The weaver bird family

There are 117 living species in the weaver bird family (Ploceidae), excluding the sparrows of genus Passer, see species list here. Read more about the family here.

Latest paper
Paper: Raptors breeding on weaver nests in trees and on man-made structures

Accepted: 31710
(Uploaded: 31620)

Total nests counted: 8123586

Latest weaver links:
163 Ruppell's Weaver
162 Yellow-crowned Bishop male, Namibia
161 S Masked Weaver taking nectar

Todays weaver type: (see more here)
3 Oct 1904, Diatropura progne ansorgei , Long-tailed Widowbird

Latest weaver news

Colour ringing birds at Fynbos Estate, 17-21 June 2019

2019-06-25 (841)
Bird ringing was conducted at Fynbos Estate, with two students from France, as part of their field project with BDI. During the ringing sessions Emilie  and Manon learned to identify and measure local bird species. Two species, Common Fiscals and Cape Robin-chats, were also colour ringed to enable observations on individually identifiable birds. During ringing sessions, territories of at least two pairs of Common Fiscals were noted. The Common Fiscals at Fynbos Estate often hunt from surprisingly low perches in the vineyards.

Colour ringed Cape Robin-chat
Common Fiscal on low hunting perch

Table: Number of birds ringed and recaptured at Fynbos Estate, 17-21 June 2019

Species English Ringed Recaptured Total
316 Cape Turtle Dove 1 0 1
391 White-backed Mousebird 1 0 1
432 Acacia Pied Barbet 0 3 3
440 Greater Honeyguide 1 0 1
543 Cape Bulbul 5 0 5
581 Cape Robin-chat 6 1 7
621 Long-billed Crombec 1 0 1
622 Bar-throated Apalis 3 0 3
665 Fiscal Flycatcher 1 0 1
672 Cape Batis 2 0 2
678 Fairy Flycatcher 1 0 1
707 Common Fiscal 3 1 4
751 Malachite Sunbird 1 2 3
786 Cape Sparrow 1 0 1
799 Cape Weaver 76 11 87
803 Southern Masked Weaver 13 6 19
808 Southern Red Bishop 1 0 1
810 Yellow Bishop 6 0 6
1105 Olive Thrush 2 1 3
1172 Cape White-eye 32 6 38
4139 Karoo Prinia 3 2 5
4142 Southern Grey-headed Sparrow 2 0 2
TOTALS 162 33 195

Close to 200 birds were caught and processed. Recaptures included birds from the first ringing trip to Fynbos in May 2018. A total of 22 species were handled, including three species not recorded here before: Greater Honeyguide (an immature male), Long-billed Crombec and Fairy Flycatcher. The Greater Honeyguide is a brood parasite of hole nesting birds like woodpeckers and barbets and potential hosts at Fynbos are Cardinal Woodpecker and Acacia Pied Barbet. There were many several Cape Weaver colonies, with many green nests being built.

Fairy Flycatcher, new record for Fynbos
Cape Weaver colony in reeds

Ageing Dark-backed Weavers

2019-05-27 (840)
Dark-backed Weaver males and females are alike. Juveniles are similar to adults, but there are some features that help separate juveniles from adults. Juveniles have:
  • pale gape flanges
  • a paler bill (with a yellow tinge in above above, compared to bluish-grey in adult)
  • mottled or pale throat
  • darker brown eye

Dark-backed Weavers show some subspecific plumage variation across their range in Africa, see map and brief subspecies notes at species page. Biometrics also vary across its range, but not in any obvious pattern. Less than 400 Dark-backed Weavers have been ringed in South Africa, the lowest species total for any South African weaver species.

