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Weaver is group of bird mostly found in tropical Africa but a few species also live in Asia like the Baya Weaver (Ploceus philippinus). It is a member to the Ploceidae family, which also includes the sparrows, thus their close resemblance in appearance. The name weaver stems from the fact that they build nest by weaving strips of grass.
The breeding male has a bright yellow crown and dark face mask. The upperparts are buffy streaked with dark brown, and the underparts are light brown. The female looks much duller, lacking the yellow crown. During non-breeding season, the male and female look alike. The size is about 15 cm.
The Baya Weaver gives a variety of sparrow like chirps, and some wheezy notes. They are particularly noisy during the breeding season, especially near the nests when displaying or chasing one another.
Habitat and Distribution
The Baya Weaver favours lightly wooded habitat and open country with scattered trees and tall grasses, which usually occur near damp places like rivers and ponds. Their distribution, like all animal, is tightly related with food source and nesting sites. They can also be found near human settlement such as in cultivation, especially paddy fields and villages.
Geographically, the Baya Weaver has a wide distribution in Asia, ranging from the Indian subcontinent to Southeast Asia. Note that although the scientific name is P.philippinus, this bird is absent from the Philippines.
Throughout their distribution, the Baya Weaver are called by different names such as Tokora (Assamese), Thukanam-kuruvi (Malayanam), Waddu-kurulla, Goiyan-kurulla (Sinhala), sa-gaung-gwet (Myanmar) and Tempua (Malay).
The Baya Weaver feeds largely on grass seeds for their stout, conical bill is well adapted to crush seeds. One example of this grass is Imperata sp. found in Southeast Asia. This is a tall grass that grows gregariously in open country and produced seeds continuously throughout the year. In paddy fields, the Baya Weaver also feed on rice.
The most fascinating thing about Baya Weaver is their nest that looks like a flask with long entrance tube at the bottom. This amazing structure is made of strips of grasses, or fibres from coconut leaves and sugarcane. They nest in colonies and prefer to build their nest in isolated trees in open country.
The nest consists of three major compartments namely the central area, the side entrance and the long entrance tube. However, not all nests are alike. Some are larger than others, and some were built in shorter periods while other takes longer to build. The male’s experience certainly played an important role, and that’s why the female prefers to mate with older, experienced male that successfully build better nest than the younger ones.
The Baya Weaver was recorded to nest in various species of plants such as Cocos nucifera (Coconut), Bambusa sp. (bamboos), Mimosa pigra (Catclaw Mimosa), Careya arborea, Eucalyptus sp, and Acasia sp. These nest platforms have some similarities such as they are strong enough to support the nest and flexible when confronted with strong winds, and provide relatively wide are for the male to display.
Nest building is primarily done by the male. When the nest is partially completed, he will proudly display with fluttering wing beats and noisy calls to the female. The female will inspect the nest, and if she approves it she will pair with the male and he will continue finish the nest.
The female lays her clutch, incubates them and takes care of the young. She will also carry out some finishing touches on the nest. The male is polygynous, mating with several females. Instead of fully taking care of the young with his mate, he will concentrate his effort on building new nest to attract more females.
According to the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List Category, the Baya Weaver is classified as Least Concern. However, this bird is not immune to threat particularly related to human activities. The nest is sought after because of its ornamental value. During nest collection, nestlings may still occupy the nest and many were simply thrown away. Also, nest trees are sometimes dragged down during collection and thus lead to reduction in suitable nesting platforms.