Weaver news

Weaver Wednesday [146] - Discovery [29]: Southern Masked Weaver

2015-04-01 (629)

gravit8 Weaver Wednesday (species text)

Southern Masked Weaver Ploceus velatus

Southern Masked Weaver
Southern Masked Weaver,
figure from Smith 1845
Southern Masked Weaver,
figure from Reichenbach 1863
Southern Masked Weaver,
type specimen in Leiden
Southern Masked Weaver map
Southern Masked Weaver
distribution, type locality circled;
yellow shows modern range expansion


The Southern Masked Weaver was formally described by Louis Jean Pierre Vieillot, a French ornithologist. The Southern Masked Weaver was first collected by Francois Le Vaillant, who travelled in South Africa in 1781-84. When Le Vaillant returned to Europe, most of his specimens where sold or given to Coenraad Jacob Temminck, who had sponsored Le Vaillant's travels. Temminck produced a catalogue of these birds in 1807 and briefly described the Southern Masked Weaver, without providing a scientific name, but calling it "Le troupial a masque-noir" (The oriole with a black mask). He noted that it came from "Namaquois" (Namaqualand). However, several specimens that Le Vaillant listed as from Namaqualand are actually from the Karoo, and Brooke (1985) restricted the type locality of the Southern Masked Weaver to Graaff-Reinet - earlier authors had restricted the type locality to other sites that were found to be incorrect. Le Vaillant reached the Eastern Cape in 1782, and passed through the Karoo in early 1783 on his return to Cape Town.

Vieillot based many of his descriptions on the work of Temminck 1807, but included a scientific name.

The Southern Masked Weaver was first illustrated in 1828 in Andrew Smith's description of the species. Smith illustrated only non-breeding birds, and the first male in breeding plumage to be painted was by Reichenbach (1863).

Scientific citation

Ploceus velatus Vieillot 1819 Nouv. Dict. Hist. Nat., nouv. ed., 34:132 Namaqualand, restricted to Graaff-Reinet, E Cape, by Brooke, 1985, Ostrich 56, 214-215.

Meaning of names

velatus Latin: veiled, covered (velare, to cover) [referring to the mask of the breeding male].

First English name

Masked weaver bird (Smith 1828).

Alternate names

African Masked Weaver, Black-fronted Weaver, Capricorn Weaver-bird, Greater Masked Weaver, Half-masked Weaver, Lichtenstein's Weaver bird, Mariqua Weaver bird, Masked Weaver, Namaqua Masked Weaver, Shelley's Weaver Bird, Yellow Masked Weaver, Zambesi Masked Weaver.


Le Vaillant.

Date collected

Feb-March 1783, when Le Vaillant was in the Karoo.

Locality collected

Namaqualand, restricted to Graaff-Reinet.

Type specimens

Two type specimens are in the Leiden Museum (RMNH_90372 and RMNH_90373).