Weaver Bird, the common name of the finches of the family ploceinoe, so called from the remarkable manner in which they weave their nests from various vegetable substances, presenting some of the finest specimens of bird architecture. They have a strong bill, with the base projecting upon the forehead and the tip entire; wings rounded, with first quill very short; legs and feet stout, and hind toe long. Most are African, but a few of the genus ploceus (Ouv.) are found in the East Indies and the Indian archipelago; they feed on insects and seeds. Their nests are usually suspended from the end of a slender twig or palm leaf, frequently over the water and the aperture almost touching it, so as to be beyond the reach of monkeys, snakes, and other climbing enemies; they are usually shaped like a pouch, from the side or bottom of which a tubular appendage is prolonged downward, the entrance being at the bottom. Some species attach their nests each year to the bottom of those of the preceding; the ploceus pendlis (Cuv.) in this way sometimes places five nests in succession below each other; this bird is greenish above, grayish below, with red vent, and black quills and tail.
The social or republican weaver (philetcerus socius, Gray) is about 6½ in. long, reddish brown above and yellowish below; it inhabits the interior of S. Africa, building in large societies a compound nest on the mimosa trees, whose smooth trunk prevents the ascent of most noxious animals; the nests are made of a fine grass closely woven, and so arranged that 800 to 1,000, each with three or four eggs, are supported on a single tree, covered with a roof 10 to 12 ft. in diameter; on the under surface of this umbrella-like, thatched roof, or, according to Paterson, around the edges and opening into a common passage, are numerous entrances to the nests, which are placed about 2 in. apart; they do not occupy the same nest for two years, but add on new nests to the lower surface of the old ones until the tree is broken down by the accumulated weight. - In this family belong the Whydah finches or widow birds, of the genus vidua (Cuv.); these are abundant about Whydah in W. Africa, whence the first name, which has been happily corrupted into the common English name, their sombre colors and long black trail well entitling them to the epithet widow birds.
In the paradise widow bird ( V. paradisea, Cuv.) two of the middle tail feathers of the male in the breeding season are a foot long, and two others shorter but with broad webs; these fall off after the breeding season. The head, chin, fore neck, back, wings, and tail are black; neck all round orange of various shades, and most of the other parts white; it is about as large as a canary, and is a favorite cage bird both for its beauty and its song; it is found from Senegal to S. Africa.
Nest of African Weaver Bird.