Bird Families

The community weaver builds the world's largest nests


Almost everywhere in sub-Saharan Africa, especially in open spaces, an observant traveler will notice large balls of grass hanging from under the crowns of trees and bushes. These are the nests of weavers, one of the most numerous African bird families.

Weavers, a family of weavers (Ploceidae), have 114 species, which include some of the most common African bird species. For example, the red-billed weaver is one of the most numerous species in the world (over 1.5 billion individuals). Sometimes several million of these small birds gather in one flock.

Most outdoor weavers feed on plant seeds and insects; few are exclusively granivorous. The main food of forest species is insects, some feed on the nectar of flowers.

Weavers inhabit Europe, Asia and Australia, but are predominantly African birds. The genus of true weavers (Ploceus) includes 59 species, but only five of them live in Africa. Most weavers are small birds, slightly larger than a sparrow, 13-22 cm in size, with a relatively large conical beak and rounded wings. Many males have yellow mating plumage, sometimes with a dark "facial" part. The rest of the time, the upper body of males and females is usually dull green in color, and the underside is whitish or yellowish.

Several types of weavers breed in colonies. These colonies attract attention by the large number of their inhabitants and by the way these birds build their nests.

Woven dwellings

The nest is a reliable shelter for birds, primarily from the elements and enemies. The art of nest-building is by far the best among the weavers. It is known, for example, that the male village weaver, when building a nest, uses about 300 strips of fresh grass and tree leaves for its outer shell, intertwining them with each other. He hangs the nest from a branch of a tree at the place of its fork. The grass is first attached to the branches and then wrapped around them. The hanging grass is connected and a vertical frame loop is woven from it.

By increasing it, the bird creates a closed cavity, at the bottom of which the female lays eggs. The walls are built by joining strips of grass, a process similar to weaving a basket of willow twigs. The result is a dense and durable "fabric". Often, the male has time to complete the outer shell in one day.

An experienced observer can identify a species of weaver by its nest, even if the bird itself is not in it. A large-billed weaver, for example, builds a round nest of fresh small grass around several vertical reed stalks. Its nest made of dense "fabric" narrows upward, and the entrance is located on the side. White-billed buffalo weavers build massive nests (up to 1 m in diameter), clearly visible from a long distance. They look more like heaps of sloppy twigs and twigs, inside which there is a round nest of thin roots and soft grass. Sometimes nests are built so close to each other that they form one large bird dwelling (contains up to 8 nests). The compact weaver, on the other hand, builds a neat, evenly woven nest with a side entrance, reinforcing it on tall stems of grass.

One of the most famous types of weavers is the village weaver. Colonies of these birds sometimes occupy several trees, forming a kind of “city of weavers”. They live in packs, restless and noisy. The sizes of the nests of village weavers in South-West Africa reach 3 m and serve birds for tens of years.These amazing structures, most often seen on acacias or other short trees, sometimes contain over 100 individual nests, the entrance to which is located below.

Joint defense

Social life has obvious advantages, especially during the breeding season. The flock is not afraid of enemies, because many birds can drive them away. There are other benefits of living in a colony: if one of the birds finds a rich source of food, it can share this information with others. Some weavers settle near hornets' nests, whose inhabitants can be valuable allies in the attack of enemies.

Some species attach to the entrance of the nest, which is hanging on a tree, a narrow pipe, woven of grass, up to 30 cm long. Why is it? The parasitic birds of the cuckoo throw out one of the host's eggs and lay their own instead. Weavers take care of future offspring, not suspecting that there are cuckoo eggs among the eggs. To avoid this, weavers try to keep the cuckoos out of the nest. After waiting for the cuckoo to be half hidden in the entrance tunnel, the weaver attacks it, not allowing it to lay an egg. The cuckoo is forced to retreat, sometimes, trying to get into the weaver's nest, it dies.

Typically, males of true weavers (genus Ploceus) living in the savannah first build a nest, and then perform a mating dance, attracting a female. Since most of these species enter the nest from below, the male attracts the female's attention by hanging from the entrance, flapping his wings and emitting calls. Males of some species, having built a nest, perform a mating dance and song in the air, thus drawing the attention of the female to a new nest. Having occupied the nest, the female does not immediately start laying eggs: at first she lines it with herbaceous and other soft plants. Often, females choose to mate those males who build the best nests.

Division of labor

Since during the mating season, male weavers mate with several females, they build several nests to attract more females. The mask weaver usually builds 12-36 nests. It is noteworthy that up to 9 males can perform a mating dance over one nest.

The division of labor during the breeding season is clearly seen in the example of real weavers of the African savannah: the male builds a nest, and the female lines it, lays eggs, incubates them and feeds the chicks with little help from the male. In the clutch of these species there are usually 2-3 eggs, the incubation period is about 12 days. In the meantime, there is no need to know about it. ”

San Tomey Weaver / Ploceus sanctithomae

I was interested in what a bird looks like building such nests and found a description of its kind of black-faced weaver, a very cute bird with amazing building skills))
Black-fronted weaver (lat. Ploceus velatus) - a small songbird from the order of passerines, one of the species of African weavers. The length of its body sometimes reaches 17 cm, but individuals of 11-15 cm are much more common.Their wingspan is only 28 cm with a wing length of about 9 cm.

These are very sociable birds that do everything together. At dawn, they gather in large flocks, and the males climb to the very tops of the trees and sing loudly, and the females sit down a little lower and listen to them very attentively. The chanting of the black-fronted weaver consists of clicking, chirping and whistling, which alternate continuously, making up an overall pleasant melody.

This takes about two hours, and then the birds go in search of food. Their diet includes seeds, grains, insects and nectar. The drinking process takes place in them quite amusingly: around noon, black-faced weavers literally flood the bushes and thickets near ponds or small rivers and begin to scream and make noise. Then, as if on command, everyone rushes to the reservoir together and takes one or two hasty gulps, after which they quickly return to a safe place, because the predators do not sleep: sometimes small falcons and hawks rush directly into the flock and manage to grab some gape weaver.