Baya Weaver: Nest building, hornets and poaching

22 Jan 2008   in Illegal-Irresponsible, Nesting 2 Comments »
Contributed by Johnny Wee, Melinda Chan & "Gillie"

March 2007 was a busy period for the male Baya Weavers (Ploceus philippinus). This was the beginning of the breeding season and they were all busy building their nests. Nests are normally in colonies, attached to the twigs of trees that grow in overgrown undergrowth.

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The birds had been building for the last week or so and the nests were at the helmet stage (above: bottom images). They flew in and out, bringing strands of grass and tirelessly weaved them into the incomplete nests (above: top images). Some nests were brown, probably having been completed earlier. Others were green, freshly completed. Yet others had green strands on the surface, indicating that they were being repaired.

The birds got excited at times, chattering noisily. Once in a while one would fly to it’s neighbour and pick a fight. But such fights never lasted long as the birds soon went back to work.

Whenever a female appeared, all the males around became excited. They flew from the nest they were working with to be near the female, chattering and fluttering their wings rapidly.

Once the female flew off, the males returned to work. The images below show the males working tirelessly on the helmet-stage nests while that on the extreme right shows the female inspecting the completed nest.

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Then tragedy struck. Within days most of the nests were harvested by poachers. These would probably be sold as garden ornaments. However, there were a few nests that were spared. Nests that the poachers did not dare take. These nests were built near to the hornets’ nest and this probably saved the nesting birds.

Well, the hornets did serve a purpose after all (below).

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Gillie” commented on 16th September 2007 after reading the post on the hornets’ nest: “On a bush walk today we were moving a fallen branch that shook the hornet’s nest (unbeknownst to us) and then I heard this buzzing like a humming bird. Next thing a hornet hit my head and stung me on the top of the head in one swoop. It flew off then came back for another swoop at my hiking partner. He didnt get stung – luckily for him.

“Its now 9hrs since the sting and it still hurts like hell. These guys are aggressive and their sting ain’t fun. Its not super painful, but it just doesn’t stop. It hurts now just as much as it did when I got hit.

“OUCH!

“Steer clear of these nests at all costs!”

Poachers are aware of what hornets can do, but how about birders?

Images by Chan Yoke Meng (top panel: top right; bottom panel and hornets’ nest) and Johnny (rest).




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  • 2 Responses to "Baya Weaver: Nest building, hornets and poaching"

    1. John says:

      It is unfortunate that the poachers so brazenly stole those nests. I have read of birds nesting near wasps to gain protection from their natural predators, but this is my first time hearing of hornets actually keeping poachers at bay! Seems like the boldest of them are not willing to risk those painful stings.

      The main ways to prevent attack from the hornets are to avoid fast movement and vibration to the tree or whatever structure the nest is built on. I guess most birders would already be moving slowly and cautiously. The vibration part is more important. Always be careful when moving through vegetation. Do not beat the vegetation with a stick. Many people worry about snakes in the bushes, but stinging insects are more of a threat. Look out for unknown hanging structures as they may be hornet nests or nests of other social wasps or bees which can also sting. If a cloud of stinging insects suddenly appears, drop to the ground, cover your head and don’t move. You will hear loud buzzing all around – wait till this dies out, then cautiously move back in the direction you came from. As long as you are not stung, don’t move. However, if you have already been stung, run as fast as possible away in the direction you arrived from. Diving behind and around a thick tree trunk or wall helps to throw the swarm off and confuse them. Always seek medical help if you feel unwell or anything more than local pain and swelling after a sting.

      Hope this is of some help so we can avoid conflict with hornets, as dangerous as they are, they are still an integral part of nature and should be avoided carefully rather than needlessly destroyed.

      Cheers,
      John

    2. YC says:

      Excellent advice, John. Thanks. Check out John’s website.

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