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Nature

Weaving for Love…

Southern or Masked Weaver male
Masked Weaver or Southern Weaver male. Photo by Sheldon_55 from Pixabay.

This brightly colored resident of Southern Africa has an incredible skill being able to weave a sturdy nest from strips of grass, bamboo or palm leaves. He goes through a whole routine to find a mate by firstly building the nest, which in itself takes around 15 hours. Then he does a whole lot of singing and fluffing his feathers around shaking them in a wings spread courtship display.

Eventually he will get a females attention and he will flutter around full of excitement, making an incredible fuss, often having to see off other would be suitors in the process. Each time he displays he moves closer to the nest he has built until eventually hanging from the entrance at the bottom of the nest and flapping his wings, all the time singing away.

Weaver nest display
weaver courtship display at base of nest showing entrance. Photo by Daniel Albany from Pixabay.

He then flies away from the nest opening, inviting her to inspect the house that he has built for her. This might take a while with multiple repeats to and from the nest at any point she may become bored with the whole charade and fly off leaving him to start searching for another female.

If he does manage to get her to inspect the nest, she will grasp the underside of the nest with her feet and then enter it from the opening near the base. She will disappear into the nest while he watches, ever hopeful…

If she thinks its good enough it remains as it is and they will start to prepare it by lining it with soft feathers in preparation for breeding…

However, if she doesn’t like it, nobody else will either !

She lets rip !

Tearing the whole thing apart before leaving him all alone and probably wondering what he did wrong!

Never the less, as the master of resilience, he starts again and builds yet another nest ( he may build up to 25 in a season) before trying to entice the next female. He may need to go through this process a number of times in a single season before being accepted.

Once successful and the kids have left home, he may start the whole process again having multiple broods in a season, each one with a different female.

These nests are typically built near water, often in the long dangling branches of the weeping willow tree, or a palm tree, other times in the reeds and even in suburban gardens.

Weaver nest built in reed bed
Weaver Nest built using reeds. Photo by Lynn Greyling from Pixabay.

As can be seen the nest built using reeds is pretty straight forward but the one hanging from a tree is sort of upside down with the entrance at the bottom. However, his design work has catered for the likelihood of the eggs rolling out by making the living area a little recessed from the entrance and a little bit lower.

So why build it like this in the first place?

The advantage of the entrance being below should be seen in conjunction with another feature. He has stripped off all growth on the branch that his nest is hanging on, but why?

The answer is snakes, by having no growth on the branch it makes it more difficult for a snake to access the nest, especially with the entrance below. Its not impossible, but rather difficult.

As a further defense, these little birds often create colonies and if a predator is in the vicinity they make an incredible noise and indulge in flying towards the predator in an intimidating manner.

After all of this the female will lay 2 beautiful blue eggs but could be up to 5 in number. Then it will take 12 days to hatch them. At this point the male helps with feeding the chicks and after 21 days they are ready to fledge. The main diet of these birds are insects, grain and even nectar, they readily accept picnic scraps and other hand outs.

Weaver eggs
Weaver eggs. Photo by Dennis Larsen from Pixabay.

Weavers are the only birds that are able to tie knots!