Weaver species

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Maxwell's Black Weaver Ploceus albinucha

IUCN: Least concern     Discovery: 072

Categories: black, fruit, nectar, palm,
News items about species


Maxwell's Black Weaver
Maxwell's Black Weaver, albinucha
figure from Bannerman (1949)
Maxwell's Black Weaver
Maxwell's Black Weaver, maxwelli
figure from Bannerman (1949)
Maxwell's Black Weaver map
Maxwell's Black Weaver
distribution, type locality circled
Maxwell's Black Weaver
Label: Vieillot's Black Weaver
prob is Maxwell's Black Weaver
figure from Bartlett (1888)


The Maxwell's Black Weaver was formally described by Jose Vicente Barbosa du Bocage, a Portuguese zoologist and politician. He was curator of the Lisbon Museum.

Richard Bowdler Sharpe, an English zoologist, obtained the Maxwell's Black Weaver specimen from Henry Whitely, a British dealer in bird skins living at 28 Wellington Street, Woolwich. His son, also Henry Whitely, travelled in Japan and South America to collect bird specimens. It is not known from whom Whitely (senior) obtained the Maxwell's Black Weaver specimen. Dowsett-Lemaire & Dowsett (2014) suggested that the specimen was from Ghana.

Sharpe sent a collection of birds (mostly from Quanza, Angola) to Bocage who was interested in Angolan specimens. The Maxwell's Black Weaver type was included in the collection (perhaps accidentally), but its label clearly stated "West Africa". Because of it being with the Angolan birds, many authors incorrectly gave the type locality for Maxwell's Black Weaver as Quanza in Angola but it should always have been listed as West Africa.

Unfortunately the type no longer exists, due to a fire in the Lisbon Museum in 1978.

The first illustrations of the Maxwell's Black Weaver were published in Bannerman (1949), the first in colour and of the nominate subspecies, and the second in black and white of another subspecies. Bartlett (1888) wrote a text on Maxwell's Black Weaver and referred to a plate for this species, but the plate seems to be missing from the book.

Scientific citation

Sycobius albinucha Bocage 1876 Jorn. Sci. Math. Phys. Nat. Lisboa, 5, p.247 West Africa.

Meaning of names

albinucha, Latin: albus, white; Med. Latin nucha, the nape (Arabic nukha, spinal marrow).

First English name

The White-naped Weaver (Bartlett 1888).

Alternate names

Black Weaver, Fernando Po Black Weaver, Maxwell's Weaver, White-naped Black Weaver, White-naped Weaver.


via Henry Whitely.

Date collected

Before 1876.

Locality collected

West Africa, possibly Ghana.

Type specimens

The type specimen was in the Museum of Lisbon, before a fire destroyed the 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 [189] - Discovery [72]: Maxwell's Black Weaver on 2016-01-27

1. Basic biology

Maxwell's Black Weaver
Maxwell's Black Weaver adult,
nominate race with white nape feathers
figure from Bannerman 1949
Identification. Maxwell's Black Weaver is glossy black in both sexes and the eye is white to greenish-white. The nominate race has white bases to the nape feathers, showing as a pale patch. The juvenile is dark brown above, dull charcoal-grey below, and the eye is brown. It is very similar to Vieillot's Black Weaver, which has a yellow eye (not whitish). The juvenile Vieillot's Black Weaver has a yellow throat and belly, while the juvenile Cassins Malimbe has an orange throat.

Distribution. Maxwell's Black Weaver occurs from West Africa to central Africa (see map below, based on Birds of Africa). There are three subspecies:
P. a. albinucha in Sierra Leone to Ghana (see red on map). The adult has a white nape.
P. a. holomelas, in Nigeria across to western Uganda (see green on map). The adult has a black nape, and the juvenile is grey below as is the nominate juvenile.
P. a. maxwelli, on Bioko Island (see blue on map). The adult has a black nape, and the immature is washed with yellow below. Maxwell's Black Weaver map

Habitat. Maxwell's Black Weaver inhabits high forest in Cameroon; elsewhere it is found in the vicinity of villages surrounded by secondary forest, often near rivers and creeks. Maxwell's Black Weaver formst large, noisy roosts in the evening.

Food. Maxwell's Black Weaver feeds on insects including grasshoppers, small caterpillars, and chrysalises. It also feeds on fruit, berries, and nectar. It hawks insects in the canopy. Maxwell's Black Weaver forages in mixed-species flocks but single birds may be found high in the canopy.

Breeding. Maxwell's Black Weaver is probably polygynous. It is colonial, with 20-500 nests in a colony. It may form mixed colonies with other weaver species. The nest of Maxwell's Black Weaver is a rough hemisphere with the entrance below and almost no tunnel. The nest is constructed of thin, rough creepers, or is woven from strips of banana leaf. The nest is placed at the tip of a branch or palm frond. The nests are usually high up, in the crown of trees.

A colony of 20 nests in Sierra Leone was directly below the nest of a Crowned Hawk-eagle Stephanoetus coronatus. The eggs are undescribed and nothing else is known about breeding. Young birds are sometimes harvested by villagers.

The above is based on Weaver Wednesday, a weekly series about weaver species.
This species text first appeared as Weaver Wednesday [109]: Maxwell's Black Weaver on 2014-07-16

2. Breeding facts

Pair bond
probably polygynous
Breeding season
In W Africa, active nests in Feb in Siena Leone, fledglings seen Nov-Dec in Liberia and Ghana, and birds with enlarged gonads in Mar in Cameroon; breeds Feb and Jun-Aug in DRCongo
Nest site
placed at tip of pendulous branch generally high in crown of tree, more than 10 m above ground
Nest building
no information
Colony size
Colonial, with 20-500 nests in colony
Clutch size
no information
Egg colour
no information
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