Weaver species

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Principe Golden Weaver Ploceus princeps

IUCN: Least concern     Discovery: 055

Categories: golden, island, nectar, palm, blue eggs,
News items about species


Principe Golden Weaver
Principe Golden Weaver,
figure from Shelley 1905
Principe Golden Weaver
Principe Golden Weaver,
figure from Bannerman 1949
Principe Golden Weaver map
Principe Golden Weaver
distribution, type locality circled


The Principe Golden Weaver was formally described by Charles Lucien Bonaparte, a French biologist and ornithologist. He described many new birds. Around 1849 Bonaparte began work on preparing a classification of all the birds in the world, visiting museums across Europe to study the collections. In 1850, he published the first volume of his Conspectus Generum Avium which included 3 weavers. Bonaparte studied the type specimen of the Principe Golden Weaver in the Paris Museum, noting the locality as Principe Island. Bonaparte probably named the weaver after the island, rather than after the Latin word for "principal" as was suggested by Jobling (1991).

The Principe Golden Weaver was collected by Carl Weiss, a German doctor and collector working for the Museum of Hamburg. Weiss arrived on Sao Tome in 1847, where he collected the type of the Sao Tome Weaver. He travelled from Sao Tome to the coast of Ghana, to Principe and back to Sao Tome again. He would have collected the Principe Golden Weaver between 1847-1850. The specimen was probably sent to Hamburg Museum first, but was presumably sold to the Paris Museum.

The first illustration of a Principe Golden Weaver is by Shelley (1905), several decades after it was first discovered. The next illustration was of a male and female, but not in colour, published by Bannerman (1949). Reichenbach (1863) mentioned the species, and provided an English name, but did not illustrate it.

Scientific citation

Symplectes princeps Bonaparte 1850 Consp. Gen. Av., 1, p.439 Principe Island.

Meaning of names

princeps - Latin: princeps, chief, leader, most distinguished (Jobling 1991).

However, it is more likely that the weaver was named after the island, rather than the general Latin name. Principe Island (Prince's island) was named in honor of Afonso, Prince of Portugal, by the early Portuguese visitors (see wikipedia).

First English name

The Hyphantorne Prince (Reichenbach 1863).

Alternate names

Principe Island Golden Weaver, Principe Weaver.


Carl Weiss.

Date collected

Between 1847-1850.

Locality collected

Insulis Princip = Principe Island.

Type specimens

The type specimen is probably in the Paris Museum.

The above is based on Weaver Wednesday 2, a weekly series about the discovery of each weaver species.
This species text first appeared as Weaver Wednesday [172] - Discovery [55]: Principe Golden Weaver on 2015-09-30

1. Basic biology

Principe Golden Weaver
Principe Golden
Weaver male,
bird stamp
Principe Golden Weaver
Principe Golden Weaver,
male, from Shelley 1905

Identification. The Principe Golden Weaver is a large yellow, heavy-billed weaver. The male has an orange-chestnut head and a conspicuous yellow eye. The female is yellowish with an olive head, horn bill and also has a yellow eye. Juveniles have brown eyes. There are no other yellow weaver species on Principe.

Distribution. The Principe Golden Weaver is is restricted to the island of Principe in the Gulf of Guinea, and it is one of the commonest birds on the Island. It is found throughout the island (see light green on map below) and is often the first endemic bird seen by visitors to the island.

Having a restricted global range, no subspecies are recognised.

Principe Golden Weaver map

Habitat. The Principe Golden Weaver is abundant in all habitats and has adapted to degraded habitats; it occurs in well-timbered areas, including natural forest, secondary forest, plantations, villages and gardens, and open grassland areas.

Food. The Principe Golden Weaver may be mainly insectivorous, but has a varied diet which includes beetles, seeds, berries, the fruit of bananas, chillis and oil palms, and nectar from Erythrina trees. It probes bark and flowers, gleans insects from branches, and also hawks flying insects. The Principe Golden Weaver often forages in groups of up to 30 individuals, and may join mixed-species flocks.

Principe Golden Weaver
Principe Golden Weaver,
male at nest

Breeding. The Principe Golden Weaver is monogamous and usually is a solitary breeder. Sometimes it is colonial, with several pairs nesting in the same tree, but with the nests well spaced. The male displays and sings while hanging below his nest, beating his wings vigorously.

The nest is globular or oval, and the entrance below has no tunnel. The nest is woven by the male from strips torn from leaves of palms or banana trees. Sometimes living leaves are included into the nest structure. The nest is lined with fine grass and fluffy grass-heads. It is suspended usually more than 10 m above the ground from the tip of a branch or palm frond.

One or two plain blue eggs are laid by the female. The male aids in feeding large nestlings.

Nests are sometimes robbed by the Blue-breasted Kingfisher Halcyon malimbica and by the Principe Glossy Starling Lamprotornis ornatus.

The above is based on Weaver Wednesday, a weekly series about weaver species.
This species text first appeared as Weaver Wednesday [56]: Principe Golden Weaver on 2013-07-10

2. Breeding facts

Pair bond
Breeding season
May-Jun and Aug-Sept
Nest site
suspended usually more than 10 m above ground from tip ofbranch or palm frond
Nest building
woven by male
Colony size
Solitary, sometimes colonial; several pairs may nest in same tree, nests well spaced
Clutch size
1-2 eggs
Egg colour
plain blue
Egg size
no information
no information
Chicks and nestling period
male assists in feeding large nestlings, no information on nestling period

Breeding information based on Handbook of the Birds of the World, Vol. 15.

3. Photos of Weaver Nests

Vm 17397

Vm 856

Thumb-nails of most recent PHOWN records - click on one to see its full record
See all PHOWN records for this species here.

PHOWN (Photos of Weaver Nests) provides valuable info on breeding distribution and colony sizes of weavers.
You can contribute by registering and submitting photos at Virtual Museum webpage.

4. Breeding distribution

Google map showing distribution (For species with small ranges you need to zoom in at the correct area to see the range):
yellow blob - range of weaver species; read more about this here.
- PHOWN records with photos
- PHOWN records with no photos (Nest Record Cards, other records)
- Birdpix records
- comments on out of range records, or interesting records
- type locality
CLICK on the marker on the map to see individual record details.

5. Range changes

Not South African species

The above is based on Weaver Wednesday 3, a weekly series about range changes in South African weaver species.
This species text first appeared as n/a