Ploceidae is a family of small passerine birds, many of which are called weavers, weaverbirds, weaver finches and bishops. These names come from the nests of intricately woven vegetation created by birds in this family. In most recent classifications, Ploceidae is a clade, which excludes some birds that have historically been placed in the family, such as some of the sparrows, but which includes the monotypic subfamily Amblyospizinae. The family is believed to have originated in the mid-Miocene.[1] All birds of the Ploceidae are native to the Old World, most in Africa south of the Sahara, though a few live in tropical areas of Asia. A few species have been introduced outside their native range.[2]

Black-headed weaver (Ploceus cucullatus bohndorffi) male nest building
A male village weaver (Ploceus cucullatus bohndorffi), building his nest
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Superfamily: Passeroidea
Family: Ploceidae
Sundevall, 1836

See text.

Taxonomy and systematics

The family Ploceidae was introduced (as Ploceïdes) by the Swedish zoologist Carl Jakob Sundevall in 1836.[3][4] These species are not closely related to the sparrows (Passeridae) nor to the Emberizidae, according to Luis Allende and colleagues.[5][6] The family is divided into the buffalo, sparrow, typical, and widow weavers. Weavers get their name because of their elaborately woven nests.


The following genera are currently classified within the family Ploceidae. For more detail, see list of Ploceidae species.


The males of many species in this family are brightly coloured, usually in red or yellow and black. Some species show variation in colour only in the breeding season. These are seed-eating birds with rounded conical bills.

Distribution and habitat

The weaverbird colonies may be found close to bodies of water.

Behaviour and ecology

Although weavers are named for their elaborately woven nests, some are notable for their selective parasitic nesting habits instead. The nests vary in size, shape, material used, and construction techniques from species to species. Materials used for building nests include fine leaf fibers, grass, and twigs. Many species weave very fine nests using thin strands of leaf fiber, though some, like the buffalo-weavers, form massive untidy stick nests in their colonies, which may have spherical woven nests within. The sociable weavers of Africa build apartment-house nests, in which 100 to 300 pairs have separate flask-shaped chambers entered by tubes at the bottom. The sparrow weavers live in family units that employ cooperative breeding.[7] Most species weave nests that have narrow entrances, facing downward.

Many weaver species are gregarious and breed colonially.[2] 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.

Relationship to humans

They sometimes cause crop damage, notably the red-billed quelea, reputed to be the world's most numerous bird.[8][9]


Under Construction - Weaver Bird

A nest in the early stages of construction

Sporopipes squamifrons 1838

Adult Sporopipes at its spherical grass nest, placed in a shrub

Nids de Plocepasser mahali (Namibie) (3)

Plocepasser nest in Namibia, for year-round occupation.[7]

2010-09-25 09-03-47 Namibia Hardap Isabis

Communal Philetairus nests in central Namibia


Pseudonigrita nest in Kenya, with entrance below

Black-breasted Weaver Ploceus benghalensis by Dr. Raju Kasambe 03

Black-breasted weaver nest suspended from grass, India


A baya weaver on his unfinished nest, northern India

Nests in Palmyra Palm tree

Nests of a baya weaver colony suspended from a palm tree, India

Red-billed Quelea (Quelea quelea) (6041539514)

Male Quelea at nest concealed in thorny Senegalia shrub

Euplectes orix -Pretoria, South Africa -male weaving nest-8 (1)

Red bishop constructing a nest in reeds, South Africa

Weaver bird nests at Ifaty (3445328641)

Nests of a colony of Sakalava weavers, Madagascar

GambiaGeorgeTown043 (12249665914)

Spherical village weaver nests suspended from a palm tree, West Africa

Tisserin Etosha

A southern masked weaver building his nest, Namibia


  1. ^ De Silva, Thilina N.; Peterson, A. Townsend; Bates, John M.; Fernando, Sumudu W.; Girard, Matthew G. (2017). "Phylogenetic relationships of weaverbirds (Aves: Ploceidae): A first robust phylogeny based on mitochondrial and nuclear markers". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 109: 21–32. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2016.12.013.
  2. ^ a b Craig, Adrian (2010). "Family Ploceidae (Weavers)". In del Hoyo, J.; Elliott, A.; Christie, D. A. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World. 15. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions. pp. 74–197.
  3. ^ Bock, Walter J. (1994). History and Nomenclature of Avian Family-Group Names. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History. Number 222. New York: American Museum of Natural History. pp. 157, 260.
  4. ^ Sundevall, Carl Jakob (1836). "Ornithologiskt system". Kongliga Svenska Vetenskapsakademiens Handlingar: 43–130 [74].
  5. ^ Allende, Luis M.; Rubio, Isabel; Ruíz-del-Valle, Valentin; Guillén, Jesus; Martínez-Laso, Jorge; Lowy, Ernesto; Varela, Pilar; Zamora, Jorge; Arnaiz-Villena, Antonio (2001). "The Old World sparrows (genus Passer) phylogeography and their relative abundance of nuclear mtDNA pseudogenes" (PDF). Journal of Molecular Evolution. 53 (2): 144–154. PMID 11479685. Archived from the original (PDF) on 21 July 2011.
  6. ^ Arnaiz-Villena, A; Gómez-Prieto P; Ruiz-de-Valle V (2009). "Phylogeography of finches and sparrows". Animal Genetics. Nova Science Publishers. ISBN 978-1-60741-844-3.
  7. ^ a b Lewis, Dale M. (3 April 2008). "Cooperative breeding in a population of White-browed Weavers Plocepasser mahali". Ibis. 124 (4): 511–522. doi:10.1111/j.1474-919X.1982.tb03795.x.
  8. ^ Fry, C.H. & Keith, S. (2004) The birds of Africa vol. VII. Christopher Helm, London
  9. ^ BirdLife International (2012). "Quelea quelea". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2012.1. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 16 July 2012.

