The following information should
be used in conjunction with the individual species web page notes.
Links in the left navigation panel.
Weavers and whydahs are finches.
Weavers are from Africa and Asia. Five species are
available in Australia.
are from Africa. Three species are available in Australia.
Most are expensive when purchased as pairs and need specialist attention
and resources to
achieve good breeding results.
Spare cock birds may have little monetary value. A replacement hen
may be the same cost as a pair.
Weavers will generally live for about 10
to 15 years depending on variables including aviary conditions, genetic
background, feeding, stress levels and some "luck".
The most productive breeding years of
Weavers are from the second year till about the seventh or eighth year.
They may breed for many additional years but the productivity will
usually decline. Clucky older birds may make good foster birds.
Most cock birds will not successfully breed in the first year.
Hens may be successful in the first year but better results are achieved
if the hens are allowed to commence breeding in the second year.
Weavers hens do all the incubation and 2
to 4 eggs is a typical clutch. The hen only leaves the nest to
feed and drink. When the hen leaves the nest, she may be harassed
or chased by the cock bird. Incubation takes about 14 days.
The young need lots of easily digestible insect protein. A wide
variety of insects will improve the chances of all the hatchlings
surviving. They fledge at about 3 weeks of age and look similar to
the hen. The fledglings should be independent in an additional 3
or 4 weeks. Do not underestimate the quantity of insects required
to raise each clutch of youngsters. As the cock bird does little
or no work in raising the young, the hen will also need a high quality
food intake during this intensive task.
Up to three clutches per year is a safe number for most hens.
Additional clutches may be detrimental to the hen's ability to sustain
the work load in future years. If you allow them to have a fourth
nest it can extend the breeding season into a fifth or sixth month.
Nest inspection of a Weaver nest should
be avoided. Most hens resent the intrusion. Worst case
scenario is the hen abandons the nest.
At the end of the breeding season, the
cock Weaver looses his nuptial plumage by moulting into the eclipse
plumage. Both the hen and the moulting cock bird need some quiet
time at the end of the breeding season. The cock bird should be
less aggressive during the non-breeding months.
Weavers and whydahs should only be kept
by specialist, experienced bird breeders. The numbers of true
breeding pairs of most species in Australia are low. The Grenadier
and Madagascar weavers are the least expensive and more available than
the other species.
Weavers and whydahs are related to the
common house sparrow. The cock birds have a nuptial plumage and
the cock whydah has long tail feathers. Out of breeding season the
cock birds loose the nuptial plumage and revert to the eclipse plumage.
The eclipse plumage is drab in appearance compared to the brilliant
nuptial version. Outside the breeding season the hens and cock
birds look like sparrows.
Unlike most other species of finches,
weaver and whydah cock birds are polygamous. A cock bird may
pair up with two or more hens. Unlike most other species of
finches, weaver and whydah cock birds do not partake in the incubation
process or in the raising of the young. Cock birds will
aggressively guard and protect the nest and the surrounding area.
Although the cock bird can be "paired up" with multiple hens, the best
results are often found with a one hen with one cock bird in an aviary
of their own. To keep a cock bird's aggression trait directed away
from his own family, spare cock bird/s can be placed in an aviary beside
or near the breeding pair/s. The spare cock bird/s will keep the
paired up cock bird's natural territorial aggression directed towards
the "spare" cock bird/s.
The Pin tailed Whydah uses other species
of finches to raise their young. Finches such as the St. Helena
finch build a nest but the Pin tailed Whydah will lay her eggs in the
St. Helena's nest. When the Whydah's eggs hatch the St. Helena
pair will feed and raise the Whydah young as their own.
At the start of the breeding season, weaver cock birds may build a
few "trial" nests before the hen accepts one as acceptable and takes up
residence. After the hen has approved of a nest, she will line the
nest with soft materials including soft fine grasses.
Weavers get their name because they
weave a nest out of grasses. The cock bird may snip/cut the
base end of the leaf and fly upwards. This should give the bird a
thin pliable green strip of grass or palm leaf suitable to weave into a
strong nest structure.
In a aviary situation the birds may make a nest in any position
within the aviary structure. Some will build their nest in a plant
or in the grasses/bamboo but they may also build their nest attached to
the wire mesh in the roof or any other part of the roof structure.
These nests can be subject to the heat excesses in the hotter months and
may cause the loss of the eggs or the young from dehydration or heat
They can attach a nest to the wire mesh wall at any height. Nests
attached or woven onto a wire divider wall can be subject to
interference from the neighbouring birds.
Weaver cock birds will vigorously defend their nest and surrounding
Many species of Weavers have been intentionally or accidentally
hybridized. Try to ensure the bird you purchase is a "pure
specie" bird and not a hybrid. If you cannot find a genetically
pure bird, do not pair it up with another species just to get a few more
birds bred for that year. Hybrid birds are of no value in
Diet: Refer to
web page for additional information on feeding a wide range of
Weavers and whydahs are seed eaters that
require significant quantities of live food to raise their young.
A variety of insects gives best results e.g. mealworms, crickets, small
grass hoppers, small cockroaches, termites, moths etc.
Require a good quality finch seed mix, seeding
grasses and a variety of insects are necessary. Some people supply
soaked or sprouted seed.
Basic seed mix should include Canary
seed, White French Millet, Japanese Millet, and Yellow and Red Panicum.
Other seeds can be added to include more variety or to balance the
seasonal requirements of the birds. Other seeds can be added to
include more locally available, or seasonally available seeds.
Different seasons may have additional seeds added in separate bowls or
containers. Additional seeds commonly available for finches
include Millet varieties, phalaris, rape seed, Niger, oats, hulled oats,
ryegrass and locally available seeds.
A range of commercial "herb seed mixes" are becoming available
to add to a bird's food range and nutritional intake. These mixes
are often more expensive and are fed in a separate bowl or container.
These herb seeds may contain a slightly different range of trace
elements and micro nutrients. These seeds should be gradually
added to a bird's intake and gradually phased out i.e. do not make
sudden changes to a food intake, especially if there is young in the
Refer to "Housing
birds" web page for additional
information on housing a wide range of birds.
Require a large planted aviary for best
results. With numbers of good breeding pairs fairly low, the owner
should be prepared to allowing only one pair, or one cock bird plus
multiple hens, per aviary and have no
other species of birds in that aviary. This will also eliminate the
possibility of hybridizing between some of the other weaver species.
A planted aviary of about 3000mm long x
1000mm wide and 2100mm high ( 10 x 3.5 x 7 feet) could house one pair.
The plants can include medium to tall growing grasses, small palms as
well as some densely leafed shrubs.
Although Weavers and Whydahs are
generally healthy and robust birds, stress can easily kill a bird while
it is in transit. This includes bringing the newly purchased birds
home and while transferring birds between aviaries or cages.
These birds and most Softbills benefit from a lot of extra care when
being handled and transported. Remember STRESS CAN KILL a bird.
References: Refer to references listed on "Book References"
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