Weaver species

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Eastern Golden Weaver Ploceus subaureus

IUCN: Least concern     Discovery: 042

Categories: golden, wetland, nectar, pest, palm,
News items about species


Eastern Golden Weaver
Eastern Golden Weaver male,
figure from Smith 1839
Eastern Golden Weaver
Eastern Golden Weaver,
different races
figure from Reichenbach 1863
Eastern Golden Weaver map
Eastern Golden Weaver
distribution, type locality circled


The Eastern Golden Weaver was formally described by Sir Andrew Smith, a Scottish surgeon, naturalist, explorer and zoologist.

Smith lived in South Africa from 1821 to 1837, mainly in Grahamstown and Algoa Bay (i.e. Port Elizabeth) in the Eastern Cape, and in Cape Town in the Western Cape (Kirby 1965). Smith's type-localities are often imprecise because he was more interested in describing ranges than providing formal type-localities. Smith collected ten specimens of the Eastern Golden Weaver 'in the neighbourhood of Algoa Bay'.

Smith formally described the Eastern Golden Weaver in 1839, but he refers to an earlier description by him, i.e. 'Ploceus subaureus Smith. Proceedings of South African Institution, April, 1832'. This reference has not been traced (Oschadleus 2007) but shows that he had collected at least one specimen of this species by 1832.

The first illustration of a Eastern Golden Weaver is a colour painting by George Henry Ford who painted for Smith. The next illustration is by Reichenbach (1863).

Scientific citation

Ploceus subaureus Smith 1839; Illustr. Zool. South Africa, Aves, pl. 30 (and text); Algoa Bay, eastern Cape.

Meaning of names

subaureus - Latin: sub-, underneath; aureus, golden.

First English name

The yellow-golden Jaunisserin (Reichenbach 1863).

Alternate names

(Red-eyed) Yellow Weaver, African Golden Weaver, Algoa-Bay Weaverbird, Bohndorff's Golden Weaver (for holoxanthus), Canary-coloured Weaver Bird, Golden Weaver, Mnana Golden Weaver, Olive-headed Golden Weaver, Smith's Golden Weaver, The brimstone coloured Jaunisserin, The yellow-golden Oriolin, Yellow Weaver


Andrew Smith.

Date collected

Before 1832.

Locality collected

Algoa Bay, Eastern Cape, South Africa.

Type specimens

One specimen is known to be in the Bristish museum (BM 1845.7.6.21), but more types should still exist.

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 [159] - Discovery [42]: Eastern Golden Weaver on 2015-07-01

1. Basic biology

Eastern Golden Weaver
Eastern Golden Weaver,
male, southern Africa
Eastern Golden Weaver
Eastern Golden Weaver,
female, southern Africa
Eastern Golden Weaver
Eastern Golden Weaver,
male, eastern Africa

Identification. The Eastern Golden Weaver is a yellow weaver. The male in breeding plumage has a black bill and red eye (above left). The female is duller yellow, has a horn to dark bill, and eye is brown or reddish brown (above middle). Read more about the variation in eye colour of this species and some other weavers in a pdf here (821 kB).

The Eastern Golden Weaver is also known as the African Golden Weaver or Yellow Weaver. The name has been confused with Holub's Golden Weaver P. xanthops but the scientific names prevent confusion. Eastern Golden Weaver map

Distribution. The Eastern Golden Weaver is common from Kenya to the Eastern Cape and as far inland as Malawi (see map left), based on Birds of Africa).

Two subspecies are currently recognised:
P. s. subaureus in central and south Mozambique south of Save River and south along the coast to extreme eastern Swaziland and south to the Eastern Cape (see red on map left).
P. s. aureoflavus is found in SE Kenya (south of the Tana River), coastal Tanzania (including Pemba and Zanzibar), eastern Malawi, and northern Mozambique (see blue on map left). The male in breeding plumage for this race has an orange wash on the forehead, crown, sides of head, chin and throat (above right), and is smaller than the nominate subspecies.

This species appears to be expanding its range westwards in Swaziland and the Kruger National Park, Mpumulanga, South Africa (see SABAP2 map here. This includes PHOWN records, eg. 1701, near Kruger.