Further reading

  • De Silva, T.N.; Peterson, A.T.; Perktas, U. (2019). "An extensive molecular phylogeny of weaverbirds (Aves: Ploceidae) unveils broad nonmonophyly of traditional genera and new relationships". The Auk. 20: 1–21. doi:10.1093/auk/ukz041.
Bannerman's weaver

Bannerman's weaver (Ploceus bannermani) is a species of bird in the weaver family, Ploceidae. It is found in Cameroon and Nigeria. Its natural habitat is subtropical or tropical moist montane forests. It is threatened by habitat loss.Its scientific and common names honor the ornithologist David Armitage Bannerman.

Bates's weaver

The Bates's weaver (Ploceus batesi) is a species of bird in the Ploceidae family.

It is endemic to Cameroon.

Its natural habitat is subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests.

It is threatened by habitat loss.

Black-billed weaver

The black-billed weaver (Ploceus melanogaster) is a species of bird in the family Ploceidae found in central Africa.

Black-headed weaver

Not to be confused with village weaver or golden-backed weaverThe black-headed weaver (Ploceus melanocephalus), also known as yellow-backed weaver, is a species of bird in the family Ploceidae.

Bob-tailed weaver

The bob-tailed weaver (Brachycope anomala) is a species of bird in the Ploceidae family. It is monotypic within the genus Brachycope.

It is found in Cameroon, Central African Republic, Republic of the Congo, and Democratic Republic of the Congo.


Bubalornis is a genus of bird in the Ploceidae family. Established by Andrew Smith in 1836, it contains the following species:

The name Bubalornis is a combination of the Greek words boubalos, meaning "buffalo" and ornis, meaning "bird". The genus got its name from the buffalo weavers' habit of following herds of African Buffalo.

Clarke's weaver

Clarke's weaver (Ploceus golandi) is a species of bird in the family Ploceidae.

It is endemic to Kenya.

Its natural habitat is subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests.

It is threatened by habitat loss.

Crested malimbe

The crested malimbe (Malimbus malimbicus) is a species of bird in the Ploceidae family.

It is found in Angola, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Republic of the Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ivory Coast, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Togo, and Uganda.

Its natural habitat is subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests.


Grosbeak is a form taxon containing various species of seed-eating passerine birds with large beaks. Although they all belong to the superfamily Passeroidea, these birds are not part of a natural group but rather a polyphyletic assemblage of distantly related songbirds. Some are cardueline finches in the family Fringillidae, while others are cardinals in the family Cardinalidae; one is a member of the weaver family Ploceidae. The word "grosbeak", first applied in the late 1670s, is a partial translation of the French grosbec, where gros means "large" and bec means "beak".The following is a list of grosbeak species, arranged in groups of closely related genera. These genera are more closely related to smaller-billed birds than to other grosbeaks. The single exception are the three genera of "typical grosbeak finches", which form a group of closest living relatives and might thus be considered the "true" grosbeaks.

Juba weaver

The Juba weaver (Ploceus dichrocephalus), also known as Salvadori's weaver, is a species of bird in the Ploceidae family.

It is found in the Horn of Africa.

Kilombero weaver

The Kilombero weaver (Ploceus burnieri) is a species of bird in the family Ploceidae.

It is endemic to Tanzania.

Its natural habitat is swamps.

It is threatened by habitat loss.

Marsh widowbird

The marsh widowbird (Euplectes hartlaubi) is a species of bird in the family Ploceidae.

Red-headed weaver

The red-headed weaver (Anaplectes rubriceps) is a species of bird in the Ploceidae family. It is monotypic within the genus Anaplectes and is found throughout the Afrotropics.

Rufous-tailed weaver

The rufous-tailed weaver (Histurgops ruficauda) is a species of songbird found in East Africa.

It is included in the weaver family (Ploceidae), but many authors included it in the Old World sparrow family Passeridae when Old World sparrows were separated from the weavers proper. It is placed in the monotypic genus Histurgops.

It is an endemic breeder in Tanzania, but vagrants occur in Kenya too.

Southern brown-throated weaver

The southern brown-throated weaver (Ploceus xanthopterus) is a species of bird in the family Ploceidae.

It is found in southern Africa.


The sparrow-weavers (Plocepasser) are a genus of birds in the family Ploceidae (weavers), but some taxonomic authorities place them in the family Passeridae (Old World sparrows).

Weyns's weaver

Weyns's weaver (Ploceus weynsi) is a species of bird in the family Ploceidae.

It is found in Uganda and adjacent eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo and north-western Tanzania.

Family: Ploceidae

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