Dark-backed Weaver adult
Dark-backed Weaver juvenile

Cape Weavers and Hadedas breeding at Die Oog

2019-05-20 (839)
phown record
Cape Weaver colony at Die Oog
phown record
Male Cape Weaver in colony at Die Oog
Cape Weavers have been nesting in a row of poplar trees at Die Oog, Bergvliet, Cape Town, for at least 2 decades, and probably quite a bit longer. The total number of nests is usually counted when the weaver colony is counted, although visits in early years were few and not always at the peak of breeding. For the last 6 years many visits were made through the year, each time counting the total number of nests in the poplars. The maximum number of nests per year is loosely correlated with breeding success. Some nests are also built in the willows, on the island and in the reeds, but these nests are not included as the nests are usually built by immature males and not used by females for breeding.

In many of these years a pair of Hadedas has also nested in the poplars near the weaver nests. Hadedas and Cape Weavers often nest together, and it may be that this increases the vigilance against predators. Hadedas sometimes manage to repel avian predators like crows and raptors although sometimes the predators are successful. Thus Hadedas could help reduce predation on the weaver nests.

A pair of Hadedas bred in the poplars with the weavers in 2013-2015 but not in more recent years. Interestingly the number of weaver nests has decreased in the last few years, suggesting that the presence of Hadedas previously did help the Cape Weavers. In 2015 there was also a small colony of Reed Cormorants in the poplars. Read about the nesting association of the weavers, Hadeda, and cormaorants at this site in Biodiversity Observations.

See colony record in PHOWN (PHOtos of Weaver Nests) at Die Oog colony.

Blue line - highest nest count for Cape Weaver per year
Red boxes - Hadedas bred in poplars

Scaly-feathered Finch records in KNP

2019-05-14 (838)
Scaly-feathered Finch, photo by Leigh Hoets
During Jan 2010-Mar 2011 Scaly-feathered Finch was found breeding near Pafuri in the Kruger National Park (see paper). The species was seen regularly for 15 months in the Makuleke Contract Park area of the northern KNP.

After a lapse of 8 years or so, there have been recent sightings of this species from northern KNP.

Two Scaly-feathered Finches were photographed by Leigh Hoets along the S53 about 9km south of Babalala Picnic Site in the Kruger National Park on 4 May 2019. See SA Rare Bird News Report - 6 May 2019.

On 13 May there was a record of a small group of Scaly-feathered Finches seen in the north-western corner of the Makuleke Concession, ie in the same area where the first records (2010-11) were made. See SA Rare Bird News Report - 13 May 2019.

The Scaly-feathered Finch shows increases and decreases in different parts of its range in South Africa - see Range changes.

Map of Scaly-feathered Finch records
in Limpopo and northern KNP

Big green grids - SABAP1
Small blue grids - SABAP2
Marker L - paper from 2010-11
Black dot - Babalala Picnic Site

Ringing at Sonop farm, Paardeberg, 27 April 2019

2019-04-29 (837)
Ringing site around dam at Sonop farm
Paardeberg Inselberg is surrounded by vineyards and farms, but patches of fynbos, trees, farm dams, homestead gardens provide varied habitat and good diversity of birds. Ringing has been conducted at Bowwood farm and Fynbos Estate.

On 27 April 2019 Loutjie Steenberg, Taylyn Risi and I ringed on Sonop farm and caught 43 birds of 13 species. Three birds were recaptures from a previous ringing visit by Loutjie on 29 July 2018 - a Karoo Prinia, a Cape Weaver and a Southern Masked Weaver.

The Southern Masked Weaver shown was a recapture of ring FC16512 - it was moulting its head feathers into breeding plumage (the growing feathers with sheaths were black or yellow), rather early for a weaver in a rural area.

The species of the day was Neddicky, being the first time this species has been ringed anywhere on the Paardeberg.

This ringing session brings a total of 777 birds of 39 species ringed on the Paardeberg over 2018-19.


List of species ringed at Sonop farm:

Southern Masked Weaver
Species n
Cape Turtle Dove 1
Cape Bulbul 2
Cape Robin 6
Neddicky 2
Fiscal Flycatcher 2
Fiscal Shrike 1
Cape Weaver 8
Southern Masked Weaver 7
Yellow Bishop 4
Cape Canary 1
Bully Canary 1
Cape White-eye 5
Karoo Prinia 3
Total 43
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