Weaver displays, 23 Jan – 11 Feb 2021

On a 3 week trip from KwaZulu-Natal to Limpopo Province the displays of many South African weaver species were observed. The males of several species are shown below with a brief description of their displays. The most elaborate displays are shown by males of colonial, polygamous weavers.

Red-billed Buffalo-Weaver

Red-billed Buffalo-Weaver – wing quivering

This species has a simple display of wing-quivering and spread tail, while calling with chattering, grating notes. This male was one of two males and a female at a nest mass in a tree with many nest masses and males at Wolfhuiskraal.

Yellow-crowned Bishop

Yellow-crowned Bishop male with fluffed rump feathers

This bishop displays by fluffing out the bright yellow feathers of the uppertail-coverts, both while perched and while flying around its territory. This flight display has been described as a “bumble-bee” flight.

Southern Red Bishop

Southern Red Bishop

This common bishop has similar displays to the Yellow-crowned Bishop, in fluffing the rump feathers (red in this species) in flight and while perched, giving a sizzling call.

White-winged Widowbird

White-winged Widowbird – tail fanning

This widow perches erectly while fanning its tail and quietly calling. The male also has a bouncing display when close to a female.

Long-tailed Widowbird

Long-tailed Widowbird – display flight

The Long-tailed Widowbird has a conspicuous and elaborate flight display over its grassland territory. The male slowly flaps his broad wings, with tail feathers held in an arc, while giving a swizzling call.

Lesser Masked Weaver

Lesser Masked Weaver

This weaver has a high frequency wing beat, while fanning his tail, and slightly swaying his head while hanging from the nest and singing.

Eastern Golden Weaver

Eastern Golden Weaver

This weaver flutters his wings at a high angle (away from the body), with tail fanned, while singing.

Village Weaver

Village Weaver

The colonial Village Weaver displays with wings beating far from the body, and body swaying side to side, while calling. Often males in a colony will display simultaneously, all singing.

Trip details

Dates: 23 January – 11 February 2021
Kms driven: 2300 km on good roads, muddy roads, and lots of pot-holed roads!
Some localities visited: Durban to St Lucia, the midlands, Wakkerstroom grasslands, to bushveld in southern Limpopo Province, and Gauteng.

Thanks to Erwan Harscouet, Rita Covas and Claire Doutrelant for the trip!
This research was funded by the l’Agence Nationale de la Recherche (ANR 19-CE02-0014-02).


Dieter is a qualified Bird Ringer and trainer, registered bird guide, and Weaver expert. Dieter is able to act as a bird guide for day trips in Cape Town, and is able to customise birds tours in South Africa and beyond.