Weaver Wednesday : Donaldson-Smith's Sparrow-Weaver2013-02-27 (336)
The Donaldson-Smith's Sparrow-Weaver Plocepasser donaldsoni is a localised species in East Africa. It overlaps in range with the more widespread White-browed Sparrow-Weaver P. mahali. Both species have a white rump, but the Donaldson-Smith's Sparrow-Weaver has no obvious white in the wing and has a very different head pattern (scaly crown, no white eyebrow, pale cheeks with black moustachial stripe). It is named after the collector, Arthur Donaldson Smith, an American explorer who collected many birds in East Africa.
No subspecies of the Donaldson-Smith's Sparrow-Weaver have been proposed. It is a common but very local bird. It is found in southern Ethiopia (eg. Mago National Park, but rare in Omo National Park) and in northern Kenya (particularly in the Isiolo district game reserves). In Somalia, it has only been recorded at Afmadow (see map left, based on Birds of Africa).
The Donaldson-Smith's Sparrow-Weaver is poorly-known. Its call has been recorded - see here. It inhabits dry bushland, open woodland, grassland and rocky areas; and even in barren lava country in north Kenya. It forages on ground, feeding on grass seeds and insects. It occurs in small flocks, which may associate with White-headed Buffalo-Weavers Dinemellia dinemelli.
The Donaldson-Smith's Sparrow-Weaver is colonial. Its mating system is unknown but it is probably a co-operative breeder. The nest is a mass of grass with a short entrance tube, lined with feathers; it resembles the nests of other sparrow-weavers, but is larger than that of the White-browed Sparrow-weaver. The nest is placed in low thorn trees 1.5-3m above the ground, or in stunted bushes. A colony of 20 nests in a single bush has been recorded. The eggs are pinkish or greyish, with fine speckles of mauve and reddish-brown, but clutch size has not been recorded.
The Donaldson-Smith's Sparrow-Weaver has 2 PHOWN records, both from Kenya. Many more PHOWN records are needed for this species (see PHOWN summary), especially to document colony size. Submit any weaver nest records to PHOWN (PHOtos of Weaver Nests) via the Virtual Museum upload site.
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