An African Christmas tree

On our morning walk the other day, I noticed this rather sad looking palm tree in front of our local gym. I normally don’t look up at the tree, but this morning there was a lot of noise coming from it. A colony of weaver birds has strung their nests from the fronds like ornaments on a Christmas tree.

Unfortunately, when I went back to take photos, the birds had already left to go foraging (or whatever it is that birds do!). I saw the last bird leaving its nest (too fast to really note any more than that it was yellow), and and think it was a Cape Weaver. Although with no photo I guess it could also be a Southern Masked Weaver.  I’ll ask my ecologist friend David, if he can check in his Nest book (Yes, there is such a thing. In fact, there’s an Egg book too!), and see if he can’t narrow it down. Or if anybody else knows, please leave a comment.

[Click on the photos to enlarge them]


Sad looking palm tree with weaver nest "ornaments" (©2010

If you look at the bottom left nest, you can see the opening to the nest. (©2010


Close-up of individual nest (©2010

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Categories: Nature/Environment


I live on the Southern coast of South Africa, and write about the things that interest, amuse or inspire me. You can find me at and (my photoblog)


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14 Comments on “An African Christmas tree”

  1. Dave
    December 27, 2010 at 10:31 am #

    Hi there
    I am not sure where the book is, will check it out, I suspect the nests will be very similar between the species. Does the southern Masked Weaver occur in George?

    • December 27, 2010 at 10:37 am #

      Wow, that was quick! Yes, the Southern Masked Weaver is supposed to occur here (You did not know that?! Shocking!). The Wikipedia article on the Cape Weaver mentions palm trees, so maybe that’s the more likely. Guess, I’ll have to go by there again, and see if I can’t spot any birds. Thanks for the quick reply!

  2. December 27, 2010 at 10:32 am #

    Spiders, birds? What’s next?

    The yellow of those birds is just gorgeous. Ours seem to just come in brown or black, although every now and then I’ll see a Blue Jay – and back in Minnesota on a very rare occasion I’d see a red Cardinal.

    Those nests are fascinating. You could indeed dub them an African Christmas ornament!

    • December 27, 2010 at 10:51 am #

      The birds actually came before the spiders . . . I’m a “Jack of all trades, master of none” as far as my interests go.

      Yes, they are pretty aren’t they. Not all of our weavers are that colourful though.

  3. December 28, 2010 at 1:26 am #

    What a perfect post-Christmas post–the nests DO look like ornaments hanging from a holiday tree. Fascinating–really fascinating! I have never seen nests that hang like that. I love what I learn when I read your blog, Lisa!

    • December 28, 2010 at 7:32 am #

      This is the first time I have seen weaver birds building nests in a palm tree. Here one often sees them in willow tree branches overhanging a river or dam.

  4. December 29, 2010 at 12:11 am #

    Very special, Lisa! They are such amazing nests, aren’t they? Better than any Christmas decorations you can buy…
    Sunshine xx

    • December 29, 2010 at 6:13 am #

      Yes, and what I want to know is how they get each nest to look the same. Is there a pattern that’s past on from generation to generation? Do the birds know instinctively how to build the nests, or do they learn by watching the older birds?

  5. December 29, 2010 at 10:37 am #

    They look just like the masked weaver nests we have here. There is a tree at my daughters school that must have over 100 nests in it. It sounds like weaver city when you stand near the tree – very noisy 🙂

    • December 29, 2010 at 3:50 pm #

      They are noisy little birds, aren’t they? Have you taken any photos of “weaver city”?

      I have looked on the Internet for photos of nests of Cape and Southern Masked Weavers. They are as David (see first comment) says very similar. So I guess I’ll have to go and check out the birds themselves.

  6. December 29, 2010 at 6:52 pm #

    I love this blog. It also reminded me of the time we visited SA. It was November and the Christmas decorations were on sale. I loved each and every one of them because they were so different from the ones we get in the UK. Sadly, I left them behind when I split from my husband.

    Your blog is my way of going back every now and then to visit. I miss SA.

    • December 30, 2010 at 6:41 am #

      I am glad to hear that you have such fond memories of South Africa, and that you enjoy my blog. Thanks for reading!

  7. January 2, 2011 at 4:50 pm #

    These are amazing, Lisa – if I could press the ‘like’ button again, I would!

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