Love Nest: Build it and She Will Come (maybe)

February 14, 2020

Patti_weaver_DSC02911 2 (002)

Photographer: Patti Weeks 
Summary Author: Patti Weeks 

The male southern masked-weaver uses his beak to pluck fresh green blades of grass, palm leaves or reeds and carries them to his nest site on a tree branch. Then using his beak and feet, he weaves a pendant-type nest. A female weaver watches the weaving process, and when the nest reaches an intricate ball-like shape, the male hangs on the bottom of it, calling and fluttering his wings, is basically asking her “Will you be my Valentine?” She inspects the nest, but if it doesn’t live up to her standards, she may tear it down, and the male has to begin the process again. Or she may simply reject his wooing in favor of another suitor. When a nest is approved by the female, she accepts the male’s invitation, and he then completes the building of their love nest by adding an entrance at the bottom. The female will line it with feathers, leaves and grass in preparation for laying 2 to 4 eggs. Nest-building for a male weaver is instinctive, but it’s a skill that takes practice in order to successfully acquire a mate.

Patti_weaver_DSC03686 (002)Endemic to southern Africa, the southern masked-weaver is one of the more conspicuous birds of the Ploceidae family (genus Ploceus velatus) During breeding season the male acquires a black mask and bright yellow breast, head, nape and underside. It’s speculated that the male’s bright yellow coloring attracts females. Females are duller greenish-yellow. Males are polygynous, having multiple partners and will build several nests in a single season.

I recently had the good fortune to visit South Africa on a photo tour in the Welgevonden Game Reserve, where we were able to watch a large, active colony of masked-weavers in a tree full of nests, right beside our lodge. These love birds are gregarious and often live in colonies. To our delight, they were constantly chirping, flying to and from the tree, and building or cleaning out their nests. The top photo shows a male as he does some housecleaning for one of his nests. To make it more difficult for predators to enter nests, they’re generally built at the end of branches, as seen in the second photo -- both photos taken on December 11, 2019.

Photo Details: Top - SONY DSC-RX10 IV camera; 192.73 mm focal lth; f/4; 1/250 second exposure; ISO 160.
Bottom - Same except 18.21 mm focal lth; f/4.5; 1/1000 sec. exposure; ISO 100.