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!
They remind me of the activity of the condo residents with whom we share a building. There are a few rental units in the building and the competition for space in the garage and elevators as tenants move in is not a lovely but equally noisy! They are adorable birds and fun to watch. Victoria
James, what a wonderful story – I never knew that male weavers have black facial mask, that was knew to me. I love how busy they are to attract a mate.
James, That is so fascinating! Do they migrate somewhere else in winter or are they just less active? Which one stays with the eggs? Great shots too! Thanks!
I would love to see a time lapse video of a nest being built from start to finish. It blows my mind they can weave nests without thumbs.
Although I don’t know a lot about birds in general, I’ve been a big fan of the Weaver birds, captivated by their nest building skills and tenacity to woo a female. Thank you for the accompanying photos, demonstrating the workmanship of these busy males, and the interest of a potential female inhabitant.
It is always fascinating to watch these guys work. Thank you for sharing the great photos.
These guys have it TOUGH. What a super article, one that widens my understanding of the African bush. The bird life is so underrated when faced with leopard 🐆 rhino 🦏 lion 🦁 etc but can be as engrossing and rewarding
Quite incredible, the males must be exhausted afterwards!