One of the largest weaver nests belongs to the Príncipe Golden Weaver which hangs a large untidy globe halfway up a large tree (below left).
The bird itself is quite a large weaver (below) and is entirely endemic to the small island of Príncipe in the Gulf of Guinea.
A number of weavers are very local or have specialized habits. The Golden Palm Weaver of Kenya/Tanzania coast (below left) is bright and pretty and was a common visitor to the dining room at Samburu Lodge, northern Kenya. It reached that atypical habitat by following the large rivers (and their reed-beds) upstream into the heart of the African plain, and it is not found inland far away from the Tana and Uaso Nyiro rivers. The Seychelles Fody (below right) is a threatened species endemic to the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean. Drab in plumage, it may be threatened in competition with the bright Red Fodies Foudia madagascariensis which were introduced to the Seychelles.
When I first visited Africa in 1981, the field guides only dealt with male weavers in breeding plumage. This left a host of birds unidentified, although I did have the good fortune to run into Terry Stevenson at the Lake Baringo Lodge where he identified this basic-plumaged Vitelline Masked-Weaver (left) for Steve Wilson and me. Now -- like many other identification problems in the world (Empidonax flycatchers, stints, gulls, Pterodroma petrels) -- much has been learned in sorting out the difficult plumage. The new Zimmerman (1996) field guide and others now present much useful identification information.
I tend to think of weavers as an African family, but there are few weavers
that occur in India, and fewer still that range as far east as Sumatra
and Java. But within Africa there remain weavers about which almost nothing
is known. One of those is the Black-chinned Weaver which is patchily
distributed in stunted thornscrub in the savannas of northern Angola, southwestern
Congo, and extreme southeasternmost Gabon. I'm not sure a photo of this
species has ever been published, so I include my distant shot here (below
left). There are also weavers that creep along giant tree limbs in the
Congo Basin, and a variety of Malimbes that join mixed species flocks there.
The Forest Weaver Ploceus bicolor of African equatorial and coastal
woodlands has a wonderful song recalling a calliope. Finally, I would be
remiss in failing to mention the lovely Bishops and Widowbirds with their
primary colors and the dramatic tails worn by breeding-plumaged males.
One of these is the Long-tailed Widowbird of east Africa (below
right), here in a courtship flight.
Photos: The White-headed Buffalo-WeaverDinemellia
dinemelli was photographed in Samburu Nat'l Park, Kenya, in Nov 1981,
and the Donaldson-Smith's Sparrow-Weaver Plocepasser
donaldsoni was at its nest in adjacent Buffalo Springs Nat'l Park that
same day. The palm-full of Village Weaver nests
was in the hamlet of Bokaboka, Gabon, in July 1996. The Príncipe
Golden Weaver Ploceus princeps and nest was next to the small
town of Santo António on Príncipe Island, Såo Tomé
e Príncipe, in July 1996. The Golden Palm
Weaver P. bojeri
was at Samburu Lodge, Kenya, in Nov 1981.
The Seychelles Fody Foudia sechellarum
was on Fregate I., Seychelles, in Nov 1992. The Vitelline
Masked-Weaver P. vitellinus was a Lake Baringo, Kenya, in
Nov 1981. The Black-chinned Weaver P. nigrimentum
was on the Batéké Plateau, Gabon, in July 1996. And the Long-tailed
Widowbird Euplectes progne was photographed by Steve Wilson
while I was changing film near Naro Maro, north of Mt. Kenya, Kenya, in
Nov 1991 (he only sat on the fence for me....). Except as
otherwise indicated, all photos © D. Roberson.
There is no family book, or, if there is, I have not seen it. Even the Birds of Africa series has not reached the Ploceidae yet. One must essentially rely on field guides to learn about these birds.
Other literature cited:
Zimmerman, D. A., D. A. Turner, and D. J. Pearson. 1996. Birds of Kenya and northern Tanzania. Christopher Helm, London.TOP
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