Weaver species

Choose different species from drop-down list and press 'Go' button. See Full species list.

Donaldson-Smith's Sparrow-Weaver Plocepasser donaldsoni

IUCN: Least concern     Discovery: 097

Categories: Plocepasser, cooperative,
News items about species


Donaldson-Smith's Sparrow-Weaver
Donaldson-Smith's Sparrow-Weaver
adult, figure from Sharpe (1901)
Donaldson-Smith's Sparrow-Weaver
Donaldson-Smith's Sparrow-Weaver
nests, figure from Oberholser (1945)
Donaldson-Smith's Sparrow-Weaver map
Donaldson-Smith's Sparrow-Weaver
distribution, type locality circled
Donaldson-Smith's Sparrow-Weaver
Part of Donaldson Smith's map,
type locality circled


Donaldson-Smith's Sparrow-Weaver was formally described by Richard Bowdler Sharpe, an English zoologist.

Donaldson-Smith's Sparrow-Weaver was collected by Arthur Donaldson Smith, an American doctor, amateur big-game hunter, and explorer of Africa.

In in 1894-95 Donaldson Smith undertook an 18-month geological expedition in East Africa. The expedition started in Berbera, Somalia (then British Somaliland), passed through what was then Somaliland, southern Ethiopia and then to Lake Rudolph (now Lake Turkana) in Kenya. Donaldson Smith collected birds and many animals, particularly fish, spiders, scorpions, butterflies and beetles. The expedition left Lake Rudolf on 24 August 1895, and went SW, and crossed Marsabit Mt. On 13 September Donaldson Smith had a close encounter with an elephant, and the next day he collected the weaver specimen. He reached Lasamis on 16 September.

Donaldson Smith wrote a book about his travels, which can be downloaded here (295 Mb).

The first illustration of the Donaldson-Smith's Sparrow-Weaver was of an adult, published by Sharpe (1901). The next illustration was a black and white photo of nests by Oberholser (1945).

Scientific citation

Plocepasser donaldsoni Sharpe 1895a, Bull. Br. Orn. Club, 5, p.14 'Eastern Africa' = Lasamis, Kenya.

Meaning of names

donaldsoni, Named after A. Donaldson-Smith (1864-1939) US zoologist and collector in Somaliland, 1894-1895.

First English name

Donaldson Sparrow-Weaver (Shelley 1905b).

Alternate names

Donaldson's Sparrow-Weaver, Somali Grey Sparrow Weaver.


Arthur Donaldson Smith.

Date collected

14 Sep 1895.

Locality collected

Lasamis, Kenya.

Type specimens

The type is in the British Museum (BM 1895.7.7.23).

The above is based on Weaver Wednesday 2, a weekly series about the discovery of each weaver species.
This species text first appeared as Weaver Wednesday [214] - Discovery [97]: Donaldson-Smith's Sparrow-Weaver on 2016-07-20

1. Basic biology

Donaldson-Smith's Sparrow-Weaver
Donaldson-Smith's Sparrow-Weaver adult,
figure from wikipedia
Identification. Donaldson-Smith's Sparrow-Weaver is a localised species in East Africa. It overlaps in range with the more widespread White-browed Sparrow-weaver. 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).

Distribution. Donaldson-Smith's Sparrow-Weaver 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 below, based on Birds of Africa). It is a common but very local bird. No subspecies of the Donaldson-Smith's Sparrow-Weaver have been proposed. Donaldson-Smith's Sparrow-Weaver map

Donaldson-Smith's Sparrow-Weaver is poorly-known. Its call has been recorded - see here.

Habitat. Donaldson-Smith's Sparrow-Weaver inhabits dry bushland, open woodland, grassland and rocky areas; and even in barren lava country in north Kenya.

Food. Donaldson-Smith's Sparrow-Weaver forages on the ground, feeding on grass seeds and insects. It occurs in small flocks, which may associate with the White-headed Buffalo-Weaver.

Breeding. Donaldson-Smith's Sparrow-Weaver is colonial. Its mating system is unknown but it is probably a co-operative breeder, like other sparrow-weavers.

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.

Donaldson-Smith's Sparrow-Weaver
Donaldson-Smith's Sparrow-Weaver colony,
figure from PHOWN 3221
Donaldson-Smith's Sparrow-Weaver
Donaldson-Smith's Sparrow-Weaver nests with adult,
figure from PHOWN 3221

The above is based on Weaver Wednesday, a weekly series about weaver species.
This species text first appeared as Weaver Wednesday [37]: Donaldson-Smith's Sparrow-Weaver on 2013-02-27

2. Breeding facts

Pair bond
No information; probably a co-operative breeder
Breeding season
Breeds in Jan, Jun, Jul, Sept and Dec in Kenya
Nest site
placed 1.5-3 m above ground in low thorn tree or bush
Nest building
Colony size
up to 20 nests in single tree
Clutch size
not recorded
Egg colour
eggs pinkish or greyish, with fine, diffuse speckles of mauve and reddish-brown
Egg size
No information
No information
Chicks and nestling period
No information

Breeding information based on Handbook of the Birds of the World, Vol. 15.

3. Photos of Weaver Nests

Vm 24562

Vm 9254

Vm 3221

Vm 2646

Thumb-nails of most recent PHOWN records - click on one to see its full record
See all PHOWN records for this species here.

PHOWN (Photos of Weaver Nests) provides valuable info on breeding distribution and colony sizes of weavers.
You can contribute by registering and submitting photos at Virtual Museum webpage.

4. Breeding distribution

Google map showing distribution (For species with small ranges you need to zoom in at the correct area to see the range):
yellow blob - range of weaver species; read more about this here.
- PHOWN records with photos
- PHOWN records with no photos (Nest Record Cards, other records)
- Birdpix records
- comments on out of range records, or interesting records
- type locality
CLICK on the marker on the map to see individual record details.

5. Range changes

Not South African species

The above is based on Weaver Wednesday 3, a weekly series about range changes in South African weaver species.
This species text first appeared as n/a