For a large chunk of the year, Londolozi’s weaver population is drab and fairly nondescript, but when the rain comes and the grass grows, the males shift both their plumage and a gear, and launch into their breeding season.
The male Village Weavers – some of Londolozi’s most common and vociferous – develop a pitch black facial mask and start trying to attract a mate, which they do by hanging upside down from their nests, chattering loudly and vigorously flapping their wings. The arrival if a single female at a colony can set the entire colony of males into uproar, all clamouring for her attention. Up to 300 males at a time can be seen mimicking each other exactly, and the din is tremendous.
One of the most active colonies has been one in the Sand River, next to the Causeway. The following are just a few shots taken over a 20 minute period one morning:
These incredible little birds average about 380 green strips in the construction of each nest. If they don’t successfully attract a mate with a nest they will start again, sometimes building up to 5 different nests over the same period. We’re looking at an average of almost 2000 flights to collect building material.
If his displaying is effective and a female is attracted, he will then add a short entrance tunnel to the nest, which is then lined for egg laying by the female.
It has been shown that a female will select a nest (and therefore a partner) based mainly on structural strength rather than its physical appearance (although there is probably a correlation between the two); as one can imagine, it’s better for hatchling survival if the nest is ugly but survives wind and weather, rather than looking immaculate but falling down at the first strong gust.
We’ll run a post later this summer about the various weaver species across Londolozi and their various nest types. They are easily one of the most fascinating bird families on the reserve!