There is an abundance of interesting animals to see when you are in South Africa. While most people hope to see the big five (Elephant, Lion, Buffalo, Rhinoceros, and Leopard), one of the animals that I have become quite interested in is a little bird called a Weaver. It is much smaller than any of the big five, but much more common to spot; not only in game parks,but all over South Africa. I have seen them while eating at restaurants in downtown Johannesburg, in the trees while hiking along trails and everywhere in between.
The reason I like weavers so much is because of their funky nests, which is also the reason for their name. Their nests are complex woven balls of odds and ends, that hang down from tree branches, looking like christmas tree ornaments all year round. In the bottom of the ball, there is a hole for a door. The shape of the nest varies by the type of weaver, and is one of the ways to identify which type of weaver it is in addition to the colour patterns of its feathers.
The male builds multiple nests out of whatever materials they can find, I even saw one sneaking goose down feathers to make a warm duvet inside. They also strip the surrounding branches of leaves so they can keep a watchful eye out for predators like snakes. Then the female comes along and checks out the nests. If she likes it, she will settle down with the male and have baby weavers, but if she doesn’t like it, then she tears it apart, and the male must start all over – hence the multiple nest options.
While I was in South Africa, I had a fun time trying to figure out what kind of weaver I was looking at by comparing it to the pictures in the South African bird book we had. Could this be the beginning of my new bird watching hobby?