Right in front of our operations office, there stands a large tree. Letting your imagination kick in, it could even look like a wild Christmas tree. Round balls hang from the branches, beige, green and brown in colour. Looking closely, you will see that these are birds’ nests, weaver birds to be exact. This family of sparrow-like birds is known throughout Sub-Saharan Africa for its impressive nest building skills.
Where the weaverbird got its name from
While there are dozens of different weaverbird species, differing in colour and habitat, all are known for their ability to construct sturdy, but intricately woven nests, giving the bird its telling name.
Within only a few hours, the male birds wiggle and weave grass stalks, remains of dry leaves and other plant material into an cylindricaly shaped nest. Starting with a single stalk bent into a loop, they attach the building materials to it, by weaving new stalks around it, using their skillfull beaks and stretching it with their feet.
The entrance of the nest is usually constructed to be as narrow as possible and to face downwards. This helps in keeping out predators. The whole construction process is complete within only a few hours and the nest ready for moving in. Lucky as we are, our team can spend their lunch break witnessing the resident weaverbirds’ architectural skills in action. Hanging from the branch the completed nest bounces up and down, swinging in the wind.
While on safari, you may notice that there’s quite a number of nests lying on the ground.
While the male tends to be responsible for much of the building process, it is the female who makes the final call, whether the nest complies with her standards for raising a family. Should it not pass her critical inspection, she will ensure it goes to the ground, and the male starts all over again.
Weaverbirds are a common sight in Tanzania and are easily ticked off the “must-see” list. However, if you have only a slight interest in birding, this great family offers many rare and fascinating species to scout for, discover and observe. Let’s go!