Ploceidae – Weavers, Widowbirds & Allies

Yellow Bishop Euplectes capensis ©Trevor Hardaker Website

The Ploceidae, otherwise known as the weavers family, are small passerines related to the finches.

They are seed-eating birds with rounded conical bills, most of which are from Sub-Saharan Africa, with fewer species in tropical Asia. A few species have been introduced outside their native range. The weaver group is divided into the buffalo, sparrow, typical, and widow weavers. The males of many species are brightly coloured, usually in red or yellow and black. Some species show variation in colour only in the breeding season.

Weaver birds, also known as weaver finches, get their name because of their elaborately woven nests (the most elaborate of any birds’), though some are notable for their selective parasitic nesting habits. The nests vary in size, shape, material used, and construction techniques from species to species. Materials used for building nests include fine leaf fibres, grass, and twigs. Many species weave very fine nests using thin strands of leaf fibre, though some, like the buffalo-weavers, form massive untidy stick nests in colonies, which may have spherical woven nests within. The sparrow weavers of Africa build apartment-house nests, in which 100 to 300 pairs have separate flask-shaped chambers entered by tubes at the bottom. Most species weave nests that have narrow entrances, facing downward.

Many weaver species are gregarious and breed colonially. The birds build their nests together for protection, often several to a branch. Usually the male birds weave the nests and use them as a form of display to lure prospective females. The weaver bird colonies may be found close to water bodies. They sometimes cause crop damage, notably the Red-billed Quelea, reputed to be the world’s most numerous bird.

Species List

There are, according to the IOC, 109 species in the family Ploceidae, including weavers, bishops. They are:

White-billed Buffalo Weaver Bubalornis albirostris
Red-billed Buffalo Weaver Bubalornis niger

White-headed Buffalo Weaver Dinemellia dinemelli

Scaly-feathered Weaver Sporopipes squamifrons
Speckle-fronted Weaver Sporopipes frontalis

Thick-billed Weaver Amblyospiza albifrons

Baglafecht Weaver Ploceus baglafecht
Bannerman’s Weaver Ploceus bannermani
Bates’s Weaver Ploceus batesi
Black-chinned Weaver Ploceus nigrimentus
Bertram’s Weaver Ploceus bertrandi
Slender-billed Weaver Ploceus pelzelni
Loango Weaver Ploceus subpersonatus
Little Weaver Ploceus luteolus
Spectacled Weaver Ploceus ocularis
Black-necked Weaver Ploceus nigricollis
Strange Weaver Ploceus alienus
Black-billed Weaver Ploceus melanogaster
Cape Weaver Ploceus capensis
Bocage’s Weaver Ploceus temporalis
Eastern Golden Weaver Ploceus subaureus
Holub’s Golden Weaver Ploceus xanthops
Orange Weaver Ploceus aurantius
Heuglin’s Masked Weaver Ploceus heuglini
Golden Palm Weaver Ploceus bojeri
Taveta Weaver Ploceus castaneiceps
Principe Weaver Ploceus princeps
Northern Brown-throated Weaver Ploceus castanops
Southern Brown-throated Weaver Ploceus xanthopterus
Kilombero Weaver Ploceus burnieri
Rüppell’s Weaver Ploceus galbula
Northern Masked Weaver Ploceus taeniopterus
Lesser Masked Weaver Ploceus intermedius
Southern Masked Weaver Ploceus velatus
Katanga Masked Weaver Ploceus katangae
Lufira Masked Weaver Ploceus ruweti
Tanzanian Masked Weaver Ploceus reichardi
Vitelline Masked Weaver Ploceus vitellinus
Speke’s Weaver Ploceus spekei
Fox’s Weaver Ploceus spekeoides
Village Weaver Ploceus cucullatus
Giant Weaver Ploceus grandis
Vieillot’s Black Weaver Ploceus nigerrimus
Weyns’s Weaver Ploceus weynsi
Clarke’s Weaver Ploceus golandi
Juba Weaver Ploceus dichrocephalus
Black-headed Weaver Ploceus melanocephalus
Golden-backed Weaver Ploceus jacksoni
Cinnamon Weaver Ploceus badius
Chestnut Weaver Ploceus rubiginosus
Golden-naped Weaver Ploceus aureonucha
Yellow-mantled Weaver Ploceus tricolor
Maxwell’s Black Weaver Ploceus albinucha
Nelicourvi Weaver Ploceus nelicourvi
Sakalava Weaver Ploceus sakalava
Asian Golden Weaver Ploceus hypoxanthus
Compact Weaver Ploceus superciliosus
Black-breasted Weaver Ploceus benghalensis
Streaked Weaver Ploceus manyar
Baya Weaver Ploceus philippinus
Finn’s Weaver Ploceus megarhynchus
Dark-backed Weaver Ploceus bicolor
Preuss’s Weaver Ploceus preussi
Yellow-capped Weaver Ploceus dorsomaculatus
Olive-headed Weaver Ploceus olivaceiceps
Usambara Weaver Ploceus nicolli
Brown-capped Weaver Ploceus insignis
Bar-winged Weaver Ploceus angolensis
Sao Tome Weaver Ploceus sanctithomae
Yellow-legged Weaver Ploceus flavipes

