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: 28779
(Uploaded: 28702)

Total nests counted: 8100345

Latest weaver links:
157 S Brown-throated Weaver - cool bird
156 Holub's Golden Weaver - feed on nectar
155 Thick-billed Weaver display

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

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

KTP = Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park
BP = breeding plumage

Previous report on Chestnut Weaver records in South Africa here.

Chestnut Weaver
Chestnut Weaver male

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!

Type locality of the Baya Weaver

2018-12-09 (829)
Corrected type locality of the Baya Weaver
The Baya Weaver Ploceus philippinus was one of the first weaverbirds to be described, but Linnaeus (1766) gave the type locality as the Philippines. As the Baya Weaver does not occur there, Hartert (1902) restricted the locality to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), and later Stresemann (1952) showed that the type was most probably collected by Pierre Poivre in India. Yet all major references still list Sri Lanka as the type locality. A new paper draw attention to this error and describes the details of the discovery of this species. Avian handbooks and taxonomic works should refer to the type locality of the Baya Weaver as Puducherry (previously Pondicherry), Puducherry district, India.

New paper:
Oschadleus HD. 2018. Type locality of the Baya Weaver Ploceus philippinus (Passeriformes, Ploceidae). ZooTaxa 4524(3): 395-396.

Read more about the discovery of the Baya Weaver.

Ringing tips: weighing holders

2018-12-07 (828)
Pill containers for weighing birds
Many ringers use electronic balances, which can be more accurate and faster to use than using spring balances to weigh birds in bags. The best containers for electronic balances are cyclinders with lids. Eg find a plastic pill bottle that is a regular cyclinder, ie not one that narrows towards the lid (ask your pharmacy for spares), carefully cut off the bottom of the bottle and make sure the edges are smooth. If a bird does not come out easily after weighing, simply open the lid.

Sometimes birds back out of containers while being weighed. To prevent this, use a longer cyclinder, ie the popular film canisters don't work well because they are too short. Try to have more cyclinders with varying diameters so you can choose one into which a bird fits snugly. Alternatively, try adding thin cardboard inside a short tube to make it longer - I have not tried this, but it should work in principle.

Latest PHOWN species - Crested Malimbe

2018-10-14 (827)
The newest PHOWN species to be added is a record of the Crested Malimbe. Maans Booysen photographed a Crested Malimbe building its nest in Kakum Forest in Ghana earlier this year. The subspecies in West Africa (nigrifrons) has a smaller crest than the nominate.

phown record
Crested Malimbe at nest,
figure from PHOWN

PHOWN now has records of 94 of the 117 weaver species (80%). The weavers without PHOWN records are listed below - for some the nest has not even been described yet, while for some nests should be easy to find and photograph. (click on the species to read more about it).

Finn's Weaver Vulnerable
Black-breasted Weaver
Streaked Weaver
Red-headed Fody
Forest Fody
Bob-tailed Weaver
Northern Red Bishop common
Fire-fronted Bishop
Hartlaub's Marsh Widowbird
Jackson's Widowbird locally common
Montane Marsh Widowbird
Bates's Weaver nest unknown
Cassin's Malimbe
Gola Malimbe
Rachel's Malimbe
Maxwell's Black Weaver
Yellow-legged Weaver nest unknown
Golden-naped Weaver nest unknown
Red-bellied Malimbe
Yellow-capped Weaver rare
Preuss's Weaver
Fox's Weaver rare
Bertram's Weaver locally common
Giant Weaver locally common

PHOWN, PHOtos of Weaver Nests, is a Virtual Museum, citizen science project of the Animal Demography Unit, to collect and monitor breeding distributions and colony sizes of weaver birds globally. To take part, register and upload records at Virtual Museum (read the "How to" pdf for help).

All news items
Send news items Dieter Oschadleus - see left