Sakalava Weaver Ploceus sakalava

Weaver species list / RELATED SPECIES: Nelicourvi Weaver / Sakalava Weaver

IUCN: Least concern Discovery: 061

Categories: long tube, island, baobab, nectar, palm, double nests, blue eggs


Sakalava Weaver
Sakalava Weaver, figure from Edwards (1879)

Sakalava Weaver male & female, figure from Edwards (1879)
Sakalava Weaver distribution, type locality circled



The Sakalava Weaver was formally described by Karel Johan Gustav Hartlaub, a German physician and ornithologist.The Sakalava Weaver had been collected by Victor Sganzin, a French naval officer and zoologist. Sganzin was appointed as military administrator of the French outpost at Sainte Marie island (Madagascar), and he explored the Malagasy fauna from 1831-1832 (Sganzin 1840), collecting many bird specimens.

When Sganzin returned to the Cape, he gave the Sakalava Weaver specimen to Jules Verreaux (at the South African Museum). It must have been sent to the British Museum at some stage. It was overlooked as a new species for many years, until the head ornithologist of the British Museum, George Robert Gray, pointed it out to Hartlaub (Hartlaub 1867), who was writing about the birds of Madagascar (Hartlaub 1861).

The first illustrations of the Sakalava Weaver were published by Edwards (1879). The first plate contained line drawings of the wing, head, bill and foot. This was followed by a colour plate of a male and female.

Scientific citation

Ploceus sakalava Hartlaub 1861, Beitr. Faun. Madag., p.54 Madagascar.

Meaning of names

sakalava – After the Sakalava (“people of the long valleys”), a native clan of Madagascar whose kingdom, established in the sixteenth century, was subdued in 1824 and incorporated into a united Madagascar.

First English name

Sakalava Weaver-bird (Sibree 1891), decades after it was first described.

Alternate names

Sakalava Fody.


Victor Sganzin.

Date collected


Locality collected


Type specimens

The type specimen is in the British Museum (BM 1845.7.6.10).

The above is based on Weaver Wednesday 2, a weekly series about the discovery of each weaver species.
This species text first appeared as Weaver Wednesday [178] – Discovery [61]: Sakalava Weaver on 2015-11-11

1. Basic biology

Sakalava Weaver
Sakalava Weaver male
Sakalava Weaver
Sakalava Weaver female


Identification. The Sakalava Weaver is a colonial weaver found in the drier western parts of Madagascar. The adult male in breeding plumage (photo) has a yellow head to upper breast, clearly separated from a pale belly and nape. The wing coverts have buffy-white tips forming a wingbar. The iris is brown with bare reddish skin around the eye. The non-breeding male has the head grey, and the skin around the eye is pale pink. The female (photo) is similar to the non-breeding male but paler. Young birds are green above, yellow below, and with a golden brown wash on the chin and throat.

This species is one of 3 weaver species to have a bare skin patch around the eye (the others are the White-headed Buffalo-weaver and the Baya Weaver).

Distribution. Two subspecies of the Sakalava Weaver are recognised (see map above, based on Handbook of the Birds of the World, Vol. 15, and showing the current PHOWN records:
P. s. sakalava in N & W Madagascar (see orange on map).
P. s. minor, SW & S Madagascar (see dark green on map). This subspecies is slightly smaller than the nominate.

Habitat. The Sakalava Weaver is found in open country in drier lowlands, often in areas cleared for human settlement; also found in spiny-bush areas, and dry deciduous forest.

Food. The Sakalava Weaver is mainly granivorous, including some rice. It also regularly feeds on insects and spiders, especially when feeding young. It also feeds on flowers.

Breeding. The Sakalava Weaver is apparently mainly monogamous, with some males perhaps being polygynous. This species is colonial, with 10-120 nests at a site, and up to 40 nests in one tree.

Sakalava Weaver
Sakalava Weaver male at nest

The nest (photo), additional photo from colony at phown 76) is built by both sexes. The nest is retort-shaped, with an entrance tunnel 17-40 cm long. It is placed 2-25 m above the ground and usually in a palm, boabab or exotic Gyrocarpus americanus.

The nest is sometimes attached below or near the nests of crows or raptors, eg. Madagascar Buzzard Buteo brachypterus (see phown 1489). Nests may also be suspended from the thatched roof of a village house. Males sleep in non-breeding nests during the breeding season.

Clutch size is 2-4 eggs, incubation is by the female, and chicks are fed by both parents.

Nests are preyed on by Madagascar Harrier-hawk Polyboroides radiatus, and eggs have been taken by the Common Brown Lemur Eulemur fulvus.

Old nests may be used for breeding by the Madagascar Bibfinch Lepidopygia nana.

The above is based on Weaver Wednesday, a weekly series about weaver species.
This species text first appeared as Weaver Wednesday [30]: Sakalava Weaver on 2013-01-09

2. Breeding facts

Pair bond
Apparently primarily monogamous, some males perhaps polygynous

Breeding season
Timing may be detemined by local rainfall, Sept-Oct in N Madagascar and Nov-Apr in W; in more arid SW irregular, starting as early as Aug or as late as Dec

Nest site
placed 2-25 m above ground and usually in palm or tree, including boabab (Adansonia) and exotic Gyrocarpus americanus; or suspended from thatched roof of village house

Nest building
built by both sexes

Colony size
Colonial, with 10-120 nests at a site, and up to 40 nests in single tree

Clutch size
2-4 eggs

Egg colour
plain greenish-blue

Egg size
average size 20.5 x 15.1 mm

incubation by female, no information on duration of incubation period

Chicks and nestling period
chicks fed by both male and female, no information on duration of nestling period

Breeding information based on Handbook of the Birds of the World, Vol. 15.

3. Photos of Weaver Nests

Vm 11906

Vm 11904

Vm 8405

Vm 8403

Vm 7278

Vm 7277

Thumb-nails of recent PHOWN records