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
Cape Weaver

Accepted: 14482
(Uploaded: 14482)

Total nests counted: 7954039

Latest weaver reference: PAPER: Frog nest in weaver nest

Todays weaver type: (see more here)
24 Oct 1875, Nigrita dorsalis , Grey-headed Social-weaver

Latest weaver news

Weavers breeding in Eucalypts

2014-10-23 (586)
PHOWN 2020
Slender-billed Weaver nest in Eucalypt
PHOWN 11958
Dark-backed Weaver nest in Eucalypt

Some weavers often nest in exotic vegetation, especially tall trees in man-modified habitits. This includes eucalypt trees (Eucalptus), which are otherwise not frequented by many indigenous birds. Smith 1974 (The utilization of gum trees by birds in Africa, Ibis 116:155-164) compiled a list of birds, including the weavers below. Additionally records are also listed.

For the Southern Masked Weaver and Cape Weaver there are particularly many records. For several species, there are PHOWN records, showing nesting in Eucalypts.

Weavers that have been recorded as breeding in Eucalyptus trees (from Smith 1974):
Southern Masked Weaver Ploceus velatus
Baglafecht Weaver Ploceus baglafecht
Cape Weaver Ploceus capensis
Lesser Masked Weaver Ploceus intermedius
Southern Red Bishop Euplectes orix
Red-headed Weaver Anaplectes rubriceps
Ruppell's Weaver Ploceus galbula
Village Weaver Ploceus cucullatus
Speke's Weaver Ploceus spekei
White-browed Sparrow-weaver Plocepasser mahali

Weavers that have been recorded as breeding in Eucalyptus trees (outside Africa):
Baya Weaver Ploceus philippinus
Mauritius Fody Foudia rubra

Weavers that have been recorded as breeding in Eucalyptus trees (single or few records):
Holub's Golden Weaver Ploceus xanthops
Red-billed Buffalo-Weaver Bubalornis niger
Sociable Weaver Philetairus socius
Spectacled Weaver Ploceus ocularis
Dark-backed Weaver Ploceus bicolor
Red-billed Quelea Quelea quelea
Slender-billed Weaver Ploceus pelzelni

Weaver Wednesday [123] - Discovery [6]: Cape Weaver

2014-10-22 (585)

gravit8 Weaver Wednesday (species text)

Cape Weaver Ploceus capensis

Cape Weaver
Cape Weaver male
figure by Martinet (in Daubenton 1783)
Brisson, first described
the Cape Weaver in great detail,
figure from wikipedia
phown 4953
Cape Weaver colony,
figure painted by Lady Anne Barnard
Cape Weaver map
Cape Weaver distribution,
type locality circled


After Linnaeus published his 10th edition of Systema Naturae, he came across many more species. His 12th edition (Linnaeus 1766) contains several more weavers, the first being the Cape Weaver. Linnaeus gave a very short description, based on the longer description in Brisson 1760.

Mathurin Jacques Brisson, a French zoologist, wrote his book on birds in several volumes, each page having 2 columns (one in French and one in Latin). Brisson gave the names "Le Carouge du Cap de Bonne Esperance" (French, for Oriole of the the Cape of Good Hope) and Xanthornus Capitis Bonae Spei (Latin). Many of Brisson's Latin names for birds were given before Linnaeus, but they were not constructed as binomial names, and thus do not qualify as scientific names.

Brisson noted that the Cape Weaver originated from the Cape of Good Hope. This could be from anywhere in the Cape but most likely the Cape Weaver was taken from the Cape Peninsula. The Cape Weaver specimen was housed in the Aubrey abbey in Paris.

The Cape Weaver was first illustrated by Francois-Nicolas Martinet, under the supervision of Edme-Louis Daubenton, a French naturalist, in 1783. Martinet engraved and painted over 1000 colour plates for the Histoire naturelle (1749-89), providing the largest collection of bird paintings in the world at the time. Troupiale olive de Cayenne

The earliest written record referring to an African weaver that is identifiable, is a record of a Cape Weaver from 1630. Friar Francisco dos Santos was a Portuguese priest on the ship San Gonzales which became stranded in Formosa Bay (=Plettenberg Bay, South Africa) in June 1630. While stranded on land for 9 months, Santos wrote about the fauna and flora, the earliest record for the region. He described hanging weaver nests and the only known Ploceus weaver in Plet at that time was the Cape Weaver. Read the fascinating story here.

Two other interesting early records are paintings of weaver nests by Lady Anne Barnard from 1797 in Stellenbosch (PHOWN 4953) and 1798 a farm dam near Porterville (PHOWN 4954). Again, these can only belong to the Cape Weaver, since the Southern Masked Weaver did not occur in the Western Cape before 1900.

Scientific citation

Oriolus capensis Linnaeus 1766 Syst. Nat. 12th ed. I, p.163 Cape of Good Hope

Meaning of names

capensis After the Cape of Good Hope (Modern Latin: Caput Bonae Spei; Portuguese: Cabo de Boa Esperanca), South Africa.

Alternate names

Olive Weaver, Cape Golden Weaver, Eastern Cape Weaver Bird, Golden-crowned Weaver bird, Yellow green Weaver-Bird



Date collected

Before 1760, when the Cape Weaver was first described.

Locality collected

Cap. b. spei = Cape of Good Hope (probably the Cape Peninsula)

Type specimens

No type specimens known to survive, but the painting of Martinet may serve as a type, although it may or may not be the same individual specimen as described by Brisson.

