The African Weaverbirds family is a large family of birds, but not all of them go by the name Weaverbird, such as the red-billed quelea, the most populous wild bird in the world.
One thing all weaverbirds have in common though is that they build elaborate, spectacular, and durable nests.
These birds are endemic to the continent of Africa and will be found throughout sub-Saharan Africa, but are also found in other places such as India.
Weaverbirds can be considered one of nature’s great architects and builders, due to the intricacy of their nests; this list includes termites, bees, spiders, and beavers.
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How Many Weaverbird Species Are There?
In general, these birds are small to medium in size, and have a conical, pointed beak that varies from heavy and short to slender and long.
Their plumage usually varies from plain yellow, black, red, or a combination of these colors and orange, or brown.
But this plumage is in some instances depending on the season; whether it is the breeding season or not.
Across Africa, there are over 100 different species of weaverbirds. Below are some of the most common species of weaverbirds you’ll spot:
- The white-headed buffalo weaver
- The village weaver
- The Southern masked weaver.
- The African Social Weaver
Where Can African Weaverbirds Be Found?
Most weaverbirds will be found in proximity to water sources such as lakes, dams, rivers, and wetlands.
They will also be found in savannahs and grasslands, while only members of the buffalo and sparrow weaverbird species make permanent residency in arid and semi-arid areas.
And some members are exclusively forest birds, being found in evergreen, montane, and lowland forests.
These birds can be found throughout sub-Saharan Africa, where all families are represented. They are also well exported as cage birds due to their relative smartness and ability to learn a variety of tricks.
When these caged birds are deliberately released or escape, they tend to set up new colonies in new places like Australia, Hawaii, the USA, and Portugal.
What Do Weaverbirds Eat?
Weavers are not exclusively insectivorous or granivorous but a mix of both.
All species of weaver birds will take insects when available, also the young are primarily raised on insects.
During the dry season, their diet is mainly made of seeds, as they may be the only source of nutrition available.
During the rainy season, insects are usually abundant and form the majority of the bird’s diet.
Some weaverbird species feed on small lizards, frogs, berries and fruits, together with sap from plants like the aloe.
The Weaverbirds Nests
Building the nest.
For the male weaverbirds, everything starts with a good nest, as good nests lead to a mate and to a family in the trees.
Nest building is exclusively a male job, and these resourceful birds will use whatever is readily available as building materials from grasses, vines, twines, twigs, and plant fibers.
Most species prefer building with grass as it is pliable, reliable, and always available.
The nests will start with one strand, knotted to a branch, or platform with claws and a beak, after which strands are added on and weaved through.
The entrance is usually the first thing built, and is very important as its aperture must be big enough for the birds to pass through but small enough to restrict predators and nest thieves.
First: The Female Approval Of The Nest.
After completing the tiring work of nest building, the male announces it by fluttering his wings in the hope of attracting a female who will approve of the nest.
If the female approves of the nest, then in the next few weeks, the nest will have a couple of eggs within it.
If she disapproves, then the nest is abandoned and the male starts building another nest.
The females choose a nest based on comfort, design, and location which to her is a determiner of the perfect mate for her.
In the course of the breeding season, males will sometimes make several nests up to 30, before getting a mate.
But the nests do vary among weaverbird species, from large communal nests shared by about 200 birds to individual love nests built close to each other.
A good example of a communal nest is one built by the social weaver, with the nest receiving constant occupation, with some nests lasting more than 100 years.
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A wonder of architecture.
These nests usually look like haystacks hanging on trees from a distance, but up close, you’ll start seeing their intricacies.
It usually resembles a honeycomb with intricate nests measuring about 10 cm (27 in) long and 7 cm( 3 in) wide, and the diameter of the internal chambers ranging from 10 to 15 cm ( 4 to 6 in).
The roof of these nests is built from twigs, while the chambers are separated using grass, and sharp straw spikes are used to guard the entrance.
The nesting chambers require special attention and are usually lined with soft plant material, fluff, cotton, and fur from top to bottom.
The tree chosen to host the nests usually has high branches and a long smooth trunk to discourage predators such as snakes, from slithering up the trunk to the nest.
In recent times, the perfect tree with the characteristics above has become either a telephone or a utility pole.
Due to the nature of the materials used in nest building, these giant nests will require constant maintenance. The birds continually add materials as they see fit to keep the nest intact.
