Weaver Wednesday : Usambara Weaver2014-06-04 (523)
The Usambara Weaver Ploceus nicolli is a rare weaver restricted to Tanzanian mountain forests. It is black above with a yellow belly and flanks. It is distinguished from the Dark-backed Weaver, with which it associates, by the yellow eye and large chestnut patch on the breast. It was previously treated as a race of the similar Olive-headed Weaver but the Usambara Weaver has a darker back differs in habitat.
The Usambara Weaver occurs at low densities in montane forests in the Eastern Arc Mountains of Tanzania, where it appears to have a very small and greatly fragmented population (see map left, based on Birds of Africa). It is frequent in the West Usambaras (light green on map); present at Mt Nilo in the East Usambaras (blue on map); rare in the Ulugurus (grey on map); and sparse but widespread in the Udzungwa Mountains (red on map). No races are recognised, although birds in the south have sometimes been recognized as a separate race based on minor plumage differences. It is considered rare, since forest is highly fragmented and is being progressively cleared for agriculture, timber and plantations. Its global population is currently estimated to be less than 2500 individuals, and declining.
The Usambara Weaver inhabits the canopy of montane evergreen forests. It occasionally occurs at forest edge, in disturbed forest, plantations and in isolated trees in cultivated areas. The Usambara Weaver occurs singly, in pairs, or in mixed-species flocks, often with the Dark-backed Weaver.
The Usambara Weaver feeds on insects. It often hangs upside-down from branches while foraging, to glean insects from trees covered in epiphytes.
The Usambara Weaver is probably monogamous. The nest resembles that of the Dark-backed Weaver, being constructed from dry tendrils and creepers, but it has a shorter entrance tunnel with a flared opening. Nothing else is known of the breeding of this species.
There is one PHOWN record for the Usambara Weaver (see PHOWN summary), but many are needed of this rare species. Submit any weaver nest records to PHOWN (PHOtos of Weaver Nests) via the Virtual Museum upload site.
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