Whitebrowed sparrowweaver

Plocepasser mahali subfamily

Plocepasserinae taxonomy

Plocepasser mahali A. Smith, 1836, Orange River, South Africa. other common names

French: Mahali a sourcils blancs; German: Augenbrauenmahali; Spanish: Tejedor Gorrion de Cejas Blancas.

physical characteristics

6.7 in (17 cm); female and male 1.6-1.8 oz (45-52 g). Brown upperparts with broad white eyebrow and white rump, white underparts. Bill brown to black. Sexes alike, juvenile paler than adult with a pale bill.

distribution

Southern Sudan, Ethiopia, and Somalia south through eastern Africa to Zambia, South Angola, and northern South Africa.

habitat

Mopane and acacia savanna in relatively dry country.

behavior

Groups of up to 12 birds resident, defend territory of about 55 yd (50 m) in diameter with complex songs and group displays. Strong dominance hierarchy within group, with a single breeding pair. Roost singly in nests.

feeding ecology and diet

Insects and seeds, in variable proportions. Most food collected on the ground; birds will dig in soil, roll over small stones, clods, and elephant droppings.

reproductive biology

Colonial, cooperative breeder. Nest is an elongated retort made of straight dry grass stems, resting on thin branches, initially with an opening at each end. Both male and female, and other group members, may contribute to building nest. Second entrance closed in breeding nests, which are then lined with feathers. Nest orientation related to prevailing winds. Lays two to three eggs, mainly in spring and summer but also in other months. Incubation 14-16 days, fledging 18-23 days. Juveniles still fed occasionally up to three months after leaving nest. Female alone incubates and feeds young for first three days. Male seldom feeds young; helpers related to breeding pair do much of the feeding. Unrelated helpers assist in territorial defense, but not in raising young.

conservation status

Not threatened; common in many thinly populated areas.

significance to humans

None known, although may feed on wheat or maize in winter, usually only grains left behind in fallow lands. ♦

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