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
Long-tailed Widowbird

Accepted: 14969
(Uploaded: 14969)

Total nests counted: 7958266

Latest weaver reference: Africa's bird pest

Todays weaver type: (see more here)
28 Nov 1910, Quelea sanguineirostris centralis , Red-billed Quelea

Latest weaver news

Weaver Wednesday [128] - Discovery [11]: Long-tailed Widowbird

2014-11-26 (598)

gravit8 Weaver Wednesday (species text)

Long-tailed Widowbird Euplectes progne

Long-tailed Widowbird
Long-tailed Widowbird male,
figure from Daubenton 1783
Philomena and Procne
Philomena and Procne;
Long-tailed Widowbird named
after Procne,
figure from wikipedia
Long-tailed Widowbird map
Long-tailed Widowbird distribution,
type locality circled


The Long-tailed Widowbird was formally named by Pieter Boddaert, a Dutch naturalist, in 1783. Boddaert published fifty copies of an identification table of Edmé-Louis Daubenton's Planches enluminees, assigning Linnean binomial names (scientific names) to the coloured plates. Many of these names were the first scientific names to be proposed, and so they remain in use today.

Georges-Louis Leclerc, Coount of Buffon was the first to describe the Long-tailed Widowbird, but he did not accept the binomial system of Linnaeus and so he is not credited as the formal author of this species. Buffon described many birds and other animals in a series of volumes (see here). The 9 bird volumes were published between 1770-1783 and Buffon commissoned Edme-Louis Daubenton, to supervise a book of illustrations - the coloured engravings by Francois-Nicolas Martinet were published in 1783 as Planches enluminees.

In Buffon's description of the Long-tailed Widowbird in 1778, he provided the French name La Veuve a epaulettes (The Widow with shoulder patches). Buffon noted that the bird originated from Cap de Bonne Esperance, the Cape of Good Hope. Buffon also gave the plate number of Martinet's colour engraving, although this was only published 5 years later.

Buffon listed the Long-tailed Widowbird as coming from the Cape of Good Hope, which could mean the Cape in its broadest sense, ie either the Western or Eastern Cape. Clancey eventually restricted the locality to the Eastern Cape, as the Long-tailed Widowbird does not occur in the Western Cape. Buffon had many correspondents who sent him specimens from different places in the world, but no details are published for the Long-tailed Widowbird as to who collected this species.

Scientific citation

Emberiza progne Boddaert 1783 Tabl. Planch. Enlum., p39 Cape of Good Hope, S Africa (ex Daubenton, Planch. Enlum., pl 653). Restricetd to E Cape by Clancey 1966.

Meaning of names

progne (Latin) = a swallow, from Greek mythology = 'Prokne', a daughter of Pandion, who was transformed into a swallow. Read the myth in wikipedia. Presumably Boddaert heard about the display of the Long-tailed Widowbird and likened it to the fluttering flight of a swallow.

Alternate names

Giant Whydah, Great-tailed Widow Bird, Long-tailed finch, Progne Widow-bird, Sakabula (latter is a Zulu name



Date collected

Before 1778, when Buffon wrote about this species.

Locality collected

Eastern Cape, South Africa.

Type specimens

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

Africa's bird pest

2014-11-24 (597)
Bruggers RL, Elliott CCH (eds). 1989. Quelea quelea: Africa's bird pest. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

book cover
Book cover

The Red-billed Quelea is a major avian pest in sub-Saharan Africa, and this book is the classic text on the species. It summarises the biology and pest status of the quelea, and contains several colour plates of photos.