Red-crowned Malimbe Malimbus coronatus
Cassin’s Malimbe Malimbus cassini
Rachel’s Malimbe Malimbus racheliae
Gola Malimbe Malimbus ballmanni
Red-vented Malimbe Malimbus scutatus
Ibadan Malimbe Malimbus ibadanensis
Blue-billed Malimbe Malimbus nitens
Red-headed Malimbe Malimbus rubricollis
Red-bellied Malimbe Malimbus erythrogaster
Crested Malimbe Malimbus malimbicus

Red-headed Weaver Anaplectes rubriceps

Cardinal Quelea Quelea cardinalis
Red-headed Quelea Quelea erythrops
Red-billed Quelea Quelea quelea

Red Fody Foudia madagascariensis
Comoros Fody Foudia eminentissima
Aldabra Fody Foudia aldabrana
Forest Fody Foudia omissa
Mauritius Fody Foudia rubra
Seychelles Fody Foudia sechellarum
Rodrigues Fody Foudia flavicans

Bob-tailed Weaver Brachycope anomala

Yellow-crowned Bishop Euplectes afer
Fire-fronted Bishop Euplectes diadematus
Black Bishop Euplectes gierowii
Zanzibar Red Bishop Euplectes nigroventris
Black-winged Red Bishop Euplectes hordeaceus
Southern Red Bishop Euplectes orix
Northern Red Bishop Euplectes franciscanus
Golden-backed Bishop Euplectes aureus
Yellow Bishop Euplectes capensis
Fan-tailed Widowbird Euplectes axillaris
Yellow-mantled Widowbird Euplectes macroura
Marsh Widowbird Euplectes hartlaubi
Montane Widowbird Euplectes psammacromius
White-winged Widowbird Euplectes albonotatus
Red-collared Widowbird Euplectes ardens
Long-tailed Widowbird Euplectes progne
Jackson’s Widowbird Euplectes jacksoni

Species Links
  • Red-billed Buffalo-weaver Bubalornis niger

    BirdLife Species Account
    BirdLife species profile…
  • Red-billed Buffalo-weaver Bubalornis niger

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map.
  • Red-billed Buffalo-weaver Bubalornis niger

    Species Account
    The red-billed buffalo weaver (Bubalornis niger) is a species of bird in the Ploceidae family. It is found in Angola, Botswana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Its natural habitat is the dry savanna.
  • Yellow Bishop Euplectes capensis

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map.
  • Yellow Bishop Euplectes capensis

    Species Account
    The yellow bishop, Cape bishop, Cape widow[2] or yellow-rumped widow (Euplectes capensis) is a resident breeding bird species in Angola, Botswana, Burundi, Cameroon, Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, South Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
  • Yellow-mantled Widowbird Euplectes macroura

    IUCN Species Status
  • Yellow-mantled Widowbird Euplectes macroura

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map.
  • Yellow-mantled Widowbird Euplectes macroura

    Species Account
    The yellow-mantled widowbird (Euplectes macroura), also known as the yellow-backed widow, is a species of bird in the family Ploceidae. It is the type species of the Euplectes genus, originally named from the city of Ouidah in Benin. Nowadays the name whydah (from "Ouidah") is however applied to some species in the Viduidae.
Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 109

  • Weaver Watch - Monitoring the Weavers of the World

    PHOWN (PHotos Of Weaver Nests) is a monitoring project aimed at determining the distribution of colonies or nests of all weaver species globally. Counting weaver nests and taking photos allows tracking of changes in weaver breeding effort. Many weavers are common and this project provides an easy way of monitoring them, while some weaver species are threatened and this project would help their conservation…

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