December 27, 2010

Weaver Bird Nests (How Men Can Never Get it Right)

This is already least the third weaver bird nest dangling from the acacia tree in our yard:

Weaver bird nest in Johannesburg, South Africa

Or I should say, it was dangling from the tree until today, when it disappeared, like all its predecessors this year. This has always been a mystery to me - did they fall off during a storm, but then why wasn't there a nest on the ground?

Weaver birds (Ploceidae is their scientific name and they are related to finches), are  found pretty much everywhere in sub-Saharan Africa. As the name suggests, they are excellent weavers, as can be seen in their intricately woven nests - some of them entire colonies stuck together. They are fast builders, too, with a nest like the one in this picture going up in a single day.




But I was always baffled as to why the nests in our tree kept vanishing into thin air. Only recently was I enlightened: The male weaver bird is the one building the nest, all on his own, and when he is done he proudly presents it to the female of his choice. Alas, she is often not very happy with his shoddy workmanship, in which case she rejects the nest (about 4-5 times on average, I was told). And she doesn't just discreetly reject it, no, she has to come and actually destroy the whole thing, for all the world to see, which is what I had the privilege to observe just now. One minute the nest was there, and as I sat there taking pleasure in looking at it, a weaver bird came flying at it for what I thought were further enhancements, but instead the entire thing burst into a cloud of hay and was gone, poof! Even the little handle by which it was attached to the branch.

So for the poor male weaver bird, there is nothing much left to do but starting all over again.

This picture of a weaver bird starting a new nest was taken in Madikwe Game Reserve

As Noisette would say: Typical woman! A guy just doesn't stand a chance...

One of the previous weaver bird nests in our yard
Weaver bird nests in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
Weaver bird nests in Madikwe Game Reserve, South Africa

More on Wildlife in Southern Africa here.

17 comments :

weavers4africa said...

Female weavers do not destroy nests. If a female does not like a nest she moves on to look for others. Usually females accept green nests, so once a nest has faded to brown, the male knows it probably won't be accepted, and he will break it down so that he can build another new, green nest. Males do break down nests very quickly, so this is not observed as often as nest building. See video clip of a male Cape Weaver breaking down a nest here: http://weavers.adu.org.za/phown_ut.php?ut=1080

Dieter Oschadleus said...

Female weavers do not destroy nests. If a female does not like a nest she moves on to look for others. Usually females accept green nests, so once a nest has faded to brown, the male knows it probably won't be accepted, and he will break it down so that he can build another new, green nest. Males do break down nests very quickly, so this is not observed as often as nest building. See video clip of a male Cape Weaver breaking down a nest here: http://weavers.adu.org.za/phown_ut.php?ut=1080

Sine said...

Hi Dieter,

thanks SO much for the correction. I could have sworn I saw the female do it but as you said, it is very quick, so maybe I was mistaken. Although it was a very fresh nest, not brown yet, that was being destroyed. Anyway, I wish the males would just leave the old nests. Ours did not come back to build a new one, so now we have none left at all, very sad.

Clara Wiggins said...

I love that the first post I found when I googled weaver birds destroying nests was yours! Our male built a beautiful nest, then it disappeared. Yet he is still displaying madly so I'm guessing he must have built another nest nearby...Clara

Sine said...

Clara, apologies for late reply. I have two comment systems - INtense debate, and the Blogger one. Not sure why sometimes blogger usurps Intense debate, and I haven't been good at checking up on those, just now discovered to my horror something like 120 new alerts:-)
Anyway, glad you stopped by on Weaver birds and glad to hear they're nesting in your yard!

W. A. Jeffrey said...

I love weaver birds. It is fun watching them make those nests. So, are acacia trees pretty common in Johannesburg? This could partially explain all the ants. Certain species of ants will invest acacia trees. They don't harm them but will eat into the thorns causing bulges.

Sine said...

Aha! Never thought of that but yes, that could explain it. Thorny acacia trees everywhere, and ants everywhere. I've heard those trees called "fever trees" too, somehow due to the green sheen on their trunks? Or maybe some other property, I don't know. I just know the weavers loved that tree, probably because there was no way in hell our cat could ever have climbed it without being impaled. Those thorns were vicious, I once stepped into one barefoot...

Unknown said...

We have a male weaver bird that has built about 3 so far with green grass and the female KEEP destroying it. We are beginning to think it's a jilted lover that has tracked this guy who wants to move on.

Sine said...

It's so disheartening, isn't it? Although are you sure it's the female destroying it? I always thought this was the case until I read somewhere that it is actually the male doing the destroying after the female tells him in no uncertain terms she is not impressed.

Alan Chazen said...

We've observed, from our upstairs window, a male weaver build, then break down his nest several times in consecutive days. He dismantles it completely, then sets about starting again. They looked like brilliant master pieces to us!

Sine said...

I know, it is so fascinating but also so frustrating. Makes you want to go out there and chase the weaver bird away from the finished nest to keep him from destroying it again! It's such a waste!

Theresa van Niekerk said...

I observed the male in our yard this morning break down a nest which a female has already nested in causing the eggs to fall out and break. Strange bird.

Sine said...

Yes, very strange and so sad!

Glenn Fuller said...

I have had about 5 nests go up in the past few months in my yard in Port Elizabeth of which 2 have been dismantled (never observed them being dismantled they just disappeared!) and one just discontinued less than halfway. The thing that really baffles me though is that the nest builders in all cases appear from all images in my various books to be either female or juveniles and are drab green to brown with no or little yellow? I have plenty of bright yellow masked and Cape weavers in full breeding colours that visit daily but they are not the nest builders. Is it possible for females or juveniles to sometimes build nests, or is there a drab coloured species of weaver that does not appear in any of my books? I would attach a pic if I knew how?

Sine said...

Glenn - that is indeed fascinating. I can't say I know that much about weaver birds, but it's possible there is a different kind or that females do the building. I've only ever seen the males building them, as witnessed in above picture, definitely the bright colored male starting out that new nest. Not sure if you can upload pictures to comments here on blogger, but you could go ahead and upload to my Facebook page at www.facebook.com/joburgexpat if you like.

Phil Maloney said...

We moved to Pretoria from Vancouver, Canada in September (and we live in Oscar Pistorius's infamous house, but that's another story), and we've seen 4 nests go up and come down on the same branch in the last 3 months! We put up some feeders, and now we regularly have weavers, bishops, guinea fowl, and tons of LBJ's that I can't identify! It's definitely a bird watcher's paradise here!

On another note, I can't tell you how much your blog has helped us here! From my first traffic stop (I DID end up giving him a Sprite Zero just so I could go on my way) to finding places to go, you've given us a ton of ideas and helpful tips. Thanks so much!

Sine said...

Hi Phil, so nice to hear from you and thank you for your kind words. Glad to help! Comments like yours make me eager to finally write that Joburg Expat book but oh, so much else on my plate:)

Love the weaver and other bird watching going on at your house, and of course now I'm totally intrigued by the Oscar Pistorius connection! You'll have to tell me that "other" story!