Before leaving the Umkhumbi Lodge for the coastal town of St. Lucia, we had one more morning of local explorations, including a Sand Forest. One of the first birds of the morning was the African Golden Weaver. By this point in the trip Weavers, and their nests, have become a fairly common sight. We’ve seen many Southern Masked Weavers, Lesser Masked Weaver, Red-billed Buffalo Weaver, White-browed Sparrow-Weaver, Scaly-feathered Weaver, Cape Weaver, Dark-backed Weaver…..to name a few. Weavers sport brilliantly bright plumages and lead cheerful and noisily busy social lives.
Weavers are best known for the intricately woven nests that are constructed by males to attract the opposite sex. If the male is lucky, a female may chip in to help complete the nest, if she approves of the initial nest construction. Weavers use a variety of plant materials to construct their nests, including blades of grass, leaves, twigs and roots. Construction style varies considerably between weaver species, but many appear as hanging nests that include a narrow entrance that points downward. Such nests are often constructed in colonies and are a common sight near bodies of water.
This male African Golden Weaver appears to be in the early stages of nest construction. He has used that strong, conical beak to cut fresh blades of grass and will use his bill and feet to tie real knots in the nest material. We observed a large number of nearby nests, but its hard to tell which may belong to this guy as males will usually build between 5-10 nests and wait for females to pick their favorite. Females will inspect the nests of several males, pick her favorite, mate with the builder, then lay her eggs in her chosen nest. These males are impressively accommodating – if a nest is not occupied by a female after a few days the male will destroy it and rebuild a fresh nest. It is not uncommon for a single male to build more than 50 nests in a breeding season. Good luck, buddy, good luck.
Before arriving in St. Lucia, we encountered another new weaver species for the trip, the Southern Brown-throated Weaver. This male appeared to be working on a brand new nest, and you can see the freshly knotted blades of vegetation. He was busily moving around collecting nesting material.
Looking forward to tracking down a few more weaver species while in South Africa!