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Weaver Wednesday [67]: Chestnut-mantled Sparrow-Weaver

2013-09-25 (422)

gravit8 Weaver Wednesday

The Chestnut-mantled Sparrow-Weaver Plocepasser rufoscapulatus is a large sparrow-like weaver with heavy black and white head stripes and chestnut back and 2 white wing-bars. The bill is usually white in the male, and black in the female, but this is variable. Its miombo habitat further separates it from the White-browed Sparrow-Weaver where their ranges meet in Angola and Zambia. Chestnut-mantled Sparrow-Weaver map

The Chestnut-mantled Sparrow-Weaver is found from south-west Angola, through SE DRCongo and Zambia to western Tanzania (near Mpanda) and north-western Malawi (see map right based on Birds of Africa).

The species was first described by J. Buttikofer in 1888, based on an adult male specimen collected by P.J. van der Kellen in 1887 on the banks of the Kasinga River in Angola. The painting (above left) accompanied Buttikofer's description, and a modern photo (above right) shows the specimen in the National Museum of Natural History Naturalis, Leiden.

The Chestnut-mantled Sparrow-Weaver is restricted to miombo (Brachystegia) woodland. It sometimes joins mixed species flocks moving through the mid-stratum, and often perches inconspicuously in trees. Its diet is seeds, including grass seeds, and it presumably also eats insects. Groups of up to 15 birds forage on the ground.

The mating system of the Chestnut-mantled Sparrow-Weaver is unknown but it may be a co-operative breeder like the White-browed Sparrow-Weaver. The Chestnut-mantled Sparrow-Weaver is colonial, with small groups of nests in Zambia, but in Angola, it is usually a solitary nester. The nest is an untidy domed mass of grass with 2 entrances, 1 of which is closed off when eggs are laid, thus resembling the nest of the White-browed Sparrow-Weaver. The nest is placed in a cluster of small branches at the end of a branch in trees. The eggs are whitish, and heavily spotted with reddish brown at the thick end. Nothing else is known about its breeding habits.

The Chestnut-mantled Sparrow-Weaver has no PHOWN records (see PHOWN summary) and many are needed. Submit any weaver nest records to PHOWN (PHOtos of Weaver Nests) via the Virtual Museum upload site.

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