Weaver news

Weaver Wednesday [137] - Discovery [20]: Sociable Weaver

2015-01-28 (618)

gravit8 Weaver Wednesday (species text)

Sociable Weaver Philetairus socius

Sociable Weaver
Sociable Weaver,
figure from Paterson 1789
Sociable Weaver
Sociable Weaver nest,
figure from Paterson 1789
Sociable Weaver map
Sociable Weaver
distribution, type locality circled


The Sociable Weaver was formally described by John Latham, a Scottish explorer. Latham based the details on a travel book by William Paterson, a Scottish soldier and explorer. Paterson was sent to the Cape Colony to collect plants, and he made four trips into the interior between May 1777 and March 1780. In his published narrative, he wrote mostly about plants and rarely about animals. However, on his journey to the Orange River in 1779, he described a giraffe and the Sociable Weaver.

Paterson provided the first description and illustrations of the Sociable Weaver and its massive communal nest. He compared the nest to a thatched roof which he considered an "aerial city". He saw many large nests and estimated one to have 800-1000 birds living in it.

Paterson wrote about the Sociable Weaver in December 1779 after having returned from Namibia, so the exact locality is not clear. He noted that he saw the weavers and nests soon after seeing giraffe, and he would have seen the nests north of the Orange River between Goodhouse and Warmbad, during October 1779. The type locality was restricted to Warmbad for convenience.

Soon after Paterson's journey, Le vaillant travelled to the Orange River and also illustrated and wrote about the Sociable Weaver. He collected the first Rosy-faced Lovebirds, which he obtained at a Sociable Weaver colony. Le vaillant thus was the first person to report weaver nests being used by non-weavers. Thereafter, many travellers in southern Africa wrote about the Sociable Weaver and its unique nest.

Scientific citation

Loxia socia Latham 1790 Index Ornith., vol. i, p.381 Capitis Bonae Spei interioribus [=Inland of Cape of Good Hope], restricted to Warmbad, southern Great Namaqualand, Namibia, by MacDonald 1957.

Meaning of names

socius (Latin): sharing, allied [ie sociable].

Alternate names

Republican Grosbeak, Sociable Grosbeak, Social Weaver.


William Paterson.

Date collected

October 1779.

Locality collected

Capitis Bonae Spei interioribus [=Inland of Cape of Good Hope], restricted to Warmbad, Namibia.

Type specimens

Type specimen not known to exist; the illustration of Paterson 1789 serves as a type.