Weaver news

Weaver Wednesday [151] - Discovery [34]: Spectacled Weaver

2015-05-06 (636)

gravit8 Weaver Wednesday (species text)

Spectacled Weaver Ploceus ocularis

Spectacled Weaver
Spectacled Weaver
figure from Smith 1839
Spectacled Weaver
figure from Reichenbach 1863
Spectacled Weaver map
Spectacled Weaver
distribution, type locality circled


The Spectacled Weaver was formally described by Sir Andrew Smith, a Scottish surgeon, naturalist, explorer and zoologist.

Smith lived in South Africa from 1821 to 1837, mainly in Grahamstown and Algoa Bay (i.e. Port Elizabeth) in the Eastern Cape, and in Cape Town in the Western Cape (Kirby 1965). Smith's type-localities are often imprecise because he was more interested in describing ranges than providing formal type-localities. Smith noted that the Spectacled Weaver was 'Found in similar situations with the foregoing', referring to Ploceus personatus = P. velatus for which the locality was given as 'Found in the eastern districts of the Colony'. In Smith (1839) he described it as being 'sparingly distributed over South Africa: more especially in the vicinity of the south-east coast'.

Clancey (1952) restricted the type locality to Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, but Smith visited Durban for the first time only in 1832, four years later. Later, Clancey (1964) corrected this to the Eastern Cape and thereafter (1966) selected Grahamstown, Eastern Cape, as a type-locality because Smith was based there in his early years in South Africa.

The first illustration of a Spectacled Weaver is a colour painting by George Henry Ford who accompanied Smith later on a trip to the interior of South Africa. The next illustration is by Reichenbach (1863). The nest was illustrated first by Backhouse (1844) (not shown here), showing the nest in the same tree as the nest of a Sociable Weaver - this was artistic licence as these 2 weavers do not overlap in range.

Scientific citation

Ploceus ocularis Smith 1828 S.Afr. Comm. Advert., vol. iii, No. 144, p.2, col. 4; no locality, but = 'eastern districts of the Colony', i.e., eastern Cape. Grahamstown selected as a restricted type-locality by Clancey 1966.

Meaning of names

ocularis Latin: ocularis, ocular, of the eyes (oculus, the eye).

First English name

Black-lored Weaver-bird (Gurney 1860) - first English name used some 30 years after being described.

Alternate names

Abyssinian Spectacled Weaver, Black-lored Weaver-bird, Bottle-nest Weaver, East African Spectacled Weaver, Highland Spectacled Weaver, Smith's Weaver Bird, Uganda Spectacled Weaver.


Sir Andrew Smith.

Date collected

Between 1820-1828.

Locality collected

The type-locality was restricted to Grahamstown.

Type specimens

One type specimen is in the British Museum (BM 1845.7.6.26).