Durable nests that support a society of birds.
These nests are well made as they insulate the birds from most harsh weather, such as intense heat, cold or rainstorms.
These characteristics have seen the nests being used by other birds such as the pygmy falcon. Other birds that make use of the sociable weavers’ giant communal nets include; the rosy-faced lovebird, ashy tit, red-headed finch, familiar chat, and the pied barbet.
You may be wondering why sociable weavers are able to tolerate all these birds in their home, even birds that prey on them such as the pygmy falcon.
Well, sometimes there is safety in numbers, as more birds mean more eyes out on the lookout. Also, these other birds help the weavers discover new sources of food.
The pygmy falcon in particular lives in a separate part of the nest away from the sociable weavers, and its presence ( which is announced by its droppings) is enough to keep some predators away from the nest.
The Weaverbirds Reproduction
The habitats and feeding patterns of individual African Weaverbird species will influence their breeding systems.
Those weaverbirds that live in forest habitats are usually insectivorous and will pair up for more than the mating season.
Weaverbirds found in the savannahs have a diet of seeds and are gregarious or social and will form polygamous relationships.
And those species that use seasonal and individual nests, the males exclusively build the nests, and their success at getting a mate is judged on how perfect the nest is.
In some species, males will build more than 30 nests in a single breeding season so as to attract as many females as possible.
Once the eggs hatch, their care depends on the bird species and their breeding habits. For the monogamous species, both parents will take part in raising the chicks.
For those that are polygamous, the male will leave the task of raising chicks to the female.
Then there is the special interesting case of species like the social weaver that build permanent year-round social nests.
The care of the chicks is done by the parents with the help of aggregate helpers who may be young brothers to the newly hatched, or other males.
Relationship With Humans
In Africa, the grain-eating African weaverbird species have been a pest to farmers both in the past and today.
The red-billed quelea, which is considered the most populous wild bird in the world with numbers estimated at about 10 billion, has been a pest as early as the 1960s.
This specie of weaverbird has been such a big nuisance to farmers that several attempts have been made to reduce its numbers from firebombs set under their roosting sites to using aerial spraying to no avail.
These birds move in extremely large flocks that can clear farmer’s fields in minutes.
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The African Weaverbird Conservation Status
Weaverbirds are well distributed across sub-Saharan Africa, but just like all other animals on the planet, they are also facing population pressures coming from habitat loss and climate change.
Some birds are particularly affected as they are range-restricted. On the African islands of Mauritius and Seychelles, the weaverbirds there are facing a decline from predation by introduced predators and habitat loss.
FAQs on the African Weaverbird.
1. What are some fun facts about weaverbirds?
Weaverbirds have the ability to hang upside from almost any surface as long they can get their talons to hold on.
Weavers weave intricate nests, that is so well made and insulated against cold and heat, they are sought after by other birds.
2. How long does an African Weaverbird live?
In the wild, weavers generally have a lifespan of about 10 to 15 years, but in captivity, they can even reach 24 years.
My Final Conclusion.
I hope that you enjoyed this expanded blog post on the African Weaverbird, but if you have any more questions you can always ask them down below in the comment section or join me on my social media pages for more stories and pictures of my travels to Africa!
I wish you happy travels and birdwatching!
4 thoughts on “An African Weaverbird – Nature’s Great Architects And Builders.”
So, recently I heard that birds come from dinosaurs, meaning that birds are basically modern day dinosaurs. Not sure how much truth is in that but some how I think its true. I look at dragons and how much they resemble birds. Then I think, Are dragons actually real? minus the fire breathing and mystical powers.
Well, ok then lol. I have no clue if dragons are real haha!
Anyway, thanks for this peculiar comment 😉
What a funny looking and interesting bird you have profiled here Lizzy. I really enjoyed reading your article An African Weaverbird – Nature’s Great Architects And Builders for its thorough nature in introducing me to the African Weaverbird and their ability to build strong, sturdy nests.
I must admit it is a little confusing to learn that there are over a hundred different kinds of Weaverbirds. It also reminds me of some dog breeds how they are basically colored yellow, red and black but with varying patterns. It’s amazing the variety we see in God’s creation.
Their ability to build nests also made me think maybe they are the beaver of the sky.
For sure, these are quite interesting I agree;-)
Thank you for this positive comment and I wish you happy birdwatching! 🙂