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Weaver Wednesday [184] - Discovery [67]: Finn's Weaver

2015-12-23 (688)

gravit8 Weaver Wednesday (species text)

Finn's Weaver Ploceus megarhynchus

Finn's Weaver
Finn's Weaver male & female,
figure from Finn (1901)
Finn's Weaver
Finn's Weaver colony,
figure from Ali (1959)
Finn's Weaver map
Finn's Weaver distribution,
type locality circled in black


Finn's Weaver was formally described by Allan Octavian Hume, a a civil servant, political reformer, ornithologist and botanist, who worked in British India.

Hume built up a huge collection of bird specimens at his home in Shimla by making collecting expeditions and also obtaining specimens through his network of correspondents. He collected a female Finn's Weaver in far northern India and recognised it as a new species as it was much larger than the other Asian weavers. He named it with a provisional scientific name and with little description. Verreaux did not consider it a new species, and so Hume published a more detailed description 2 years after he first named it.

Hume hoped to publish a magnum opus on the birds of India, but when all his manuscripts that he had been working on were sold by a servant as waste paper, he gave up ornithology. Hume gave his collection of 82000 specimens (258 types) to the British Museum of Natural History in 1874, including the type of Finn's Weaver. Hume's donation continues to be the single largest collection of Indian bird skins.

Other authors also doubted the validity of Hume's new species. Frank Finn, an English ornithologist, rediscovered Finn's Weaver (only known by its Latin name at this stage) near Calcutta, including a male which had not been described yet. Finn published several notes on this weaver, establishing it as a valid species and thus E. C. Stuart Baker, a British ornithologist and police officer, gave the English name of Finn's Weaver to this species in honour of Finn's rediscovery.

The first illustration of Finn's Weaver was by Finn (1901). Finn's Weaver does not seem to have been illustrated again for many decades. Ali (1959) undertook the first study of the species and published black and white photos of its colonies, and also line drawings of the birds in display.

Scientific citation

Ploceus megarhynchus Hume 1869, Ibis, p.356 "The Terai" (Kaladingee, Kumaon Terai; Baker, 1926, Fauna, Brit. India, Birds, 2 ed., 3, p.69).

Meaning of names

megarhynchus Greek. Megas, great, large; rhunkhos, the bill.

First English name

The Eastern Baya (Oates 1890).

Alternate names

Finn's Baya, Yellow Weaver.


A. O. Hume.

Date collected

Dec 1866.

Locality collected

"The Terai", Kaladingee, India.

Type specimens

There is a type specimen in the British Museum (BM 1887.1.1.1660).