Weaver news

Weavers feeding on winged termites

2011-12-30 (173)

On Christmas Day I noticed many birds feeding on emerging termites next to the R102 in Southport. Initially birds were only hawking termites by flying from trees on one side of the road, to trees on the other side, catching termites en route. Aerial feeders included mainly swallows and swifts, Village Weavers and Thick-billed Weavers. It was interesting to watch a male Thick-billed Weaver with his heavy bill, managing to catch termites in the air. Later few termites were flying and a small flock of Village Weavers descended to the tar road and grass verge to feed on winged termites that were injured or killed by passing cars.

Comments have been made about the stratification of birds feeding at termite eruptions, but here the swallows and weavers were all feeding at mixed heights above the road, from low to tree height. The greatest factor here seemed to be where the most termites were to be found.

22 of the 29 southern African weavers have been recorded as feeding on termites (references for these are provided in Promerops 286:14). Not recorded as feeding on termites yet are: Red-billed Buffalo-Weaver, Southern Brown-throated Weaver, Chestnut Weaver, Olive-headed Weaver, Cardinal Quelea, Red-headed Quelea, and Yellow-crowned Bishop.

Termite-eating weavers in southern Africa

Scaly-feathered Finch Sporopipes squamifrons
White-browed Sparrow-weaver Plocepasser mahali
Sociable Weaver Philetairus socius
Lesser Masked Weaver Ploceus intermedius
Spectacled Weaver Ploceus ocularis
Cape Weaver Ploceus capensis
African Golden Weaver Ploceus subaureus
Holub's Golden Weaver Ploceus xanthops
Southern Masked Weaver Ploceus velatus
Village Weaver Ploceus cucullatus
Dark-backed Weaver Ploceus bicolor
Red-headed Weaver Anaplectes rubriceps
Red-billed Quelea Quelea quelea
Black-winged Bishop Euplectes hordeaceus
Southern Red Bishop Euplectes orix
Yellow Bishop Euplectes capensis
Fan-tailed Widowbird Euplectes axillaris
Yellow-mantled Widowbird Euplectes macroura
White-winged Widowbird Euplectes albonotatus
Red-collared Widowbird Euplectes ardens
Long-tailed Widowbird Euplectes progne
Thick-billed Weaver Amblyospiza albifrons

Village Weavers feeding on termites
on tar road in Southport

Outside of southern Africa, many other weaver species have been recorded as feeding on termites, e.g. Golden-backed Weaver Ploceus jacksoni, Northern Masked Weaver Ploceus taeniopterus, and Heuglin's Masked Weaver Ploceus heuglini.