Weavers (SubFamily: Ploceinae) in Singapore

20 Jun 2011   in Exotics, Species 3 Comments »
Contributed by Francis Yap & Haniman Boniran

The weavers of the Family Ploceidae is a group of Old World seed-eaters found mainly in the Afrotropics. There are three main groups: buffalo-weavers, typical weavers and sparrow weavers. We are here concerned with the typical weavers of the Subfamily Ploceinae.

Genus Ploceus
The Baya Weaver (Ploceus philippinus) is a common resident in Singapore LINK. Most people are familiar with its characteristic upside down flask-shaped nest hanging from the ends of branches. But there is another species, the Streaked Weaver (P. manyar), a rare introduced species recorded as far back as 1997 (below left). This species is seen only in select locations, often in small colonies, breeding near water bodies.

There is a third species, the Asian Golden Weaver (P. hypoxanthus). This species is native to Southeast Asia but not to Singapore. However, a small breeding colony was recently seen in Tampines LINK. The male is pictured bringing back a strand of grass for nest building purposes in the image above (right).

A fourth species, also recently encountered, is the Golden-backed Weaver (P. jacksoni). Both male and female were spotted of this African native. Pictured here is the brightly plumaged male (above left). A fifth species, the *Vitelline Masked Weaver (P. vitellinus), is another African species that was probably released during a recent religious festival. A male was recently seen attempting to build a nest. The image (above right) is a record shot of the male of the species.

Genus Euplectes
The Euplectes, also native to Africa, includes the bishops and widowbirds. “In the past there have been some sightings of the Red Bishop [Southern Red Bishop (Euplectes orix)] and the Golden Bishop [Yellow-crowned Bishop (E. afre)]. I do not have these birds in my collection. Recently however, the Zanzibar Bishop (E. nigroventris) which is another bird in the genus was found in two places in the east of the island coinciding with certain religious festival. Pictured here (below left) is one of the male bird with a cut-off tail,” wrote Francis Yap.

Genus Quelea
The Queleas similarly originate from Africa. According to Francis, “As a trivia, the Red-billed Quelea (Quelea quelea) (which fortunately is not introduced to Singapore), is the world’s most abundant wild bird species, with an estimated adult breeding population of 1.5 billion.”

“In Singapore, for a few year already, there have been some sightings of lone Red-headed Quelea (Q. erythrops). Recently they have been observed to be in a small flock and there may be juveniles or female birds amongst them. Pictured here is the male (above right),” added Francis.

In 2011 there seems to be more releases of exotic birds in Singapore of birds originating from Africa. According to Haniman Boniran, “The most favoured species from continental Africa is the genus Serinus. The song bird fanciers value this genus more than other genera from Africa.

“Weavers, bishops, queleas, cordon blues and waxbills are usually by-products of the bird trade. Very seldom were they imported as a sole shipment for the pet trade. Often they come as ‘fillers’ together with other bigger species like parrots. The dealers will require importers take a certain quantity to complete the export quota. It’s practical business sense and not based on national export quota.

“These finches are usually sought after due to abundance, hardiness and also popularity as cage or aviary birds.

“These species of passerines have been imported into many countries for a long time now. Like I mentioned, they have established themselves well in territories within the African continent and elsewhere. They thrive best in less temperate climate and Singapore seems to be ideal. But local extinction does happen to these exotics. How they will impact our local eco-system is yet to be seen. But I’m sure they add variety to our birding landscap,” added Haniman.

This post is a cooperative effort between NaturePixels.org and BESG to bring the study of bird behaviour through photography to a wider audience.

*Originally thought to be the Southern Masked Weaver (P. velatus), it is now believed to be Vitelline Masked Weaver (P. vitellinus). This was confirmed after Francis Yap consulted Dr Dieter Oschadleus, an ornithologist working on African weaverbirds.

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  • 3 Responses to "Weavers (SubFamily: Ploceinae) in Singapore"

    1. Lee Chiu San says:

      We are seeing more exotics from Africa because the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority in Singapore has banned the import of birds from areas where bird flu is present. Traditional sources from Asia have been blocked, so dealers are sourcing their supplies from Africa, which still does not face restrictions.

      As weavers are expensive, it is unlikely that they were bought to be released in religious ceremonies. More likely, they were bought when in full breeding colour, and the purchasers lost interest and released them after they moulted into eclipse plumage.

      Weavers are also known to be aggressive and destructive in aviaries, and may have been tossed out when they proved to be too troublesome.

    2. See Toh Yew Wai says:

      On the evening of 7 July 2011, I saw a flock of 3-4 female-looking golden backed weavers at Lorong Halus feeding on cooked rice placed there by some photographers. One of the weaver was spotted begging for rice from another of about the same size who obliged and fed it accordingly. Another juvenile that appeared to be moulting into male plummage (its belly/lower breast beginning to show chestnut color) was also sighted. It appeared that this African specie had successfully bred in Singapore.

      • Kwong says:

        To my knowledge (I’ve spoken to a lady who placed the rice there), the rice was meant for wild dogs. The birds, mostly weavers and including the escapee weavers, were attracted to the free and easy food.


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