As summer slowly approaches, we are starting to see a lot more construction. Not the type of construction you may be used to in the concrete jungles of the world but rather the intricate construction and the wooing of weavers building their nests.
Location, location, location.
If you talk to anyone involved in real estate they would tell you that the three most important factors that affect the property value are location, location and location. To a large degree this also applies in the weavers’ world too. The different species will nest in preferred locations, depending on their individual habits.
Reedbeds are preferred by the Thick-billed and African Golden weavers, which attach their nests to upright reed stalks, in particular in and around the Sand River at Londolozi. The Village and Lesser Masked weavers also choose to nest near water, however they suspend their nests from the canopies of large trees, often acacias; this provides protection from predators with the tree having sharp thorns. Spectacled weavers usually nest in trees, on the banks of the rivers or pans. The bushveld habitat is mostly occupied by the striking Red Headed weaver. The Southern masked weaver may breed in a number of different habitats.
Weavers are different to most of the other birds we see here at Londolozi, as they use their intricately woven nests as a display piece to attract their mates.
Although there are variety of methods used to attract a mate, the basic and generic ritual goes as follows:
When the male has, after several days, completed his nest, he hangs upside down from the entrance and displays enthusiastically to passing females by singing his song persistently and flapping his wings. Females will then stop to inspect the widespread range of options on the property market, and each female will then choose the male that, in their eyes, is the most accomplished and proficient builder based on his nest. The female bases her choice on certain criteria that will ensure that her offspring have the best chance of survival. This is most likely selecting the nest that – by its weave – will provide the greatest strength and firmness. Once she has chosen the most impressive nest, she completes its design by lining it with soft material to make it ready for her to lay her eggs.
The construction process:
Step by step the male will weave his nest; beginning with an initial attachment to a branch that is able to support the weight of both him and the nest, followed by building the ring – the foundation of the nest. The roof is then built over the ring and once the woven roof is completed, a rounded egg chamber is built. ‘The foyer’ (ante-chamber) is then constructed; this serves as the entrance to the nest. The final attachment to the intricate nest is the tunnel (in species where this is required for protection against host parasites, which Nick Sims talks about in last week’s blog). The tunnel is often only added only after the female has officially approved of the nest.
However, different to our property market, if you do not like a home any more, a sale takes place. In the weavers’ world, if a nest is not occupied or accepted by a female after a few days, the male will completely destroy it. He will have to build another one from scratch, as female weavers only accept freshly built nests. It is said that a single male may even build up to 50 nests in one breeding season.
The efficiency of male weavers is remarkable, as they can build a single nest from scratch in less than a day. It’s no mean feat though, as the intricacy of their weaves, and the fact that they do it only with their beaks (with occasional claw assistance), leave many people in their dust.
As far as home building in the animal kingdom goes, Weavers are truly a class act.