Weaver species

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Vieillot's Black Weaver Ploceus nigerrimus

IUCN: Least concern     Discovery: 028

Categories: black, acacias, fruit, waterbirds, nectar, pest, palm,
News items about species


Vieillot's Black Weaver
Vieillot's Black Weaver,
figure from Bartlett 1888
Vieillot's Black Weaver,
figure from Bartlett 1888
Vieillot's Black Weaver map
Vieillot's Black Weaver
distribution, type locality circled


The Vieillot's Black Weaver was formally described by Louis Jean Pierre Vieillot, a French ornithologist. The birds had been collected by Jean Perrein, a French naturalist, who travelled in West Africa and other localities. Vieillot was interested in the habits of living birds, but Perrein did not seem to provide any field notes for the Vieillot's Black Weaver, as he had done for the Crested Malimbe.

Vieillot mentioned that this weaver had been collected at Congo et Caconga, one of three historic provinces in Cabinda, Angola.

Perrein returned to France after a long stay in Cabinda, in about 1800. Perrein sent his specimens to Academy of Sciences in Bordeaux, France, from where the Vieillot's Black Weaver type was probably moved to the Paris Museum.

Many early authors referred to the Vieillot's Black Weaver and more specimens of this common weaver were collected in West Africa, but it was only illustrated in 1888 for the first time. Bartlett (1888) illustrated both subspecies.

Scientific citation

Ploceus nigerrimus Vieillot 1819 Nouv. Dict. Hist. Nat., nouv. ed., 34:130 "Kingdom of Congo", Cabinda.

Meaning of names

nigerrimus Latin: very black (super. of niger, black).

First English name

The chestnut-fusous Weawer (Reichenbach 1863) [originally given as Black and chestnut Weaver-bird (Burton 1883)].

Alternate names

Chestnut and Black Weaver, Vieillot's Weaver.


Jean Perrein.

Date collected

Before 1800, when Perrein returned to France with his specimens.

Locality collected

Congo et Caconga, ie. Cabinda, Angola.

Type specimens

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 [145] - Discovery [28]: Vieillot's Black Weaver on 2015-03-25

1. Basic biology

Vieillot's Black Weaver
Vieillot's Black Weaver,
western subspecies
Vieillot's Black Weaver
Vieillot's Bl. Weaver
female, from Birdpix
(by M. Booysen)
Vieillot's Black Weaver
Vieillot's Black Weaver,
eastern subspecies

Identification. The Vieillot's Black Weaver Ploceus nigerrimus is named after its black colour. The adult male is wholly black (nominate race, photo above right) or black with chestnut back, rump and belly (P. n. castaneofuscus, photo above left). The yellow eye distinguishes it from other black weavers - Maxwell's Black Weaver has a whitish eye, and the female Cassin's Malimbe has a dark eye. The female and juvenile Vieillot's Black Weaver are olive with a little yellow on below and streaks on the back, and the eye is pale.

Vieillot's Black Weaver map

Distribution. Two subspecies of the Vieillot's Black Weaver are recognised (see map left, based on Birds of Africa):
P. r. nigerrimus in extreme SE Nigeria to Uganda and W Kenya, south to Angola and Zaire (see red on map).
P. r. castaneofuscus, Chestnut-and-black Weaver, in Sierra Leone to E Nigeria (see blue on map). The male of this subspecies has black and chestnut plumage.
These subspecies were originally described as distinct species but have long been regarded as conspecific. They interbreed in southern Nigeria where their ranges meet.

Vieillot's Black Weaver
Vieillot's Black Weaver,

Habitat. The Vieillot's Black Weaver inhabits forest clearings, often in villages, wooded areas and high grass savannas, although not found in forest.

Food. The Vieillot's Black Weaver feeds on mainly insects (grasshoppers, winged ants, winged termites, caterpillars and butterflies); also seeds, fruit, berries and nectar. Birds move far from their colonies to forage in savanna and gallery forest. They regularly join mixed-species flocks of insectivores foraging in more open forest areas. Nigerian birds search areas where squirrels Funisciurus anerythrus have been feeding, and collect the outer fibrous layers of oil palm nuts which the squirrels discard.

Breeding. The Vieillot's Black Weaver is colonial (photo left, from phown 4209), gregarious, territorial, and polygynous, with up to 5 females in a males' territory. Breeding activity seems to coincide with rainfall.

Vieillot's Black Weaver
Vieillot's Black Weaver,
nest in papyrus
Some females synchronise nesting, while others do not. It forms mixed colonies with Village Weavers and the 2 species sometimes hybridize. Village Weavers appear to select the site which is later joined by Vieillot's Black Weavers. Vieillot's Black Weavers do not respond to bursts of activity by Village Weavers in the same colony. To advertise to females, the male Vieillot's Black Weaver hangs below his nest entrance, quivering his wings. The male Village Weaver has a similar display, but beats his wings rather than quivering them.

Colonies occur in trees, reeds, bulrushes, papyrus (photo right, from phown 871), or bamboos. There may be several nests in the territory of one male, which may be part of a colony of dozens or hundreds of nesting weavers.

Vieillot's Black Weaver
Python on Vieillot's Black Weaver nest
The oval nest is similar to that of the Village Weaver but lacks the entrance spout. It is built by the male, taking about nine hours to complete. In general, building activity peaks before 11h00 and a colony is almost deserted from 12h00 to 15h00; activity resumes in the late afternoon.

A particularly interesting PHOWN record is of a young python resting on the nest of a Vieillot's Black Weaver (photo left, from phown 2448).

The above is based on Weaver Wednesday, a weekly series about weaver species.
This species text first appeared as Weaver Wednesday [27]: Vieillot's Black Weaver on 2012-12-19

2. Breeding facts

Pair bond
Polygynous, with up to five females in one male territory
Breeding season
Jan in Gambia, Feb in Guinea, Feb-Apr and Aug-Nov in Liberia, Jan-Jul in Ghana, Feb and Sept-Oct in Togo, May-Aug in Nigeria, in all months except Aug in Cameroon, Dec-Feb, Apr and Jul in Gabon, Jul-Aug in Central African Republic, Nov-Feb and Sept in PRCongo; in DRCongo, Nov in S, Apr and Aug-Sept in savanna, Jul-Feb in Lukolela, and probably all year (confirmed in Feb, Jul-Aug and Nov) in ltombwe; Aug and Nov in Sudan, throughout year (peaks Feb-May and Sept-Oct) in Uganda, Jul-Sept in Kenya and Oct-Mar in Angola
Nest site
placed in bulrushes (Typha), tall elephant grass, palm, bamboo or tree, 1-2 m above water or, when in tree, 6-8 m above ground
Nest building
woven by male
Colony size
Colonial, similar number of nests (maximum three) per territory in colonies of different densities, but mean distance between nests variable, 27-52 cm
Clutch size
2 eggs
Egg colour
pale blue, rarely with a few purple spots at thick end
Egg size
average size of 40 eggs 23.9 x 16.1 mm (Cameroon)
incubation by female only, no information on duration of incubation period
Chicks and nestling period
chicks fed primarily by female, male may contribute late in season as breeding activity declines; no information on duration of nestling period

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

3. Photos of Weaver Nests

Vm 29938

Vm 28365

Vm 28245

Vm 27827

Vm 26364

Vm 18153

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