The Cape Weaver

26th June 2010

Distribution: This species occurs over a range estimated at 670,000 km. It is endemic to South Africa - which means it is only found there - and lives in the western eastern and southern parts of the country.

Status: The global population size has not been quantified, but it is believed to be large as the species is described as 'common' in at least parts of its range. Global population trends have not been quantified, but the species is not believed to approach the thresholds for the population decline criterion of the IUCN Red List (i.e. declining more than 30% in ten years or three generations). For these reasons, the species is evaluated as Least Concern.

Habitat: The Cape Weaver can be found in open woodlands, along wooded rivers, streams and kloofs, in reedbeds, fynbos, grasslands, farmlands, gardens. The proximity of permanent water and the presence of at least some trees seem important elements for this species.

General habits: It is a resident breeding bird and doesn't migrate, though it is prone to wandering. It is a social bird always seen in flocks that can form large roosts throughout the year; in winter, it may even flock with other weavers and species such as starlings.

Feeding habits: The Cape Weaver forages mostly on the ground where it turns over stones and cow patties; it also searches tree bark for insects. It eats nearly equal part animal and vegetal matter, feeding on a wide variety of grass seeds, as well as grains (including wheat, barley and maize), fruits (figs, grapes, apricots), flowers, nectar, pinus nuts, insects (termites, ants, grasshoppers, flies, caterpillars) and spiders.

Breeding habits: This species breeds in noisy colonies in trees (often willows or Eucalyptus , rarely palms ) and reedbeds .The Cape Weaver is both colonial and highly polygynous (which means a male mates with a number of females). During the breeding season males are very territorial and will chase off males from adjacent territories. At territory boundaries males will sing, dance and lunge aggressively at neighboring rivals. In the Western Cape, eggs are lain from July to November; in the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and the interior, from August. To February. (sometimes even until April.).

Nest: This weaver builds a large, oblong, kidney shaped nest with a downward facing entrance and no tunnel entrance.The coarsely woven structure made of grass and leaf strips is suspended from the end of atree branch or among reeds and bulrushes. The nest is placed anything between 1 and 10 metres above ground or water, and it often becomes flooded when placed above water.

As it is usually the case with weavers, the male is the one responsible for weaving the nest, and he doesn't hesitate to steal nesting material from his neighbours. which is then thoroughly inspected by the female. She will not solicit copulation until she has decided on a nest which she will then line with fine grass, down and feathers.

The Hadeda Ibis sometimes nests in Cape Weavers' colonies.

Eggs: 2-5 eggs are laid which only the female incubates for 13 or 14 days.

Young: Normally the female does most of the chick feeding, giving them mainly insects. However, some males may share almost equal feeding duties. On average the nestling period lasts 17 days. Juvenile birds are similar in appearance to the female.

Call: The Cape Weaver male sings a long sequence of chattering, swizzling and bubbly notes on one pitch, which lasts roughly 7-10 seconds. The alarm call is a harsh "chack" and the contact call, a softer, less strident "chack". The calls of this bird also include a harsh "azwit, azwit".

Description: The Cape Weaver is a stocky 17 cm long bird with streaked olive-brown upperparts and a long pointed conical bill. The breeding male has a yellow head and underparts, an orange face, and a white iris. It is of a less brilliant yellow than other 'golden' weavers.

The adult female and the non-breeding male have an olive-yellow head and breast, shading to pale yellow on the lower belly. The female's eyes are brown.

Did you know: The Cape Weaver's nests will be robbed by rats, African Harrier Hawks (Polyboroides typus ), boomslangs (Dispholidus typus ) or Chacma baboons (Papio ursinus), and are sometimes parasitized by the Diderick Cuckoo (Chrysococcyx caprius).

The Cape Weaver is also known as: Kaapse wewer [Afrikaans]; Ihobo-hobo (generic term for weaver) [Xhosa]; Letholopje (also applied to Village weaver), Thaha (also applied to Southern masked weaver), Talane [South Sotho]; Kaapse Wever [Dutch]; Kapweber [German]; Tisserin du Cap [French]; Tessitore del Capo [Italian]; Tejedor de El Cabo [Spanish]; Tecelão do Cabo [Portuguese].