Weaver species

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Kilombero Weaver Ploceus burnieri

IUCN: Vulnerable     Discovery: 117

Categories: wetland, IUCN,
News items about species


Kilombero Weaver
Kilombero Weaver male & female,
figure from Baker 1990a
(Image from Biodiversity Heritage Library,
Digitized by Smithsonian Libraries)
Kilombero Weaver
Kilombero Weaver nest,
figure from Baker 1990a
(Image from Biodiversity Heritage Library,
Digitized by Smithsonian Libraries)
Kilombero Weaver map
Kilombero Weaver
distribution, type locality circled


The Kilombero Weaver was first collected and formally described by NE Baker & EM Baker, ornithologists working in Tanzania.

The Kilombero Weaver was first noticed by Eric Burnier, a Swiss physician and amateur naturalist, who worked at the Ifakara medical research station in Tanzania. The weaver was reasonably common in the area, but Burnier could not identify it, and so he mentioned it to the Bakers. During December 1986 Neil and Elizabeth Baker visited the town of Ifakara in Morogoro Region, east central Tanzania, mainly as a field trip for the Tanzanian Bird Atlas.

At the time of their visit, the weaver was breeding and male birds were easily located along the road to the nearby ferry at Kivukoni. The species was distinctive but could not be identified in the field. Five female and 2 male birds were caught in mist nets. One male and one female specimen were collected as types for a new species.

Subsequent visits to the site were made on 27 February 1987 and 2 April 1988. A further 12 males and 21 females were caught and measured. On 27 February 1987 two specimens were collected at Kivukoni for the University of Dar es Salaam.

The Bakers did not find any mixed species colonies with the Kilombero Weaver, and the closest known breeding weavers were small colonies of Eastern Golden Weavers nesting in bamboo in Ifakara township outside the swamp habitat 7 km away.

The Kilombero Weaver was first illustrated in the type description, by a colour plate of the male and female, and also a line drawing of a nest, and of the bill shapes of similar weavers.

Scientific citation

Ploceus burnieri Baker & Baker (Baker 1990a), Bull. Brit. Orn. Club 110 p52, Ifakara, Morogoro region, Tanzania.

Meaning of names

burnieri, Named after Eric Burnier (fl. 1986) British doctor, field naturalist, and collector in Africa.

First English name

Kilombero Weaver (Baker 1990a).

Alternate names



NE Baker & EM Baker.

Date collected

28 Dec 1986 and 27 Feb 1987.

Locality collected

Ifakara, Tanzania.

Type specimens

The types are in the British Museum (BM 1989-7-1, BM 1989-7-2) and Dar es Salaam Museum (UDSMB 341, UDSMB 342).

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 [234] - Discovery [117]: Kilombero Weaver on 2016-12-07

1. Basic biology

Kilombero Weaver
Kilombero Weaver male,
figure from PHOWN
Identification. The Kilombero Weaver adult male (left) is bright yellow with a dark brown mask which may appear black from a distance. Females (below) and non-breeding males are dull coloured, with a buff eye-stripe and two-toned bill.

Distribution. The Kilombero Weaver is a range restricted species, endemic to the floodplain swamps along the Kilombero River in south-east Tanzania (see distribution map right from Birds of Africa).

This species is the newest weaver species known to science, being described as recently as 1990 by Neil and Liz Baker. Their paper provided the only published breeding information for the species.

Habitat. The Kilombero Weaver is found in seasonally flooded grasslands in river floodplains. It occurs in extensive riverside swamps with tall fringing beds of Phragmites reeds, generally away from trees. In December many birds in non-breeding plumage follow the Kilombero River downstream from the Ifakara ferry crossing.

Food. The Kilombero Weaver feeds on seeds. It forages by moving up and down grass stems, feeding at flowering and fruiting grass heads. Flocks also forage on the ground.

Kilombero Weaver
Kilombero Weaver female at nest,
figure from PHOWN

Breeding. This species breeds in swamps fringed with tall Phragmites mauritianus, which is also used by Eastern Golden Weavers.

The Kilombero Weaver breeds in loose colonies which often overhang water and may have a few nests or up to 20 or 30 nests, but solitary nests also occur. It is probably polygynous. The nest is woven by the male, as an oval, with a semi-elliptical side entrance facing downwards. The nest is built of grass leaves and strips and lined with broader grass leaves.

The eggs (clutch 1-2) are uniform olive-brown to turquoise with light brown markings. Incubation and fledging periods are unknown.

Photo (left): female Kilombero Weaver at nest, from phown 1961 (see this record for a photo of the male at a nest).

The above is based on Weaver Wednesday, a weekly series about weaver species.
This species text first appeared as Weaver Wednesday [18]: Kilombero Weaver on 2012-10-17

2. Breeding facts

Pair bond
Probably polygynous
Breeding season
Nest site
attached by side to reed at point 2-3 m above ground (closer to water when habitat flooded)
Nest building
woven by male, after accepting nest, female apparently adds further material
Colony size
Colonial, with up to 30 nests together, but solitary nests also noted
Clutch size
1-2 eggs
Egg colour
olive-brown to turquoise with light brown markings
Egg size
mean of three eggs 20 x 13.9 mm
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

Vm 1961

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