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2011-11-05
A new study shows Southern Masked Weavers learn how to build nests.


The Southern Masked Weaver - Ploceus velatus - is a resident breeding species common throughout Southern Africa. It is found in a wide range of habitats, including scrubland, savanna, grassland, open woodland, inland wetlands and semi-desert areas. It also occurs in suburban gardens and parks.

Plumage

The adult male in breeding plumage has a black face, throat and beak, red eye, bright yellow head and underparts, and a plain yellowish-green back. The female has a pinkish-brown bill, brown or red-brown eye and is dull greenish-yellow, streaked darker on the upper back. The throat is yellowish, fading to off-white on the belly. The non-breeding male resembles the female but retains the red eye. The juvenile of this species is like the female.

Call

The call is a harsh swizzling, similar to other weavers. It also utters a sharp chuk alarm note.

Food

It mainly eats seeds, fruit, insects and nectar.

Breeding

The Southern Masked Weaver nests in colonies, mainly from September to February. Males may mate with up to about 12 females in a single breeding season and build a succession of nests, typically 25 each season. The nests, like those of other weavers, are woven from reed, palm or grass. A female will line a selected nest with soft grass and feathers. The nest is built in a tree, often over water, but sometimes in suburbia. his weaver also nests in reeds.

The Southern Masked Weaver lays eggs of a various colour and this helps it to evade parasitisation by cuckoos because the cuckoo has no way of knowing what kind of eggs are inside the weaver's nest until it has entered the nest to attempt to lay one itself. Eggs of the wrong colouration are ejected by the nest owners. The female usually lays 2 to 4 eggs, which are incubated solely by the female for between 12 to 14 days. The chicks are fed by the female only on a diet of soft insect larvae and grasshoppers. The young leave the nest after about 16 to 17 days.

Conservation Status – Least Concern

A New Study

A new study has found birds learn the art of nest-building, rather than it being just an instinctive skill. Researchers from Edinburgh, Glasgow and St Andrews Universities studied film of Southern Masked Weavers recorded by scientists in Botswana. This colourful species was chosen because individual birds build many complex nests in a season.

Dr Patrick Walsh of Edinburgh University said the study revealed "a clear role for experience". The research has been published in the Behavioral Processes journal. Individual birds varied their technique from one nest to the next and there were instances of birds building nests from left to right as well as from right to left. As birds gained more experience, they dropped blades of grass less often.

"If birds built their nests according to a genetic template, you would expect all birds to build their nests the same way each time. However, this was not the case," added Dr Walsh. "Southern Masked Weaver birds displayed strong variations in their approach, revealing a clear role for experience. "Even for birds, practice makes perfect."

Birdwatching

These striking birds can be seen on the following Aves Birding Tours/Safaris/Adventures:-

 Aves Arid Birding Tour / Safari /Adventure.

Aves Highlands / Tembe Birding Tour / Safari / Adventure.

Aves KZN Birding Tour / Safari / Adventure.

Aves North East Birding Tour / Safari / Adventure.

Aves North West Birding Tour / Safari / Adventure.

Aves Western Cape Birding Tour / Safari / Adventure.

Aves West Coast Birding Tour / Safari /Adventure.

 

 


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