Authors and headings of book chapters:
1 De Grazio, JW. Pest birds - an international perspective.
2 Jackson, JJ & Allan, RG. Historical overview of quelea research and control.
3 Elliott, CCH. The pest status of the quelea.
4 Elliott, CCH & Lenton, GM. Monitoring the quelea.
5 Johns, BE, Bruggers, RL & Jaeger, MM. Mass-marking quelea with fluorescent pigment particles.
6 Bruggers, RL. Uses of radio-telemetry in quelea management.
7 Keith, JO, Okuno, I & Bruggers, RL. Identifying quelea populations by trace element analysis of feathers.
8 Otis, DL. Damage assessments - estimation methods and sampling design.
9 Jones, PJ. General aspects of quelea migration.
10 Jaeger, MM, Elliott, CCH, Bruggers, RL & Distribution, populations, and migration patterns of quelea in eastern Africa. Allan, RG.
11 Jones, PJ. Distribution, populations, and migration patterns of quelea in southern Africa.
12 Manikowski, S, Bortoli, L & N’diaye, A. Distribution, populations, and migration patterns of quelea in western Africa.
13 Jones, PJ. Factors determining the breeding season and clutch size.
14 Jaeger, MM, Bruggers, RL & Erikson, WA. Formation, sizes and groupings of quelea nesting colonies.
15 Jones, PJ. Quelea population dynamics.
16 Thiollay, J-M. Natural predation on quelea.
17 Erickson, WA. Feeding ecology of quelea.
18 Bashir, EA. Traditional African practices for preventing bird damage.
19 Bruggers, RL. Assessment of bird-repellent chemicals in Africa.
20 Bullard, RW & Gebrekidan, B. Agronomic techniques to reduce quelea damage to cereals.
21 Meinzingen, WW, Bashir, EA, Parker, JD, Lethal control of quelea. Heckel, J-U & Elliott, CCH.
22 Elliott, CCH & Allan, RG. Quelea control strategies in practice.
23 Jaeger, ME & Elliott, CCH. Quelea as a resource.
24 N'diaye, A, Bashir, EA & Jackson, WB. Training and extension in quelea management and research.
25 Elliott, CCH & Bruggers, RL. Conclusions and future perspectives.

Literature as featured in Weaver Watch news items

Weaver Wednesday [127] - Discovery [10]: Village Weaver

2014-11-19 (596)

gravit8 Weaver Wednesday (species text)

Village Weaver Ploceus cucullatus

Village Weaver
Village Weaver male,
figure from Brisson 1760
Village Weaver male
Village Weaver male,
figure from Daubenton 1783
Village Weaver female
Village Weaver female,
figure from Daubenton 1783
Village Weaver map
Village Weaver distribution,
type locality circled


The Village Weaver was described by Philipp Ludwig Statius Muller in 1776. Muller was a German zoologist who published a German translation of Linnaeus's Natursystem. The supplement in 1776 contained the first scientific classification for a number of species, including that of the Village Weaver. Muller gives his source as Buffon, a French naturalist who was the director at the Jardin du Roi, now called the Jardin des Plantes.

Although Linnaeus had access to the bird descriptions in Brisson 1760, strangely he did not describe the Village Weaver in his 12th edition.

Buffon based his work largely on that of Mathurin Jacques Brisson. Brisson gave the first names ever to the Village Weaver, as "Le Pincon du Senegal" (French) and Fringilla senegalensis (Latin). Brisson noted that the Village Weaver originated from Senegal, from where it had been sent to RAF de Reaumur in France by Michel Adanson, who also collected the Red-billed Quelea.

The first colour illustration of the Village Weaver is in the book by Edme-Louis Daubenton, containing coloured engravings by Francois-Nicolas Martinet.

Scientific citation

Oriolus cucullatus Statius Muller 1776 Natursyst., Suppl., p.87 Senegal.

Meaning of names

cucullatus (Late Latin) hooded (L. cucullus, a hood or cowl).

Alternate names

Black-headed Weaver, Black-hooded Weaver, Layard's Black-headed Weaver, Mottled Weaver, Mottled-backed Weaver, Spot-backed Weaver, Spotted-backed Weaver, V-marked Weaver.


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.

Weavers described by Linnaeus

2014-11-18 (595)
Linnaeus, figure from wikipedia
Linnaeus text
Linnaeus' type description of the Red-billed Quelea (1758)
Linnaeus C. 1758. Systema naturae per regna tria naturae, secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis. Tomus I. Editio decima, reformata. pp. [1-4], 1-824. Holmiae. (Salvius).

Linnaeus provided the formal descriptions for 9 weavers. The tenth edition (1748) of Systema Naturae is considered the starting point of zoological nomenclature, making it an important taxonomic work. The translation of the Latin title is "System of nature through the three kingdoms of nature, according to classes, orders, genera and species, with characters, differences, synonyms, places". There are several online copies, e.g. here (55 MB).

