Weaver species

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Golden-backed Weaver Ploceus jacksoni

IUCN: Least concern     Discovery: 087

Categories: wetland,
News items about species


Golden-backed Weaver
Golden-backed Weaver male,
figure from Shelley (1888)
Golden-backed Weaver
Golden-backed Weaver male,
figure from Mackworth (1955)
Golden-backed Weaver female,
figure from Mackworth (1955)
Golden-backed Weaver map
Golden-backed Weaver
distribution, type locality circled


The Golden-backed Weaver was formally described by George Ernest Shelley, an English geologist and ornithologist.

The Golden-backed Weaver was collected by Frederick John Jackson, an English administrator, explorer and ornithologist.

Jackson arrived in Kenya in December 1884, where he undertook several hunting and collecting trips. In mid 1886 he decided to go to Kilimanjaro for a few months to hunt and collect specimens. While based near Mount Kilimanjaro a new species was brought to him, which was sent to England where Shelley described it as the Golden-backed Weaver.

Jackson wrote the following about how he obtained the specimen: "Little credit is due to me for having brought this new species to light, as the specimen was brought to me by a little Taveita boy, tied by the legs along with several others of the common yellow species, and was the only one that I kept, as all the rest had had their tails pulled out."

The first illustration of the Golden-backed Weaver was of the male type specimen, published by Shelley (1888). The next illustrations to be published were 6 decades later: colour paintings of the male and female in Mackworth (1955).

Scientific citation

Ploceus jacksoni Shelley 1888, Ibis, 1888, p.293 Kilimanjaro = Taveta, Kenya.

Meaning of names

jacksoni, Named after Sir Frederick Jackson (1860-1929) Governor of Uganda, 1911-1917, naturalist, collector, and author.

First English name

Jackson's Golden-backed Weaver (Shelley 1905).

Alternate names

Golden-back Weaver,
Jackson's Golden-backed Weaver,
Jackson's Weaver,
Jackson's Yellow-backed Black-headed Weaver.


Frederick John Jackson.

Date collected


Locality collected

Near Taveta, Kenya.

Type specimens

The type is in the British Museum (BM 1888.6.20.1).

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 [204] - Discovery [87]: Golden-backed Weaver on 2016-05-11

1. Basic biology

Golden-backed Weaver
Golden-backed Weaver male,
figure from wikipedia
Identification. The Golden-backed Weaver is a common weaver in East Africa. The male in breeding plumage has a black head, and chestnut and yellow underparts. The Black-headed (or Yellow-backed) Weaver male is similar and overlaps in range, especially around Lake Victoria. The Golden-backed Weaver can be distinguished by its red eye and yellow back (the Black-headed has a brown eye and brown back with a yellow nape band).

The female and non-breeding male Golden-backed Weaver are olive above and yellow below, with a reddish eye. Some interesting photos of these birds in moult may be seen here.

Golden-backed Weaver map

Distribution. The Golden-backed Weaver is found in Uganda, SE Burundi, W Kenya, and in N, E and central Tanzania; it is rare in South Sudan (see map right, based on Birds of Africa). No subspecies are recognised.

The Golden-backed Weaver has been introduced to the United Arab Emirates (since 1992), and Singapore (since at least 2011), probably due to escaped cage birds in each country.

Habitat. The Golden-backed Weaver inhabits mainly wetland areas like swamp, ambatch, reeds, papyrus, and along rivers, but also moves into acacia scrub and woodland. It shows irregular irruptive movements in response to heavy rainfall.

Food. The diet of the Golden-backed Weaver consists of seeds, and probably insects.

Breeding. The Golden-backed Weaver is polygynous and colonial, often nesting alongside other weavers. Its nest is oval, compact, woven of strips torn from grass or palm leaves, lined with grass tops and some feathers. There is no entrance tunnel. It is built over water in papyrus or reeds; also in acacia trees, ambatch bushes and in maize fields. The song at its colony includes a variety of harsh notes. 2-3 eggs are laid, which are blue, with purple-brown or dark red spots. There are several records of brood parasitism by the Diederik Cuckoo. The Swamp Flycatcher uses old nests of this weaver to nest in.

Golden-backed Weaver
Golden-backed Weaver colony in reeds,
figure from PHOWN
Golden-backed Weaver
Golden-backed Weaver male at nest,
figure from PHOWN

The above is based on Weaver Wednesday, a weekly series about weaver species.
This species text first appeared as Weaver Wednesday [47]: Golden-backed Weaver on 2013-05-08

2. Breeding facts

Pair bond
Breeding season
Feb-Jun and Oct-Dec (peak of laying Apr-May) in Uganda, Mar-Jun in Kenya, and Sept and Nov-Jun in Tanzania
Nest site
usually over water in papyrus or reeds, sometimes in tree, ambatch or even maize (Zea mays) field
Nest building
no information
Colony size
Clutch size
2-3 eggs
Egg colour
blue with purplish-brown or dark red spots, often very fine and dense
Egg size
average size 20.6 x 14.3 mm (Uganda)
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 30354

Vm 29965

Vm 24561

Vm 12431

Vm 11500

Vm 9294

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