavers known at that time - he described 3 malimbes but the paintings of these species do not appear to have been published. This species was not illustrated again until Bannerman (1949).

Scientific citation

Ploceus nitens Gray 1831; Zool. Misc., 1, p.7; Sierra Leone (cf. Sharpe, 1890, Cat. Birds Brit. Mus., 13, p.481).

Meaning of names

nitens Latin: shining, glittering (nitere, to shine).

First English name

Red-breasted Weaver (Gray 1831).

Alternate names

Red-breasted Weaver, The shining Malimbus, Lake Albert Malimbe, Gray's Blue-billed Weaver, Great Blue-billed Weaver.

Collector

Captain Edward Sabine.

Date collected

Between 1821 - 1823.

Locality collected

Sierra Leone.

Type specimens

One type specimen is in the British Museum (BM Old Vellum Cat. 21 no. 82a).

Trip to KwaZulu-Natal, 25 April - 9 May, 2015

2015-05-11 (637)
Teza
Ringing at Lake Teza,
Ali (left) and Daniel (far right) with bid club members

Although a holiday trip, some ringing was done in Zululand, Boston and Hattingspruit. A total of 160 birds of 43 species were caught (ringed or recaptured).

Zululand, 26-28 April
In Zululand, ringing was conducted at Lake Teza, a garden near the Sappi nursery north of KwaMbonambi, and at Thulazihleka Pan in Richards Bay. Ali Halajian from the University of Limpopo collected ecto-parasites from all the birds we caught in Zululand. Daniel Oschadleus completed his training as a ringer during this time. The most caught species at the Zululand sites were: Eastern Golden Weaver (14) and Yellow-eyed Canary (8) at Teza, Village Weaver (18) and Lesser Masked Weaver (13) at Thulazihleka Pan, and House Sparrow (5) in the garden. The most interesting bird caught in the garden was a Golden-rumped Tinker Barbet, and some recaptures of different species ringed there in 2014. Bird club members visited the ringing sessions.

Boston, 3 May
In Boston, ringing was done on 1 morning on the farm of Crystelle Wilson, editor of KZN Birds. A blog report, with photos, may be read here.

phown 16313
Village Weaver (non-breeding) and nest

Hattingspruit, 6-8 May
Not many birds were ringed here, but some interesting species included a Hoopoe and 3 Arrow-marked Babblers. Two Village Weavers were ringed and no Southern Masked Weavers although the latter were present - the Village Weaver seems to be increasing in Hattingspruit. Also a Spectacled Weaver was recorded in the garden for the first time, although it breeds in nearby Dundee.

PHOWN and VMs
Lots of weaver nests were found and submitted to PHOWN, PHOtos of Weaver Nests. Most nests were old and deserted, but weavers were seen at some colonies, eg at the Estcourt Ultra Shell (E side of N3) flocks of Village weavers were coming and going to the plane trees which contained 75 old nests. Quite a few other Virtual Museum records were also submitted, from bats to butterflies.

Thanks to all who hosted me! - Tony and Monika Roberts, Crystelle Wilson, and the Fouches.

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