Five weavers were formally described by Linnaeus in this edition (and 4 more in his 12th edition in 1766). His descriptions were brief and without illustrations - see text for the Red-billed Quelea (figure right). The table below shows the names, and type localities of the weavers he described. These columns are follwed by type locality corrections published later by other authors, and the current names of the species. Linnaeus did not see all the specimens himself - he compiled descriptions based on earlier works. The links below go to weaver species accounts where you can read the details of how these species were discovered by Europeans.

Linnaeus listed a species, Loxia sanguinirostris (p173) which was also considered to be the Red-billed Quelea by early workers but is now considered indeterminate. A full list of all bird species in his 10th ed is here.

The nine earliest weavers to be described are relatively common, widespread species, but a key characteristic is that they occur near the coast and on the trading route of the early ships from the far east to Europe. Thus 2 weavers are from the Indian coast, 1 from Madagascar, 2 from the Cape Peninsula, 1 from Angola, 1 from Gambia and 2 from Senegal.

Page Name Locality Restricted Species
Linnaeus 1758
173 Loxia hordeacea in Indiis Senegal Black-winged Bishop Euplectes hordeaceus
175 Loxia benghalensis Benghala Bengal Black-breasted Weaver Ploceus benghalensis
175 Loxia melanocephala in Gvinea Gambia Black-headed Weaver Ploceus melanocephalus
177 Emberiza orix in Africa interiore Angola Southern Red Bishop Euplectes orix
177 Emberiza quelea in India Senegal Red-billed Quelea Quelea quelea
Linnaeus 1766
163 Oriolus capensis Cape of Good Hope Cape Peninsula Cape Weaver Ploceus capensis
300 Loxia madagascariensis Madagascar Madagascar Madagascar Fody Foudia madagascariensis
305 Loxia philippina Philippines Pondicherry Baya Weaver Ploceus philippinus
306 Loxia capensis Cape of Good Hope Cape of Good Hope Yellow Bishop Euplectes capensis

PAPER: Weaver movements in Cape Town

2014-11-17 (594)
Calder JL. 2014. Weaving through the matrix: Investigating the influence of urban land use on weaver bird movements into and out of Cape Town wetlands. MSc, University of Cape Town.

map of ringing sites
Map of ringing sites

Abstract. Urbanization, a fast growing and destructive human land use, causes local extinctions, biotic homogenization and fragmentation of natural habitats. Understanding how the nature of the urban matrix affects the species residing within a city’s fragmented habitats is an important founding component of urban conservation. This study investigated the influence that the urban matrix, as well as patch isolation, size and quality, had on weaver bird movement into and out of wetland sites in Cape Town, a growing city within a global biodiversity hotspot. Weaver bird movement data from 42 wetland sites were obtained through a long term mark-release-recapture project. Distance-based linear models revealed that site proximity was important as a predictor of weaver movement into and out of sites, while the site variables (wetland size, bird abundance and weaver colony size) had limited and inconclusive influence. Once the variation explained by the proximity and site variables had been accounted for, the composition of the urban matrix and the presence of rivers as potential movement corridors (measured at three spatial scales) had little influence on weaver movement. The finding that proximity (or site isolation) influences weaver movement has important implications for maintaining current landscape connectivity. Habitat isolation, resulting from further habitat removal or destruction, could be expected to reduce movements of weavers, and potentially other species, among patches of favourable habitat. Weavers are robust, vagile birds that do well in the presence of humans and may not be highly sensitive to the nature of the urban matrix. Research into how other, less resilient and vagile species respond to the degree of urbanization in the matrix between wetlands would contribute further to our knowledge of urban biodiversity in this global biodiversity hotspot.

Bird ringing data was collected between January 2007 and September 2013 for this study. Weaver birds were ringed at 101 locations, associated with 31 wetlands in the Cape Town region. Four weavers were studied:
Cape Weaver Ploceus capensis
Southern Masked Weaver Ploceus velatus
Southern Red Bishop Euplectes orix
Yellow Bishop Euplectes capensis

Literature as featured in Weaver Watch news items
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