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BOOK: Le Vaillant's travels in South Africa

2013-07-08 (387)

Le Vaillant, F. 1796. New travels into the interior parts of Africa, by the way of the Cape of Good Hope, in the years 1783, 84 and 85, translated from the French of Le Vaillant. London, GG and J Robinson

Le Vaillant is the earliest significant ornithologist in South Africa. He collected the type specimens of many birds, including the Southern Masked Weaver. While in South Africa (1781-85) he travelled from Cape Town to the Eastern Cape in 1781-82. On his second expedition (1783-84) he travelled northwards from Cape Town, crossing the Orange River into southern Namibia. He wrote several volumes on his travels, and these have been translated into different languages.

On his second journey, he encountered Sociable Weavers. He would have heard about this bird from Gordon and Paterson, but Le Vaillant provides more ecological details. Le Vaillant put his hand into a chamber and was painfully bitten by parrots (p260-1) - Rosy-faced Lovebirds. This is the earliest reference to these lovebirds utilising weaver chambers, and possibly the earliest reference of any bird using any weaver nest.

Le Vaillant painted the nest of the Sociable Weaver, but it is a very poor representation - the nest entrances are shown on the side instead of below the nest mass, and the whole shape is rectangular instead of irregular. The first drawing of a Sociable Weaver nest was published a few years earlier by Paterson and is more accurate.

Download vol 2 here, to read about the Sociable Weavers and lovebirds.

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