Weavers & Whydahs
PO  Box 126 Mitcham Vic 3132 ( Victoria, Australia )

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Comoro Weaver
Grenadier Weaver
Madagascar Weaver
Napoleon Weaver
Orange Bishop Weaver
Pin tailed Whydah
Red headed Fody
Red shouldered Whydah

. weavers and whydahs

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Weavers and whydahs
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.
Whydahs 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 exhaustion.
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 areas.

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 aviculture.

Feeding / Diet:  Refer to "Feeding birds" web page for additional information on feeding a wide range of birds.

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 nest.

Housing:  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.

General References:  Refer to references listed on "Book References" web page.

Specific References:

  • Australian Aviculture
  • A/A Vol 60 No. 8 Aug 2006 Page 162-165 (The good - the bad - and the ugly by Mike Fidler).

  • A/A Vol 60 No. 4 Apr 2006 Page 74-77 (Visit to Europe - finches, Dr Gary Fitt).
  • A/A Vol 60 No. 4 Apr 2006 Page 69-71 (Advantages & disadvantages of Bird keeping in hot climates)
  • A/A Vol 60 No. 2 Feb 2006 Page 29-30 (Finch management for juniors & beginners)
  • A/A Vol 59 No. 11 Nov 2005 Page 252-253 (Use of crop needles)
  • A/A Vol 59 No. 11 Nov 2005 Page 246-247 (Maintain those plants)
  • A/A Vol 59 No. 10 Oct 2005 Page 233-235 (The case for feeding Green foods - by Dr D. Madill).
  • A/A Vol 58 No. 7 Jul 2004 Page 154-155 (M. Fidler Nestboxes and perches).
  • A/A Vol 51 No. 11 Nov 1997 Page 243-250 (S. Gelis - Nutrition)
  • A/A Vol 46 No. 8 Aug 1992 Page 181-187 (Bird feeding survey)
  • A/A Vol 46 No. 5 May 1992 Page 117-122 (Back to basics)
  • A/A Vol 45 No. 11 Nov 1991 Page 261-266 (Native plants- Pt 2)
  • A/A Vol 34 No. 12 Dec 1980 Page 238-241 (Inc photo)
  • A/A Vol 18 No. 8 Aug 1964 Page 112-116 (long tailed Whydahs).
  • A/A Vol 15 No. 9 Sept 1961 Page 120-121.
  • A/A Vol 15 No. 1 Jan 1961 Page 1-3, 15 (Inc colour plate).
  • A/A Vol 14 No. 12 Dec 1960 Page 161-162.
  • A/A Vol 12 No 11 Nov 1958 Page 145, 147, 151-152.
  • A/A Vol 10 No 12 Dec 1956 Page 137-138 (Golden Shouldered Whydah).
  • A/A Vol  5 No 11 Nov 1951 Page 125-126 ((Red billed weaver).
  • A/A Vol  5 No 11 Nov 1951 Page 135-136.
  • A/A Vol  5 No 8 Aug 1951 Page 89-90 (Cape Weaver).
  • A/A Vol  4 No 4 Apr 1950 Page 46-47 (Paradise Whydah).
  • A/A Vol  2 No 3 Mar 1948 Page 24-25 (Birds of yesteryear,  Still valid in 2005).
  • A/A Vol  1 No 12 Dec 1947.
  • The Bulletin No 13, Oct 1943 Page 7 - 8 (Nesting of the Bayer weaver).
  • The Bulletin No 9, June 1943 Page 2.
  • The Bulletin No 1, May 1942 Page 2 (Breeding African Weavers).
  • Australian Birdkeeper
  • ABK Vol 18 Issue 11. Oct-Nov 2005 Page 676-681 (What's genetically pure and what's not)
  • ABK Vol 18 Issue 9. Jun-Jul 2005 Page 554-557 (Mauritius Fody).
  • ABK Vol 11 Issue 4. Aug-Sept 1998 Page 176-179.   
  • ABK Vol  3 Issue 4. Aug-Sept 1990 Page 155-159 (Plantscaping)
  • ABK Vol  3 Issue 4. Aug-Sept 1990 Page 166-168 (Aviary design)

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