Habitat. The Eastern Golden Weaver inhabits coastal plains, river floodplains and lowland river valleys.

Food. The Eastern Golden Weaver feeds on seeds, including rice and millet, and also nectar and insects, especially termite alates. The young are fed mainly on insects. It forms large foraging flocks when not breeding.

Eastern Golden Weaver
Eastern Golden Weaver,
male at nest

Breeding. The Eastern Golden Weaver is colonial, with small territories, and is probably polygynous. The tightly-woven nest is oval to spherical, with the entrance below. The nest material consists of grass or reed strips.

The nest is lined with soft Eragrostris inflorescences, and rarely with a few feathers. The nest is attached to a single reed stem at the side, or supported by a reed on either side, sited 1-2 m above water, or is situated in trees at a much higher level. The reeds or branches above nests are often stripped of leaves. It may nest alongside other weaver species.

Nests were raided by African Fish Eagles Haliaeetus vocifer in Malawi. The Eastern Golden Weaver is an occasional host of the Diederik Cuckoo Chrysococcyx caprius.

Amazingly, one breeding colony in a wetland attracted a few different frog species as resting inside the weaver nests during the day (see news).

Of 13 birds recovered, 1 had moved 78 km, the others being within 10km of the ringing site. The oldest Eastern Golden Weaver to date was a female recaptured after 8 years 5 months (read more here).

The above is based on Weaver Wednesday, a weekly series about weaver species.
This species text first appeared as Weaver Wednesday [23]: Eastern Golden Weaver on 2012-11-21

2. Breeding facts

Pair bond
Probably polygynous
Breeding season
Oct-Feb in Malawi; in Mozmbique, Apr in C region and Sept-Feb in S; Sept-Feb in South Africa
Nest site
1-2 m above ground or water and often attached to a single reed stem on one side, sometimes supported by a reed on each side, or suspended from low bush, but on Zanzibar nests up to 9 m above ground in tall tamarind or coconut palm (Cocos nucifera)
Nest building
no information
Colony size
Colonial; in reedbeds seldom more than 50 nests together, but 150 nests in tamarind tree (Tamarindus) on Zanzibar
Clutch size
2-3 eggs (South Africa)
Egg colour
plain white, creamy or pale blue, or marked with darker spots
Egg size
average size of 53 eggs 23 x 15.1 mm (South Africa)
incubation by female, period not recorded
Chicks and nestling period
nestling period 19-22 days in captivity

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

3. Photos of Weaver Nests

Vm 31091

Vm 30909

Vm 30438

Vm 30410

Vm 30361

Vm 30355

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

Eastern Golden Weaver, Range-change map between SABAP1 (1987-1991) and SABAP2 (2007-current).
Red, orange and yellow = cells with very large, large, and small relative decreases
Blue, dark green and light green = cells with very large, large and small relative increases.
Cells = quarter-degree grid cells; Only cells with at least 4 checklists in both SABAP1&2 shown. All cells had this species recorded in SABAP1 or in SABAP2 or in both (more about interpretation at Biodiversity Observations 7.62: 1-13).

Eastern Golden Weaver
Eastern Golden Weaver,
figure from Birdpix

Range changes in SA

Range change summary
More 4 lists 30 lists
increases n % n %
Decrease 31 22 21 19
Tiny change 30 21 23 21
Increase 83 57 63 59
Total 144 100 107 100
In South Africa the Eastern Golden Weaver has many more grid cells with increases in reporting rate than cells showing decreases, between SABAP1 (1987-1991) and SABAP2 (2007-).

The points below match the points on the map above.

Areas with very large increases include:
1. The lowveld of Swaziland, with a recent range expansion north into Mpumalanga.
2. The KwaZulu-Natal midlands.

Areas with mixed changes:
3. KwaZulu-Natal coast - most grids show small changes (either increases or decreases), but some grids show large changes.

Areas with very large decreases:
4. Eastern Cape, on the interior edge of its range.

Range changes elsewhere

Tanzania: range extension to Tarangire NP (Demey 2007c).

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 Weaver Wednesday 3 [248] - Range changes [11]: Eastern Golden Weaver on 2017-03-15