The Baya Weaver (One Way to Please Her: Become a Master Weaver)

After an adventurous Malaysian jungle experience, we were back in the 4×4 heading out of the forest and soon bouncing our way down the dusty tracks surrounded by oil palm plantations. I had one more ask of our extremely patient guide and friend, Mr Lam. Several days earlier on the way into Endau Rompin National Park, we had spotted weaver bird nests hanging from trees along the tracks. My hope, now that we were finishing up, was that we could pull over and I could get some sneaky shots of the birds doing their thing. I had heard about these birds and seen images of them and their remarkable nests, but never really thought that I’d come across them. The experience that came with getting these shots was quite a testing one. During the shoot I was the hottest perhaps I had ever been. We were totally exposed to the searing heat of the sun at the hottest part of the day, with zero air movement and 100% humidity. Now that I am back in the UK, it all seems a lifetime ago.

Below you will see what we first saw on the road to the park. This tree was one of the only trees left along the track that wasn’t oil palm. The birds seemed to prefer it to the oil palm.

Ploceus philippinus [BAYA WEAVER] Malaysia.....

As you can see their nests are pretty eye-catching. Perhaps more so for me and other people who live in areas that lack birds that have the ability to construct nests in this manner. Clearly they are best known for their elaborate, hanging, teardrop-shaped nests. The male weaves these from grasses and leaf strips. The nests appear green to begin with, but progressively turn brown as the grass dies and dries out. The male is known to make 500 trips back and forth from the paddy leaves, palm fronds and wild grasses in the search for nest building materials. Males take approximately 18 days to construct their finished nests.

Click to ZOOM in

The baya weaver (Ploceus philippinus) can be found across the Indian Subcontinent and Southeast Asia. Large groups of these birds are found in grasslands, cultivated areas, scrub and recovering forest. They aggregate in colonies and can collectively make 20-30 nests per tree. Their nests are usually found hanging near water in thorny trees. The entrance tunnels to the nests point directly downwards. This is presumably for increased protection from predators. Baya weavers can be further categorized into three subspecies: P. p. philippinus, found in most of mainland India; P. p. travancoreensis is a population found in southwest India; and finally P. p. burmanicus, whom we photographed and is found in Southeast Asia.

In the non-breeding season, both males and females resemble female house sparrows. They are about the same size as house sparrow, too. We were lucky enough to see them in the breeding season in which the males sport a bright yellow crown, a dark brown mask and a yellow and cream chest.

Ploceus philippinus [BAYA WEAVER] Malaysia.......

The females, like with most birds, lack a colourful breeding plumage, but assess the males instead. After 8 days of construction, an intermediate ‘helmet stage’ nest is ready for females to inspect. The males then hang from the nests flapping their wings and calling. Females signal their acceptance to their chosen male and the rest of the nest is completed. Below on the left you can see a half finished nest from which the male is calling to prospective females. In the image on the right you can see a female that has selected a male and his nest. This nest is in its final stages of construction.

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Baya weavers belong to the Ploceidae family which is comprised on many different weaver species. Most are from sub-Saharan Africa, but a few are found in Asia. They are small passerine seed-eating birds related to finches and are divided into the buffalo, sparrow, typical, and widow weavers.

On the peninsula of Malaysia, baya weavers are locally known as ‘ciak tempua’. The birds have been used in the past by street performers. They were often trained to collect coins/other objects and bring them back to their master. They also performed other tricks, including the firing of toy cannons. Due to their high intelligence, they have been illegally taken from the wild for many years. In 2016, two men were arrested after authorities inspected their vehicle and found two cages containing 1,480 individual baya weavers. These were presumably on their way to the caged-bird trade.

The baya weavers of Malaysia are the first weavers we have come across. They truly are remarkable birds. Hopefully one day we will make it to Africa and see more species from the weaver family.

Ploceus philippinus [BAYA WEAVER] Malaysia...........

To read more about our experiences in Malaysia, read our other blog posts here:

Exploring the Malaysian Jungle

The Rhinoceros Hornbill: Malaysia’s National Bird

References and Further Reading

Birdlife website – http://datazone.birdlife.org/species/factsheet/Baya-Weaver
(Retrieved 29 May, 2017)

Traffic Website – http://www.traffic.org/home/2016/1/20/large-weaverbird-seizure-in-northern-peninsular-malaysia.html
(Retrieved 29 May, 2017)

Wikipedia Website, Baya Weaver – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baya_weaver
(Retrieved 29 May, 2017)

Wikipedia Website, Ploceidae – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ploceidae
(Retrieved 29 May, 2017)

6 Comments Add yours

  1. naturebackin says:

    Great pics and information. They are remarkable birds, judging from the species of weaver we have here. So sad about the bird trade. I hope that you do get to visit some African countries before too long. Lots to see!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! Yes, we would love to visit some African countries some day. Africa is so vast! Do you have any recommendations of where to start for someone who has never been to Africa?

      Like

      1. naturebackin says:

        That is a big question! When we travel we self-drive and camp and have not been further north than Zambia so this limits our firsthand knowledge. Also things change. It depends too on what you want to do and how. I am happy to try to help with questions where I can. In addition to all the well-known places, consider the Okavango delta in Botswana. It is truly wonderful.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thanks for the advice! I’ll definitely come to you with any questions. I’m sure I’ll have a few 😀

        Liked by 1 person

  2. naturebackin says:

    You are very welcome. Its always great to start thinking about planning a trip, even if it is a long-term prospect.

    Liked by 1 person

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