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
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Fan-tailed Widow on UCT Summer School banner

PHOWN:
Accepted: 27488
(Uploaded: 27489)

Total nests counted: 8090487

Latest weaver links:
141 Red-billed Buffalo-weaver in flight
140 Weavers ringed in Entebbe
139 Baglafecht Weaver with grass seeds

Todays weaver type: (see more here)
21 Jan 1927, Plocepasser superciliosus bannermani , Chestnut-crowned Sparrow-weaver

Latest weaver news

Weaver Wednesday 4 [291] - Weaver themes [28]: Anton Reichenow, author of most weaver species

2018-01-10 (816)

Weaver Wednesday 4: Weaver themes (Series)

Anton Reichenow, author of most weaver species

portrait
Anton Reichenow
The weavers were described by 49 different authors (counting first authors only, where more than one was involved, see Discovery by author). Most weavers were described by Reichenow (n=10), followed by Linnaeus (n=9) and Hartlaub (n=8). Reichenow also co-authored the descriptions of 2 more weavers. He also described many weaver taxa that are now subspecies or not valid taxa.
Heuglin's Masked Weaver
Heuglin's Masked Weaver,
first weaver described by Reichenow

Anton Reichenow (1847 - 1941) was a German ornithologist and herpetologist. Reichenow was the son-in-law of Jean Cabanis, and worked at the Humboldt Museum from 1874 to 1921. He was an expert on African birds, making a collecting expedition to West Africa in 1872 and 1873, and writing "Die Vogel Afrikas (1900-05)". He was also an expert on parrots, describing all species then known in a book. He was editor of the Journal fur Ornithologie from 1894 to 1921. A number of birds are named after him, including Reichenow's woodpecker and Reichenow's firefinch.

Reichenow also worked in the scientific field of herpetology. He is credited with describing a new genus and two new species of frogs, and two new species of lizards.

Weavers described by Reichenow:
Heuglin's Masked Weaver
Tanganyika Masked Weaver
Bob-tailed Weaver
Rufous-tailed Weaver
Preuss's Weaver
Yellow-capped Weaver
Red-bellied Malimbe
Olive-headed Weaver
Montane Marsh Widowbird
Black-chinned Weaver

Weaver Wednesday 4 [290] - Weaver themes [27]: Genus Ploceus - 6. 'Hyphanturgus' weavers

2018-01-03 (815)

Weaver Wednesday 4: Weaver themes (Series)

'Hyphanturgus' weavers

Cabanis 1851a first used the subgenus 'Hyphanturgus', from the Greek huphaino, to weave; -ourgos, working, ie. nestbuilding activities. A variety of weavers were included in this group by different authors, the final revision being by Wolters 1982a, who upgraded this taxon to genus level and included 3 species.

'Hyphanturgus' weavers:
Spectacled Weaver
Black-necked Weaver
Black-billed Weaver

Note: Two subspecies of the Black-necked Weaver have recently been upgraded to species level.

These weavers have black bills that are long and slender. The sexes are alike in plumage except that the males in all these species have a black throat. The birds have yellow and black or olive plumages. The back, closed wing and tail are uniform olive green in 2 taxa and black in the other two.

The green-backed taxa are very similar in plumage but have distinctly different calls. The black-backed taxa differ in their underparts being yellow or black.

These weavers are usually solitary and monogamous breeders. The nest is oval and has a short or long entrance tube, and is usually placed in trees. They lay two or three eggs that are blue to whitish eggs spotted with fine red speckles.

Hyphanturgus weaver ranges

Weaver Wednesday 4 [289] - Weaver themes [26]: Genus Ploceus - 5. 'Sitagra' weavers

2017-12-27 (814)

Weaver Wednesday 4: Weaver themes (Series)

'Sitagra' weavers

Reichenbach 1850a first used the subgenus 'Sitagra', from the Greek Sitos, corn; agra, catching, ie. corn-eaters. A variety of weavers were included in this group by different authors, the final revision being by Wolters 1982a, who upgraded this taxon to genus level and included 4 species.

'Sitagra' weavers:
Little Weaver
Slender-billed Weaver
Loanga Weaver
Lesser Masked Weaver

Note: recent genetic studies indicate thet the Lesser Masked Weaver may not belong in this group.

