They’re back . . . a mystery solved

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Okay, I realize that this is probably not going to be a big deal to most of you, but maybe a few of the bird lovers out there will find my news interesting.

Last year in December I wrote a post called An African Christmas tree. About a colony of weaver birds that had made their nest in a palm tree, and how their hanging nests look like ornaments on a Christmas tree. At the time I could not identify the birds. I went past there again several times in the early mornings, but never caught sight of them again. They had obviously reared their chicks and left.

Until early September this year when they came back again (I know, I’m a little late in posting this!). I was finally able to catch them at their nests. Although you cannot see too much of them in the photo below (they dart around really quickly), I’m am quite confident now that they are Cape Weavers.

Cape weaver birds at their nests ©LB/

What has been fascinating for me in getting involved with nature photography, is to realize the rhythms in nature: daily and seasonally. No matter what happens in our man-made world, nature still tries to do its thing on schedule.

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Categories: Nature/Environment, Random


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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25 Comments on “They’re back . . . a mystery solved”

  1. November 21, 2011 at 9:19 am #

    What amazing nests!

  2. November 21, 2011 at 9:29 am #

    I love Cape Weaver birds – they are such beautiful and entertaining little birds, though they can be *very* noisy! The males’ call is described by my nature guide as “rapidly repeated swizzling” – so accurate! The males are amazingly dedicated nest-builders, though I gather that the females can be very picky!

    • November 22, 2011 at 3:27 pm #

      These birds are very noisy when they’re at the nests, but they’re getting competition from the gym they’re next to. I’m amazed that the nests are built to such a consistently high standard. What, if like me, you’re just a Weaver bird whose not good at “crafts”?! Does that mean you don’t get a mate?

      • November 23, 2011 at 11:22 am #

        Well, I suppose they could *still* get a mate… but they’ll never hear the end of it…. I’m imagining something like:

        “Nag nag nag, how come you still haven’t fixed the leaking roof… and the plumbing still isn’t connected…. and there’s not enough space for the kids, how are we supposed to fit in 6 little ones, the nursery is way too small… and the Tweetles next door have a much nicer view and a deck outside with a heated jacuzi…. nag nag nag…”

        It must be a hard life for a bachelor weaver bird who’s not good at weaving…

      • November 23, 2011 at 2:25 pm #

        LOL Yes, I can imagine those weaver “ladies” are good naggers! 😉

  3. November 21, 2011 at 1:06 pm #

    It’s incredible how much they look like Christmas tree ornaments! Really amazing!

  4. November 21, 2011 at 1:17 pm #

    How do they attach their nests? Some seem rather suspended. Amazing.

    • November 22, 2011 at 5:25 pm #

      These particular birds loop some of the grass threads over (or around) the tree branch – or in this case over the palm fronds. If you look at the photos in this post – – you can see it better.

  5. November 21, 2011 at 6:39 pm #

    so cool! i hope you get a chance to photograph eggs and the babies when they hatch! love those nests—shaped a bit like a Baltimore Oriole nest but their nests are entered from the top.

    • November 22, 2011 at 5:27 pm #

      I think the babies have already hatched. Because it’s quite high up and because of the design of the nest (they’ve got a tunnel going into the closed nest), I’m not going to be able to photograph the chicks. They’ll only come out once they can fly.

  6. November 22, 2011 at 2:45 am #

    You take some wonderful pictures. nature is truly grand. continue…

  7. Sarita Botha
    November 22, 2011 at 8:52 am #

    I hope we get to see the babies. Thanks for sharing all these interesting things that you see on your walks.

    • November 22, 2011 at 5:30 pm #

      Judging by the noise, and the fact that the adults kept returning to the nests with food, I think the chicks have already hatched. Because of the height from the ground, and the design of the nests, there’s no way I’ll get a photo of those chicks.

  8. November 24, 2011 at 12:46 am #

    Welcome back, you crazy flying fiends!

  9. November 24, 2011 at 9:47 am #

    I like to photograph nature. But my little point and shoot is technically limited to the things that don’t fly. 😦 I wish one day I’ll manage to get a DSLR.

    • November 24, 2011 at 10:45 am #

      I don’t have a DSLR either, so like you I’m limited in the type of photos I take. If the birds are close enough, I can usually get a good shot though.

  10. November 24, 2011 at 3:37 pm #

    this is great!

    • November 24, 2011 at 5:17 pm #

      Yes, isn’t it? It really bugged me that I hadn’t found out what they were, before they disappeared last year.

    June 20, 2012 at 10:38 pm #

    To the Scribe,
    After a comprehensive search on the Weaver Bird and it’s migration your interesting article and photographic image came as close to what I was searching for- and felt relieved by the fact that you had witnessed their return by September of the following year.
    I reside in the north of Johannesburg – the bird life here is prolific and have 3 unoccupied weaver nests attached to the frond of a Cocus Plumosa palm above our pool.
    I look forward to their return in early Spring and would be interested to know where they might have intended to go and if it is at all predictable.
    Thank you,
    Margaret Joy Gordon

    • June 21, 2012 at 7:45 am #

      Hi Margaret!

      Nice to hear from you and interesting that you’re observing the same thing. The weavers left again this year, and I’m hoping they’ll come back again in September. I can imagine that with the beautiful gardens in your area, you’d have a lot of birds visiting.

      You’ve raised a really interesting question. I had assumed that the weaver birds went somewhere warmer during the winter months – but where would they go if they’re not migratory? I found this answer on-line:

      Cape Weavers usually desert their breeding colonies during winter and wander in foraging flocks which roost communally in reeds at night. Rarely I’ve found an individual Cape Weaver that does sleep in a nest in an inactive colony at night. This may happen more often as spring approaches and the weavers start getting ready to breed. Skead (1947) noted the same, i.e. that single birds sometimes roosted in nests during winter while the majority roosted in reeds at a dam nearby. In Southern Masked Weavers during the breeding season, the males and breeding females will usually sleep in a nest, but if a male is disturbed in the early evening, he may sleep on a nearby branch. The same probably applies to Cape Weavers.

      Skead CJ 1947. A study of the Cape Weaver (Hyphantornis capensis olivaceus). Ostrich 18:1-42

      The link is:

      This sounds like the weaver birds that live in the Kalahari, that often can be seen in big flocks with other similar species. I wrote another post about that if you’re interested (see:

      Thanks for visiting my blog and leaving a comment. 🙂

      Kind regards,

        October 13, 2013 at 9:20 am #

        Good morning Lisa,
        I spotted two Black Crows this morning at my neighbours feeding trays. Quite excited to see them as my only sighting of them was in Zanzibar a few years ago at a restaurant in Stone Town. They must make a habit of it as when the patrons had finished their meal they decended upon the table and without any qualms proceded to gorge themselves on the left overs. I have a photograph of this which I could download to you.
        Have heard they make wonderful pets are intelligent and are good talkers.
        Incidently the colony of weavers are in full swing now returning to build their nests in droves.

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