Camera : Canon EOS 550D
Location : Taken in my garden, Tarlton, Gauteng, South Africa
While working in the garden, I was absolutely thrilled to see a pair of White-browed Sparrow Weavers (Plocepasser mahali – Koringvoël in Afrikaans) visiting one of my bird feeders. These large, plump, short-tailed weavers are not shy at all and don’t fly off easily, even when walking quite close past them. Their boldness is utterly charming and besides a harsh ‘chik-chik’ call which they use to let one another know they’re still around, they have a beautiful, loud, liquid ‘cheeoop-preeoo-chop’ whistle which I haven’t been able to figure out yet.
This Weaver is often confused with the House Sparrow (Passer domesticus), but lacks the black mask surrounding the eye and black throat typical of the House Sparrow.
The White-browed Sparrow-Weaver is found in greatest numbers in north-central southern Africa, so seeing them in my garden has been the highlight of the season and I’m hoping they will either move in or at least become regular visitors.
Found throughout central and north-central Southern Africa, it mainly eats insects, seeds, fruit and fleshy leaves, doing most of its foraging in flocks of 4-10 birds (sometimes along with other species), plucking food items from the ground and will even visit bird-feeders.
These birds are monogamous and colonial cooperative breeders, living in groups within which each bird has their own nest. However there can only be one active breeding pair per group who are usually the largest in size, remaining dominant until their death, at which point another pair steps up to the plate. The group is highly territorial, vigorously defending their 50 meter long foraging territory, often chasing intruders out of the territory.
The nest is built by both breeders in about 5-30 days but maintained throughout the year, consisting of an untidy, retort-shaped structure made of dry grass, with two entrances one of which is closed by the breeding pair. It is typically wedged into the branches of a thorny tree, but it may also use telephone wires, power lines and fences.