Weaver news

Weaver Wednesday [123] - Discovery [6]: Cape Weaver

2014-10-22 (585)

gravit8 Weaver Wednesday (species text)

Cape Weaver Ploceus capensis

Cape Weaver
Cape Weaver male
figure by Martinet (in Daubenton 1783)
Brisson, first described
the Cape Weaver in great detail,
figure from wikipedia
phown 4953
Cape Weaver colony,
figure painted by Lady Anne Barnard
Cape Weaver map
Cape Weaver distribution,
type locality circled


After Linnaeus published his 10th edition of Systema Naturae, he came across many more species. His 12th edition (Linnaeus 1766) contains several more weavers, the first being the Cape Weaver. Linnaeus gave a very short description, based on the longer description in Brisson 1760.

Mathurin Jacques Brisson, a French zoologist, wrote his book on birds in several volumes, each page having 2 columns (one in French and one in Latin). Brisson gave the names "Le Carouge du Cap de Bonne Esperance" (French, for Oriole of the the Cape of Good Hope) and Xanthornus Capitis Bonae Spei (Latin). Many of Brisson's Latin names for birds were given before Linnaeus, but they were not constructed as binomial names, and thus do not qualify as scientific names.

Brisson noted that the Cape Weaver originated from the Cape of Good Hope. This could be from anywhere in the Cape but most likely the Cape Weaver was taken from the Cape Peninsula. The Cape Weaver specimen was housed in the Aubrey abbey in Paris.

The Cape Weaver was first illustrated by Francois-Nicolas Martinet, under the supervision of Edme-Louis Daubenton, a French naturalist, in 1783. Martinet engraved and painted over 1000 colour plates for the Histoire naturelle (1749-89), providing the largest collection of bird paintings in the world at the time. Troupiale olive de Cayenne

The earliest written record referring to an African weaver that is identifiable, is a record of a Cape Weaver from 1630. Friar Francisco dos Santos was a Portuguese priest on the ship San Gonzales which became stranded in Formosa Bay (=Plettenberg Bay, South Africa) in June 1630. While stranded on land for 9 months, Santos wrote about the fauna and flora, the earliest record for the region. He described hanging weaver nests and the only known Ploceus weaver in Plet at that time was the Cape Weaver. Read the fascinating story here.

Two other interesting early records are paintings of weaver nests by Lady Anne Barnard from 1797 in Stellenbosch (PHOWN 4953) and 1798 a farm dam near Porterville (PHOWN 4954). Again, these can only belong to the Cape Weaver, since the Southern Masked Weaver did not occur in the Western Cape before 1900.

Scientific citation

Oriolus capensis Linnaeus 1766 Syst. Nat. 12th ed. I, p.163 Cape of Good Hope

Meaning of names

capensis After the Cape of Good Hope (Modern Latin: Caput Bonae Spei; Portuguese: Cabo de Boa Esperanca), South Africa.

Alternate names

Olive Weaver, Cape Golden Weaver, Eastern Cape Weaver Bird, Golden-crowned Weaver bird, Yellow green Weaver-Bird



Date collected

Before 1760, when the Cape Weaver was first described.

Locality collected

Cap. b. spei = Cape of Good Hope (probably the Cape Peninsula)

Type specimens

No type specimens known to survive, but the painting of Martinet may serve as a type, although it may or may not be the same individual specimen as described by Brisson.