An essay for the Ultimate Writing Workshop by Roobear!
Weaverbirds or weavers are small, seed-eating finch-like birds belonging to the Passeriform order of birds. This Order comprises passerine or perching birds. The Order includes many different families of birds, including the finches, the sparrows, the orioles, the larks, the lyrebirds, the crows, the ravens, the magpies and so on. The passerine birds all have a "perching foot", that is, it has four toes joined at the same level, with the first toe (the hallux) directed backwards on a permanent basis.
The weaverbirds comprise about 50 - 60 different types of birds with the unique ability to make woven nests from dried grass and twigs of trees. They are related to the tailor birds, to the English House sparrow and to the finches.
Weaverbirds are found all over the world in tropical forests, deserts, grasslands and plains. The common weavers, e.g. the baya bird (the Indian weaver), build single family nests which resemble upside down flasks hanging from the branches of trees.
The entrance is at the bottom. After building the nest, the male hangs upside down from its entrance and flutters its wings to attract the female. Males generally have yellow and black bodies, while females are brown or ruff coloured and resemble sparrows.
Other types of weavers, esp. the social weaverbird make large, canopy-like nests on the acacia trees; it has accomodations for 100 - 300 weaverbird families, with each family having its own apartment with a separate entrance. These nests are actually built over generations of weaverbirds, and some may be even a 100 years old. The entrances are all at the bottom of the huge nests.
Not only do such large nests serve as residences and egg-laying repositories, but they also are a warm, well tuned "micro-environment" which is ideal for the proper growth of the fledglings after they have hatched. The downward facing entrances prove to be a hindrance to snakes, which prey upon the eggs and the hapless chicks.
The whydah weavers are social parasites of African grasslands that put their eggs in the nests of other species of weaverbirds.
The red-billed weavers, also from the African Savannah, are agricultural pests. Millions of these extremely small birds will descend upon farmlands and eat up all the seeds.
The oxbird (Bubalornis albirostris) is one of the two buffalo weaver birds found in Africa. It is black, with white wings; it is the more commonly seen type. The other variety of buffalo weaver bird is the white-headed buffalo weaver (Denimellio denimellus); it is the rarer variety and has a brown and white body.
The strange thing about the Bubalornis is that outside humans, it is the only living animal to actually enjoy making love; not only that, the male of the species has a penetrating type of penile structure!
I hope the above small essay makes you more curious to know about weavers!
1. Weaverbirds, the Encyclopedia Britannica, 2001 Deluxe Edition
2. Program telecast on weaver birds on The Animal Planet Channel.
I had seen an exhibit of a weaver nest in my school's museum, so my fascination with these birds is over 20 years old! Then, just yesterday, I saw an excellent docudrama on the Buffalo Weaver bird on Animal Planet Channel. This inspired me to create this article. I have never seen a weaver in real life.