Weaver news

Weaver Wednesday [20]: Lesser Masked Weaver

2012-10-31 (286)

The Lesser Masked Weaver Ploceus intermedius is a widespread weaver in eastern and the northern parts of southern Africa (see map below, based on Birds of Africa). It occurs in a variety of habitats including acacia savanna, bushveld, open woodland and riverine trees, preferring areas close to water and also human habitation.

The adult male in breeding plumage (right) is yellow with a black mask, pale eye and thin bill. Females (below) and non-breeding males are dull coloured, with a pale eye and blue-grey legs.

Many subspecies have been recorded but currently there are two accepted subspecies:

(1) intermedius, found East Africa (green on map); the male has an orangy tinge on the yellow around the mask;
(2) cabanisii, found in southern Africa (red on map); the male is bright yellow with a black mask.
There is a slight range expansion of this species in KwaZulu-Natal (see news item).
There is a PHOWN record of this species from Ibo Island, northern Mozambique, far out of its published range (see phown 1859).

The Lesser Masked Weaver feeds on insects, especially caterpillars, termites, and grasshoppers. It also feeds on nectar (mainly of aloes), mulberries, and small seeds.

This species is polygynous and a male can have 2-3 females simultaneously, and probably several more in a breeding season. Nests are usually very close together, and sometimes are suspended from other nests. Colonies may be monospecific or mixed with a variety of other weaver species. Nests have a short, narrow entrance tunnel. Nests look untidy due to short lengths of material sticking out.

Nests are built by the male, and lined by the female, although sometimes no lining is added to breeding nests. Nests are placed in trees, reeds, roof edges of buildings, or from telephone wires.

There are 62 PHOWN record for this species, but only two of these are from the nominate subspecies (see phown 2366 and phown 2481). Many more records are needed of this common species, especially with nest counts. Submit any weaver nest records to PHOWN (PHOtos of Weaver Nests) via the Virtual Museum upload site.

Photo (right): male at closely packed nests, from phown 3132.

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