Planet Earth

South African wildlife - Weaver birds

Not Exactly Rocket ScienceBy Ed YongJan 10, 2010 11:00 PM

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Weaver birds are the artisans extraordinaire of the bird world. As their name suggests, they fashion intricate nests out of plant material, carefully threaded and woven into a solid structure. All of it is done, quite literally, without lifting a finger.

These birds were all building nests in a tree outside a delightful winery called Delheim, which does an exceptional line of dessert wines. While my wife was inside sampling them, I was outside snapping away at this colony.

The males are the ones who do the weaving, and their efforts advertise their skill and quality to potential mates. By picking the best structure, a female gets not only the most comfortable home but some assurance about the genetic standards of the home-maker. In the picture below, the nest on the far right is one of the most complete. The long downward-pointing entrance tube is an anti-thief feature, and it's the last to be added.

South Africa is home to many species of weaver birds that are distinguished by relatively small differences in the size of their yellow and black markings, the colour of their eyes and so on. If anyone wants to take an educated stab as to what species these are, be my guest.

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