Ploceidae is a family of small passerine birds, many of which are called weavers, weaverbirds, weaver finches and bishops. These names come from the nests of intricately woven vegetation created by birds in this family. In most recent classifications, Ploceidae is a clade, which excludes some birds that have historically been placed in the family, such as some of the sparrows, but which includes the monotypic subfamily Amblyospizinae. The family is believed to have originated in the mid-Miocene.[1] All birds of the Ploceidae are native to the Old World, most in Africa south of the Sahara, though a few live in tropical areas of Asia. A few species have been introduced outside their native range.[2]

Black-headed weaver (Ploceus cucullatus bohndorffi) male nest building.jpg
A male village weaver (Ploceus cucullatus bohndorffi), building his nest
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Superfamily: Passeroidea
Family: Ploceidae
Sundevall, 1836

See text.

Taxonomy and systematicsEdit

The family Ploceidae was introduced (as Ploceïdes) by the Swedish zoologist Carl Jakob Sundevall in 1836.[3][4] Phylogenetic studies have shown that the family is sister to a clade containing the families Viduidae and Estrildidae. Their common ancestor lived in the middle Miocene around 18 million years ago.[5]


The family includes 15 genera with a total of 117 species.[6] For more detail, see list of Ploceidae species.

Image Genus Species
  Bubalornis A. Smith, 1836
  Dinemellia Reichenbach, 1863
  Plocepasser A. Smith, 1836
  Histurgops Reichenow, 1887
  Pseudonigrita Reichenow, 1903
  Philetairus A. Smith, 1837
  Sporopipes Cabanis, 1847
  Amblyospiza Sundevall, 1850
  Ploceus Cuvier, 1816
  Malimbus Vieillot, 1805
  Quelea Reichenbach, 1850
  Anaplectes Reichenbach, 1863
  Foudia Reichenbach, 1850
Brachycope Reichenow, 1900
  Euplectes Swainson, 1829


The males of many species in this family are brightly coloured, usually in red or yellow and black. Some species show variation in colour only in the breeding season. These are seed-eating birds with rounded conical bills.

Distribution and habitatEdit

The weaverbird colonies may be found close to bodies of water.

Behaviour and ecologyEdit

Weavers are named for their elaborately woven nests. The nests vary in size, shape, material used, and construction techniques from species to species. Materials used for building nests include fine leaf fibers, grass, and twigs. Many species weave very fine nests using thin strands of leaf fiber, though some, like the buffalo-weavers, form massive untidy stick nests in their colonies, which may have spherical woven nests within. The sociable weavers of Africa build apartment-house nests, in which 100 to 300 pairs have separate flask-shaped chambers entered by tubes at the bottom. The sparrow weavers live in family units that employ cooperative breeding.[7] Most species weave nests that have narrow entrances, facing downward.

Many weaver species are gregarious and breed colonially.[2] The birds build their nests together for protection, often several to a branch. Usually the male birds weave the nests and use them as a form of display to lure prospective females.

Relationship to humansEdit

They sometimes cause crop damage, notably the red-billed quelea, reputed to be the world's most numerous bird.[8][9]



  1. ^ De Silva, Thilina N.; Peterson, A. Townsend; Bates, John M.; Fernando, Sumudu W.; Girard, Matthew G. (2017). "Phylogenetic relationships of weaverbirds (Aves: Ploceidae): A first robust phylogeny based on mitochondrial and nuclear markers". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 109: 21–32. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2016.12.013. PMID 28012957.
  2. ^ a b Craig, Adrian J.F.K. (2010). "Family Ploceidae (Weavers)". In del Hoyo, J.; Elliott, A.; Christie, D.A. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 15: Weavers to New World Warblers. Barcelona, Spain: Lynx Edicions. pp. 73–197. ISBN 978-84-96553-68-2. |volume= has extra text (help)
  3. ^ Bock, Walter J. (1994). History and Nomenclature of Avian Family-Group Names. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History. Number 222. New York: American Museum of Natural History. pp. 157, 260. hdl:2246/830.
  4. ^ Sundevall, Carl Jakob (1836). "Ornithologiskt system". Kongliga Svenska Vetenskapsakademiens Handlingar. 23: 43–130 [74].
  5. ^ Oliveros, C.H.; et al. (2019). "Earth history and the passerine superradiation". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States. 116 (16): 7916–7925. doi:10.1073/pnas.1813206116. PMC 6475423. PMID 30936315.
  6. ^ Gill, Frank; Donsker, David; Rasmussen, Pamela, eds. (July 2021). "Old World sparrows, snowfinches, weavers". IOC World Bird List Version 11.2. International Ornithologists' Union. Retrieved 20 July 2021.
  7. ^ a b Lewis, Dale M. (3 April 2008). "Cooperative breeding in a population of White-browed Weavers Plocepasser mahali". Ibis. 124 (4): 511–522. doi:10.1111/j.1474-919X.1982.tb03795.x.
  8. ^ Fry, C.H. & Keith, S. (2004) The birds of Africa vol. VII. Christopher Helm, London
  9. ^ BirdLife International (2018). "Quelea quelea". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2018: e.T22719128A132125738. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2018-2.RLTS.T22719128A132125738.en. Retrieved 12 November 2021.

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit