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 paper
Type locality of the Baya Weaver

Accepted: 28873
(Uploaded: 28788)

Total nests counted: 8101744

Latest weaver links:
159 Wb Sparrow-weaver - with nest material
158 Fan-tailed Widowbird male
157 S Brown-throated Weaver - cool bird

Todays weaver type: (see more here)
17 Mar 1883, Ploceus reichardi , Tanganyika Masked Weaver

Latest weaver news

Ringing expedition to Fynbos Estate, 18-28 February 2019

2019-03-08 (834)
Common Fiscal - female (L) with white eyestripe
male (R) no eyestripe
Ten days were spent at Fynbos Estate to ring birds, as a BDI expedition. The ringers were Dieter Oschadleus and Manuel Puertas (Spain), assisted by trainees Samantha McCarren (Germany), Emmanuel Adekola (Nigeria), and Joel Radue. Les Underhill and Pete Laver helped with logistics and promotion (helped remotely by Megan Loftie-Eaton). On two mornings the Tygerberg ringers (Margaret McCall and Lee Silks with their tranees) kindly let us join their ringing at two farms, Goedeontmoeting and Rocklands.

A total of 375 birds of 27 species were caught at Fynbos Estate, including 31 recaptures of birds caught on earlier days, oe in May 2018. The most ringed species was the Cape Weaver, and the most recaptures were of the Cape Robin-chat. Migrants caught included Barn Swallow and African Paradise Flycatcher. Other exciting captures included Lesser Honeyguide, and its host - Acacia Pied Barbet.

Cape Weaver moulting

At the two farms, and additional ten species were caught by our group. At Goedeontmoeting a female Southern Masked Weaver (ring BH60921) was recaptured 8.6 years after it was ringed.

Moult analysis. We ringed many Cape Weavers at Fynbos Estate. Moult score was calculated (some birds were not scored due to high catch rate), with an average score of 48.1 (n=49). This was compared to Cape Weavers caught in Cape Town wetlands in February over years 2015-2018, giving an average moult score of 41.9 (n=16).

Thus rural weavers (at Fynbos) seem to have advanced moult scores due to starting moult earlier, and also completing breeding earlier, than urban weavers in Cape Town. Although small sample sizes, this illustrates the potential for ringing studies. A variety of projects are planned for on-going expeditions to Fynbos Estate.

See more photos and text about the ringing location and birds from this amazing expedition.

Table. Species ringed and recaptured during the 10 day expedition

No. Species Fynbos
385 Little Swift 3
392 Red-faced Mousebird 2
397 Malachite Kingfisher 4
432 Pied Barbet 2
442 Lesser Honeyguide 1
463 Large-billed Lark 1
488 Red-capped Lark 2
493 Barn Swallow 3 9
543 Cape Bulbul 9 1
581 Cape Robin-chat 14 11
583 Karoo Robin 1 1
606 African Reed Warbler 5 1
609 Little Rush Warbler 1
622 Bar-throated Apalis 4 3
646 Levaillant's Cisticola 2 1 1
665 Fiscal Flycatcher 6 1
672 Cape Batis 1
682 African Paradise Flycatcher 2
686 Cape Wagtail 1 1
707 Fiscal Shrike 5 1
709 Southern Boubou 3
733 Common Starling 1
760 Southern Double-collared Sunbird 5 1
784 House Sparrow 3
786 Cape Sparrow 11 2
799 Cape Weaver 167 3 10 2
803 Southern Masked Weaver 32 3 49 3
808 Southern Red Bishop 13 11 7
810 Yellow Bishop 17 4 1 1 1
843 Common Waxbill 11
857 Cape Canary 1
863 Bully Canary 3
866 Yellow Canary 1
867 Streaky-headed Canary 5 1
1105 Olive Thrush 6
1172 Cape White-eye 14 1
4139 Karoo Prinia 8 3 1
TOTALS 344 31 106 6 17 1

Acacia Pied Barbet and Lesser Honeyguide
Manuel with his first bird in Africa
a Fiscal Flycatcher

Village Weaver northern race

2019-03-07 (833)
Christa Moller emailed photographs of a Village Weaver male at Zwartkloof N.R. Bela Bela, Limpopo Province, South Africa. The male had a black head, resembling the subspecies nigriceps. Christa first noticed the male at the bird feeder on 03/03/2019 and again on 04/03/2019. Christa did not observe this male in the fever tree where the normal-plumaged Village Weavers are nesting.

Village Weaver with black head
on bird feeder
Village Weaver with black head
with other Village Weavers

Table: records of Village Weaver with black head, in South Africa

RecordDateNotesWeb links
1-31962-2001Some early recordspublished in print
43 November 2001farm Bospoort near Warmbad - Kobie Raijmakers pdf
52 October 2010Roodekopjes near Brits - Alan Brooks news
612 November 2010Swebeswebe near Ellisras - Kobie Raijmakers pdf
714 December 2010Welgevonden Main Gate - Shaun McCartney news
82 October 2011Welgevonden - Nikki McCartney news
915 October 2011Darvill, Pmb - Mark Brown news
1023 October 2011near Bathurst - Robin Teifel news
1125-26 July 2013near Roodeplaat - Rob Geddes news
123 March 2019Zwartkloof N.R. Bela Bela - Christa Moller news

Alan Brooks
Shaun McCartney
Nikki McCartney
Mark Brown
Robin Teifel
Rob Geddes
Christa Moller

Third Clarke's Weaver breeding colony

2019-01-27 (832)
In December 2018 Fleur Ng'weno and a team of birdwatchers found the third colony of Clarke's Weaver.

