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Weaver Wednesday [17]: Rüppell's Weaver

2012-10-10 (278)

The Rüppell's Weaver Ploceus galbula is the only weaver found naturally in the Middle East. The adult male is yellow with a red eye and a chestnut mask which may appear black from a distance. Females and non-breeding males are dull coloured.

Rüppell's Weaver is found in savanna, arid coastal plains, cultivated areas, wetlands and gardens. In may flock in thousands and cause crop damage, while in Arabia flocks are smaller. It feeds on seeds, including cereal crops.

A few subspecies have been described for this species in the past, but are no longer considered valid. This species was first described and illustrated (painting left) by Eduard Rüppell, who also described the Lesser Masked, Chestnut and white-headed Buffalo Weavers from North-East Africa.

The distribution map (below) is based on Handbook of the Birds of the World, Vol. 15, showing the current PHOWN records. It has been recorded in NE and E Sudan, N Eritrea (including Dahlak Archipelago in the Red Sea), C and NE Ethiopia, Djibouti, N Somalia, and S Arabian Peninsula (SW Saudi Arabia, Yemen, W Oman).

Rüppell's Weaver often nests in colonies of several males, but single-male colonies may occur. In Yemen colony size varies from 4 to 50 nests. Nest sites include a variety of tree species, often thorny species, and often built over water. Males are polygnous and will breed with up to three females, and typically build up to eight globular nests. The nests are woven from grass or long strips of palm fronds. lnitially the nest lacks an entrance tunnel, but a tunnel of 50 mm may be added later.

Two or three eggs are laid and these vary in colour - either white or blue, usually heavily spotted, sometimes only finely speckled, with brick-red. Incubation is by the female. Usually in polygnous weavers the female does most of the work of feeding chicks. In the Rüppell's Weaver the male feeds the young chicks by regurgitation while the female broods them. After four days, both sexes feed the chicks.

There are five PHOWN records for this species (see summary), so many more records are needed. Submit any weaver nest records to PHOWN (PHOtos of Weaver Nests) via the Virtual Museum upload site.

Photo (left): male Rüppell's Weaver at nest in Ethiopia, from phown 696.

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