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Weaver Wednesday [163] - Discovery [46]: Lesser Masked Weaver

2015-07-29 (659)

gravit8 Weaver Wednesday (species text)

Lesser Masked Weaver Ploceus intermedius

Lesser Masked Weaver
Lesser Masked Weaver male,
figure from Heuglin 1871
Lesser Masked Weaver
Lesser Masked Weaver nest
figure from Hoesch 1936
Lesser Masked Weaver map
Lesser Masked Weaver
distribution, type locality circled


The Lesser Masked Weaver was formally named by Wilhelm Peter Eduard Simon Rüppell, a German naturalist and explorer, especially in north-east Africa. Rüppell was the first naturalist to travel through Ethiopia and many birds are named after him.

The Lesser Masked Weaver was collected by Major Sir William Cornwallis Harris, an English military engineer, artist and hunter.

Harris led a British diplomatic mission (1841 to 1843) from Bombay to Sahle Selassie, Negus of Shewa, at the time an autonomous district of Ethiopia, with whom they negotiated a commercial treaty. Harris collected birds and other scientific data during the trip. Harris wrote about these travels in 3 volumes (The highlands of Aethiopia) in which he makes occasional reference to birds, but does not appear to have written about the Lesser Masked Weaver which he collected. The type specimen was taken to the East India Company Museum and later [between 1858 and 1971] transferred to the British Museum.

Rüppell illustrated many of the birds he described, but did not illustrate the Lesser Masked Weaver. The first illustration of a Lesser Masked Weaver is a colour painting of its head in Heuglin 1871. Interestingly, the species was not illustrated again for many decades and the second illustration pertaining to this species is a photo of a nest in Hoesch 1936.

Scientific citation

Ploceus intermedius Ruppell 1845 Syst. Uebers, pp 71, 76 1845 Shoa, central Abyssinia.

Meaning of names

intermedius - Latin: intermedius, intermediate (i.e. sharing characteristics with or acting as a link between two other species).

First English name

Cabanis' Weaver Bird (Layard 1884). One of the subspecies of the Lesser Masked Weaver was named after Cabanis, hence this early English name - the subspecies is no longer recognised.

Alternate names

Abyssinian Masked Weaver, Black-cheeked Weaver, Cababis's Masked Weaver, Cabanis' Weaver Bird, Cabanis's Masked Weaver, Ethiopian Masked Weaver, Masked Weaver.


Major WC Harris.

Date collected


Locality collected

Shoa = Shewa, central Ethiopia.

Type specimens

One specimen is known to be in the British Museum (BM 1861.5.8.41).