Table: records of Clarke's Weaver breeding records

RecordDateNotesWeb links
123-26 March 2013c700 birds nesting in wetland sedges news
29 May-11 June 2015c80 nests in wetland sedges news
37 December 2018over 100 nests in wetland sedges PHOWN record

All 3 records of breeding were of nests in sedges in wetlands in the Dakatcha woodlands. The breeding seasonality varies widely, probably depending on local rainfall, as the sedges need to be in standing water. The colonies are north of the Arabuko-Sokoke Forest (dark green patch in google satellite photo below), the forest being the traditional locality for birders wanting to tick this species.

Clarke's Weaver colonies in Kenya
Yellow line shows range of Clarke's Weaver
(arrow shows 3rd colony)
Clarke's Weaver males in colony

Chestnut Weaver in Northern Cape

2019-01-20 (831)
A male Chestnut Weaver in moult was seen in Nossob campsite by Lynette Nel. The first record for the species was in 2011, followed by annual records until 2014, and then a gap until this receent record, being the 8th. The table below shows all reported records.

Table: records of Chestnut Weavers in the Northern Cape, South Africa

RecordDateLocalityFirst observerNotesWeb links
19-12 Jan 2011Nossob, KTP, N CapeMadel Whittington1 male BP first news item and papers
[not listed in ABB 2011 16(2):18-19]
214-24 Jan 2011Tswalu Kalahari Reserve, N CapeBen Smit1 male BPweaver news
312 April 2011Samevloeiing waterhole, KTP, N CapeGraeme Ellis1 male BP paper
423 Feb 2012just south of Union's End picnic site, KTPWenda Redfern2 males BP Birdpix, and rarebirdnews
522 April 2013Augrabies Falls NPAlan Sizer2 males BP, 1 female Birdpix
617 Mar 2014Spitskop GR, Upington, N CapeVincent Parker1 male BP weaver news
730 Mar 2014Spitskop GR, Upington, N CapeBrian Vanderwalt1 male BP male still present
& building
7bend of Mar 2014Spitskop GR, Upington, N CapePeter Giesler1 male BP facebook, photo
86 Jan 2019campsite at Nossob, KTP, N CapeLynette Nel1 moulting male rarebirdnews
92 Feb 2019Blauputz Valley near Augrabies Falls NP, N Capenot givenmale rarebirdnews 4 Feb

KTP = Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park
BP = breeding plumage

Previous report on Chestnut Weaver records in South Africa here.

Chestnut Weaver
Chestnut Weaver, Lynette Nel

PHOWN Newsletter 6

2019-01-03 (830)
PHOWN (PHOtos of Weaver Nests) has been running for 8.5 years, having started in July 2010. Thanks to your participation, over 28000 records have been submitted! Of 117 weaver species, there is at least one PHOWN record for 94 species (80%). The species without PHOWN records are mostly rare or range restricted species. It should be easy to obtain PHOWN records for some of the outsatanding species, however, eg. the Northern Red Bishop is fairly widespread north of the equator, and Bertram's Weaver is locally common in parts of Malawi. See a list of weavers without PHOWN records here.
fig 1
Crested Malimbe (PHOWN 27825)
photo by Maans Booysen

2018 records

During 2018 a total of 71 participants submitted PHOWN records, most of these were mainly from South Africa, but also residents from Gambia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Swaziland, United States, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

1265 PHOWN records were submitted in 2018, for at least 30 weaver species. Four species had over 100 records each for 2018: Southern Masked Weaver (388), Cape Weaver (231), White-browed Sparrow-Weaver (149), and Baglafecht Weaver (106). One species, the Crested Malimbe, was added to PHOWN for the first time during 2018 - Maans Booysen photographed a Crested Malimbe building its nest in Kakum Forest in Ghana.


An important paper using the PHOWN database was published in 2017: "Birds and animals using weavers nests", Biodiversity Observations 8.28: 1-17 (pdf). A follow up paper was based on literature records, including this Biodiversity Observations paper: "Birds adopting weaver nests for breeding in Africa", Ostrich 89(2):131-138 (abstract). More papers using the PHOWN database are being planned, looking at nest sites, colony sizes, etc, so keep the records coming in!

fig 1
White-browed Sparrow-Weaver colony
(PHOWN 28120) photo by Neil Thomson

Species focus - nest sites of the White-browed Sparrow-Weaver

Historically, this weaver nested in thorny trees, but in recent decades it has started nesting in exotic trees (without thorns) and on man-made structures. The latter include pylons, telephone poles and wires. There are over 6000 PHOWN records for this species, with 37 of these on man-made sites. Remarkably, several records are of nests built on telephone wires - since these weavers build nests by inserting pieces of dry grass (rather than true weaving), it would be interesting to observe them starting a new nest on a wire.

Also, White-browed Sparrow-Weavers are known to build their nests on the leeward side of a nest tree and this provides a 35% increase in the useful life of a nest, compared with a nest built on the windward side. Various theories have been proposed, but protection from the prevailing wind seems to be the most important factor in choosing which side of a tree to build.

Useful links

Weaver species pages - click on a species on this list to read about it.

Participants list - click on your name on this list to see a summary of your records.

Submitting records

Please include a Nest count if possible as this is very valuable for studying variation in colony sizes. For Sociable Weavers nest count is the total number of chambers (not nest masses) - if you can't count the chambers, omit nest count, but you can state the number of nest masses in the Notes. For colonies you visit regularly, please submit repeat records, especially if with a Nest count. Also remember to select the Nest Site type - Tree, Reed, Man-made, or Other - whichever fits best. Tree includes bushes, Reeds includes grass or weed sites, Man-made includes roof edges, powerlines and pylons, while Other is for mixed sites (eg a colony in a tree and the reeds directly below the tree).


Thanks for your participation! Every record is valuable! Keep the records coming in!

All news items
Send news items Dieter Oschadleus - see left