Sociable weaver

Philetairus socius subfamily

Plocepasserinae taxonomy

Loxia socia Latham, 1790, Great Namaqualand, South Africa. other common names

French: Républicain social; German: Siedelweber; Spanish: Tejedor Sociable.

physical characteristics

5.5 in (14 cm); female and male 0.8-1.1 oz (24-32 g). Sandy brown with black chin and throat, dark feathers with pale edges on mantle and flanks. Bill blue-gray. Sexes alike. Juvenile uniform sandy brown, with no darker feathers. Bill pale brown.

distribution

Namibia, southwestern Botswana, northwestern South Africa. habitat

Open, arid regions with scattered trees and bare ground. behavior

Gregarious, resident at nest sites, roosting in chambers throughout the year. Predators such as cobras may live within nest structure, also "lodgers" like the pygmy falcon (Polihierax semitorquatus), which is an obligate commensal. Other birds may occasionally roost or breed in vacant nest chambers.

feeding ecology and diet

Seeds and insects, particularly harvester termites. Proportion of insect and seed food varies seasonally, collected primarily on the ground. Feed in flocks within 1 mi (1.5 km) radius of nest site. Seldom drink water.

reproductive biology

Colonial, monogamous with cooperative breeding. Communal nest is a huge mass of dry grass stems, with individual nest chambers entered from below. Up to 13 ft (4 m) deep and 24 ft (7.2 m) long, supported by large branches; in treeless areas may use telephone poles. Pair bond may last for only one breeding attempt, even if both partners resident in same nest mass; helpers chiefly offspring of pair from earlier broods. Lays two to six eggs; season entirely dependent on rainfall, and breeding may start in any month. Incubation 13-14 days, fledging 21-24 days. Both sexes incubate and feed the young; up to nine helpers may feed chicks.

conservation status

Not threatened. Range is thinly populated, includes major conservation areas.

significance to humans

Nest material sometimes used for stock fodder in times of drought. ♦

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