PAPER: Frog nest in weaver nest

2014-10-20 (584)
Kielgast J, Lotters S. 2009. Forest weaverbird nests utilized by foam-nest frogs (Rhacophoridae: Chiromantis) in Central Africa. Salamandra 45(3):170-171.

African foam-nest tree frog

Abstract. We report that the Afrotropical anuran Chiromantis rufescens may use empty forest weaver bird nests above water for deposition of foam-nests with eggs. Our observation was made in January 2008 at a temporary pond in primary rainforest of Salonga National Park, Democratic Republic of Congo. To the best of our knowledge this is the first ever report of utilization of bird nests by amphibians. We expect that bird nests with their tube-like entrance were difficult to access for frogs and that the choice of this oviposition site was non-random. If so, it may be a response to strong egg predation, e.g. through primates, as known in C. rufescens.

The authors found two cases where African foam-nest tree frogs used the deserted nests of the Blue-billed Malimbe to build their foam-nest. This frog usually builds its nest on branches overhanging water. Read more about the Blue-billed Malimbe.

Literature as featured in Weaver Watch news items

Weavers eating frogs

2014-10-19 (583)
birdpix 11090
Spectacled Weaver eating frog

Weavers generally feed on seeds and insects, although some unusual diet items have been recorded, including small frogs. Four weaver species have been recorded as eating small frogs (from Handbook of the Birds of the World, Vol. 15).

Recently Spectacled Weaver was added to the list as Birdpix record 11090. An adult male Spectacled Weaver snatched a Painted Reed Frog from a bench, and flew up into a tree where it shared the frog with a juvenile (click on the record to see more photos).

Weavers that have been recorded as feeding on small frogs:
Baya Weaver Ploceus philippinus
Black-billed Weaver Ploceus melanogaster
Thick-billed Weaver Amblyospiza albifrons
White-billed Buffalo-Weaver Bubalornis albirostris
Spectacled Weaver Ploceus ocularis

Weaver Wednesday [122] - Discovery [5]: Red-billed Quelea

2014-10-15 (582)

gravit8 Weaver Wednesday (species text)

Red-billed Quelea Quelea quelea

Red-billed Quelea
Red-billed Quelea type
from Brisson 1760
Michel Adanson
Michel Adanson,
collector of Red-billed Quelea,
from wikipedia
Red-billed Quelea
Red-billed Quelea,
from Edwards 1760
Red-billed Quelea map
Red-billed Quelea distribution,
type locality circled


Linnaeus 1758 described the quelea with a Latin text, but did not provide a reference. He noted that the species came from India, again an error based on ships from the East Indies picking up bird specimens along the African coast on their return to Europe. In his updated 12th edition of Systema Naturae (Linnaeus 1766), he presented the same plumage description in Latin but corrected the type locality to Africa, and listed Brisson as a reference.

Presumably Linnaeus had access to Brisson's 1760 draft in 1758. Mathurin Jacques Brisson, a French zoologist, wrote his book on birds in several volumes, each page having 2 columns (one in French and one in Latin). For the quelea, Brisson gave the names "Le Moineau à bec rouge du Sénégal" (French) and Passer senegalensis erythrorynchos (Latin). Brisson noted that the quelea originated from Senegal, from where it had been sent to RAF de Reaumur in France by Michel Adanson (the generic name of the Baobab, ie Adansonia, was named after Adanson). Brisson's book has a few engraved illustrations by François-Nicolas Martinet, including one of the quelea.

Edwards 1760 also illustrated the Red-billed Quelea (in colour) in the same year as Brisson. George Edwards called it the Brazilian Sparrow, not being sure if it came from Brazil or Angola. The painting by Edwards was based on a living male in the collection of Mrs Clayton in England, being a different individual to the type specimen.

Linnaeus described many or most of the birds in Edwards, but does not seem to have used the quelea in Edwards (at least not under Linnaeus' genera Loxia or Emberiza).

Scientific citation

Emberiza quelea Linnaeus 1758 Syst. Nat., ed. 10, p.177 "India". Senegal, ex Brisson (see Linnaeus, 1776, Syst. Nat., ed. 12, 1, p.310)

Meaning of names

The origin of the name 'quelea' is unclear and several authors have debated this without there being enough information to come to a definitive conclusion. No African origin of the name has been found despite extensive searches. Linnaeus probably derived quelea from the Medieval name for quail, ie 'qualia' and 'qualea'. The reason for this is also not clear, and the following possibilities have been suggested by different modern authors:
  • quelea and the quails of the Old Testament were both found in enormous flocks.
  • both quail and quelea have similar streaked upperparts and buzzing flight.
  • from quell or to quail meaning "to torment", referring to the destruction of crops by quelea.

Alternate names

Blackfaced Dioch, Cardinal, Common Dioch, Latham's Weaver-bird, Pink-billed Weaver, Quelea Finch, Quelea Weaver, Red-billed Dioch, Red-billed Weaver, Russ' Weaver, South African Dioch, Sudan Dioch, Uganda Dioch


Michel Adanson, a French naturalist who undertook a collecting expedition to Senegal.

Date collected

Between 1748-1754, the time that Adanson spent in Senegal.

Locality collected


Type specimens

No type specimens known to survive, but the painting of Brisson serves as a type.
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