Sociable Weavers of Namibia

While driving through the long and dusty stretches of Namibia, travellers may see huge bird nests crafted onto convenient telephone and electricity poles. Most hardly slow the pace of their hire cars to wonder at this strange phenomenon of nature caused by sociable weavers. It also is fairly common in Botswana and the Northern Cape Province of South Africa too.

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Sociable Weaver in the Tswalu Kalahari Reserve, South Africa. Wikimedia: Charles J Sharp / CC BY-SA

All This Effort by Such a Tiny Bird

The sociable weaver, or philetairus socius if you like things formal, is a scanty 14 cm long, and tips the scales at 25 to 32 grams. Despite being somewhat plain with black banded flanks, black chins, and scalloped backs, they enter the record books when it comes to their huge nests woven from stiff, indigenous grasses.

Their sexes are indistinguishable and they breed at any time of the year subject to there being rainfall. It is just as well that they are sociable weavers. They may raise four broods under the right conditions, when close and distant family members pitch in and help. However, they may remain celibate for years when drought strikes the fiercely hot and arid region.

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Observing Sociable Weavers in a Communal nest, Namibia: Flickr: Rui Ornelas / CC BY 2.0

The Huge Nests of Sociable Weavers

There is no maximum design size. Sociable weavers keep on building until the nest collapses. Some nests may last a century, and be handed down to countless thousands of birds in a remarkably natural bequest. Ripley’s thinks the nests may accommodate up to 300 birds at a time, and that’s a lot of twittering. Trust me the chattering can be deafening.

The nests function as climate control centres. The inner rooms are for keeping warm at night for breeding. The outer rooms are ‘shade porches’ maintaining temperatures at 7 to 8 Celsius compares to up to 33 outside. The birds place sharp sticks at entrances to their nests in the oft-vain hope of deterring snakes from entering and consuming all their eggs at a single sitting.

sociable weavers, Nest, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, South Africa
Sociable Weaver in Nest, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park: Bernard DuPont / CC BY-SA 2.0

Coexistence with Human Settlement

Sociable weavers often build their nests on telephone poles and electricity pylons whose intricate structure makes them easy to attach. These sometimes cause electric short circuits when it rains, causing the nests to burn, and the grid to trip. Notwithstanding this, the population of social weavers is increasing. Although I very much doubt the utilities regard this as cause for celebration.

sociable weavers, Reverse Colonization, Roadside, Namibia
Reverse Colonization by the Roadside in Namibia: Dillon Marsh / CC BY-SA 3.0

About Richard Farrell

Richard Farrell

I tripped over a shrinking bank balance and fell into the writing gig unintentionally. This was after I escaped the corporate world and searched in vain for ways to become rich on the internet by doing nothing. Despite the fact that writing is no recipe for wealth, I rather enjoy it. I will deny I am obsessed with it when I have the time.

My base is Umtentweni in South Africa on the Kwazulu-Natal South Coast (30.7167° S, 30.4667° E). I work from home where I ponder on the future of the planet, and what lies beyond in the great hereafter. Sometimes I step out of my computer into the silent riverine forests, and empty golden beaches for which the area is renowned.

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