Weaver species

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Giant Weaver Ploceus grandis

IUCN: Least concern     Discovery: 045

Categories: island, blue eggs,
News items about species


Giant Weaver
Giant Weaver male,
figure from Fraser 1849
Giant Weaver
Giant Weaver,
different races
figure from Reichenbach 1863
Giant Weaver map
Giant Weaver
distribution, type locality circled


The Giant Weaver was formally named by George Robert Gray, an English zoologist and author.

The Giant Weaver was collected by Louis Fraser, a British zoologist and collector. Fraser participated in the British Royal Naval Expedition to the Niger River in 1841-42 as one of five civilian scientists appointed to the expedition.

Fraser became ill on board and was considered too unfit to continue with the expedition when it returned to the West African mainland in March 1842. He made his own way to Bioko, reaching it by 15 May 1842, after spending six weeks along the Gulf of Guinea in other naval vessels. He began a collection of birds, mammals, fish and crustaceans. The months spent in the Gulf of Guinea from March to July were profitable (Moore 2001), and he collected the Giant Weaver on St Tome Island. In 1847, the British Museum purchased 64 bird skins from Fraser, including the Giant Weaver.

Fraser published descriptions of some of his new birds in 1842, but named his weaver as Ploceus collaris. This name had already been used by Vieillot for a subspecies of the Village Weaver and was thus not a valid naming. Gray realised this and provided a new name in his list of genera and species in 1844.

The first illustration of a Giant Weaver is a colour painting in Fraser 1849. The next illustration is by Reichenbach (1863), also of an adult male.

Scientific citation

Hyphantornis grandis Gray 1844 Gen. Birds, 2, p.[1] of Ploceinae = Ploceus collaris Fraser nec Vieillot (1842, PZSL, p.142); Sao Tome.

Meaning of names

grandis - Latin: large, great.

First English name

St. Thomas' Weaver Bird (Fraser 1849).

Alternate names

St. Thomas' Weaver Bird, The great Weawer.


Louis Fraser.

Date collected

1842, between March to July.

Locality collected

St. Tome Island.

Type specimens

One specimen is known to be in the British Museum (BM 1847.1.18.3) together with 3 more syntypes (Warren 1971).

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 [162] - Discovery [45]: Giant Weaver on 2015-07-22

1. Basic biology

Giant Weaver
Giant Weaver male, figure on a stamp
Giant Weaver
Giant Weaver male, huge bill of male specimen

Identification. The Giant Weaver Ploceus grandis is a large weaver, the male's bill being larger than that of any other weaver. The male has a black head surrounded by chestnut, and resembles the Village Weaver, but the Giant Weaver has a pale eye (rather than red) and plain back (rather than streaked).

The female Giant Weaver is dull coloured, and differs from the Village Weaver in having a pale eye, no supercilium, and buff breast (not yellow). In flight the Giant Weaver appears short and broad-winged.

Distribution. The Giant Weaver is restricted to Sao Tome (see map below, based on Handbook of the Birds of the World, Vol. 15). No subspecies of the Giant Weaver are recognised. A century ago it occurred on Ilheu das Rolas, a small island south of Sao Tome, but is now extinct there.

Giant Weaver map

Habitat. The Giant Weaver inhabits natural forest, plantations (coffee, oil palm, coconut, bamboo, cocoa), and clumps of woodland. It is rare in savanna, and common in degraded habitats, especially in the lowlands.

Food. The Giant Weaver feeds on grass seeds, crushed nuts of cocoa trees, fruit, and berries. It also feeds on insects like beetles, and even snails have been recorded. The Giant Weaver feeds at all levels in vegetation, and sometimes on the ground. It forages singly, in pairs and in small parties, but does not join mixed-species flocks.

Breeding. The Giant Weaver is a monogamous, highly territorial, solitary nester. The male may beat his wings in perched display near the nest. The nest is a large untidy ball with no entrance tunnel. It is built with strips of palm leaves, and is supported below branches and well hidden.

The nest is placed in palm or other tall trees. The clutch is 1-2 eggs, which are plain blue. Nothing else is known about its breeding cycle.

The above is based on Weaver Wednesday, a weekly series about weaver species.
This species text first appeared as Weaver Wednesday [86]: Giant Weaver on 2014-02-04

2. Breeding facts

Pair bond
Breeding season
Egg-laying observed in Jan, copulation and nest-building noted in Dec, and juveniles in Mar-Apr
Nest site
supported from below by branches
Nest building
No information
Colony size
Solitary nester; highly territorial if conspecifics in same area
Clutch size
1-2 eggs
Egg colour
plain blue
Egg size
No information
No information
Chicks and nestling period
No information

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

3. Photos of Weaver Nests

No records yet - be the first to submit a PHOWN record!
See PHOWN summary page 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