These weavers generally have a slender bill (although thicker and shorter in Little Weaver). The breeding males have black masks. The females are generally olive-green above, and yellowish below.

The species cover much of Africa but there is significant overlap: the range of the Loanga Weaver (central west coast of Africa) is contained within the range of the Slender-billed Weaver; the ranges of Lesser Masked Weaver, Little Weaver and Slender-billed Weaver overlap in the lake Victoria region.

Nesting is usually in trees, and nests often have a short entrance tube. Mating system varies: the Lesser Masked Weaver is polygynous, Little and Slender-billed Weavers are monogamous, and unknown for Loanga Weaver.

Little Weaver
Lesser Masked Weaver
Loanga Weaver (in front)
Slender-billed Weaver
Sitagra weaver ranges
Loanga Weaver (red), Lesser Masked Weaver (green), Little Weaver (yellow), Slender-billed Weaver (purple)

Weaver Wednesday 4 [288] - Weaver themes [25]: Birds adopting weaver nests for breeding in Africa

2017-12-20 (813)

Weaver Wednesday 4: Weaver themes (Series)

Birds adopting weaver nests for breeding in Africa

finch
Red-headed Finch male in Cape Weaver nest

Abstract: Weavers build domed, long-lasting nests that may also be adopted by other species for breeding, probably reducing the energetic costs of nest building to varying degrees. In an extensive literature search, 57 species were found to have at least one record of adopting a weaver nest. There is one known obligate nest user, the Pygmy Falcon Polihierax semitorquatus. Four species were classed as near obligate nest adopters. Four species were listed as common, 10 as occasional, and 38 species as rare nest adopters. Other than the falcon and lovebirds Agapornis species, these nest adopters are passerines. Of the 57 species of nest adopters, 35 species had confirmed eggs and/or chicks found in the weaver nests. Most nest adopter species were in the Estrildidae family (20 species), with three estrildids classed as near obligates. This was followed by the Muscicapidae family, species that build cup nests. By building their cup nests inside weaver nests, there is likely protection from adverse weather and predators. Overall, there appeared to be a large diversity of nest adopter species for the traditional savanna living weavers (Ploceus, Bubalornis, Anaplectes, Plocepasser and Philetairus).

Download a copy of the paper here - 50 free reprints (else email me for a copy).

The "Near obligate" nest adopters are Chestnut Sparrow, Red-headed Finch, Cut-throat Finch, and Orange-breasted Waxbill.
The "Common" nest adopters are Rosy-faced Lovebird, Cape Sparrow, Brown Firefinch, and African Silverbill.
For the list of "Occasional" and "Rare" nest adopters, see Table 1 in the paper.

Weaver Wednesday 4 [287] - Weaver themes [24]: Discovery of Weavers course - UCT Summer School

2017-12-13 (812)

Weaver Wednesday 4: Weaver themes (Series)

Discovery of Weavers course - UCT Summer School

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Fan-tailed Widow on UCT Summer School banner

Learn about the discovery of weavers - the species, and the people. The people include collectors (hunters, explorers, and naturalist scientists), authors, and artists.

Title: Weaver birds: from Linnaeus to the present (Course no. 1042)

Dates: 22-26 January 2018, 9h15-10h15 daily, at UCT Middle Campus, Rondebosch

This course will discuss the discovery of the weaverbirds, a family of about one hundred and twenty species found mainly in Africa. The weavers were formally described from 1758, but some were known about long before Linnaeus. An essential part of the discovery of weavers was the work of museum professionals who received a large influx of specimens that needed to be sorted and compared to other specimens and literature descriptions before new species could be described. By the early 1900s a large number of birds were still being described, however these were largely subspecies. Although the rate of new species descriptions slowed down in the twentieth century, new genetic techniques are resulting in new species being named, or in subspecies being upgraded to species level. While the focus of the course will be on weavers, much of the material is relevant to other birds.

Lectures:
1. Linnaeus to Levaillant: the early years
2. Smith and South Africa: the early 1800s
3. Collectors of curiosities: the late 1800s
4. Authors and illustrators
5. Name changers: the modern era

To register: UCT Summer School

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