White-browed Sparrow-Weaver

Plocepasser mahali

The White-browed Sparrow Weaver is a dominant and conspicuous inhabitant of drier woodlands, thornveld, savannas and grasslands. They usually move around in small flocks of 4-10 birds, feeding on a wide variety of fruit, seeds, leaves and insects on the ground. Adults grow to 19cm in length and weigh around 50g.

White-browed Sparrow-Weavers nest in small colonies, building untidy grass nests in taller trees (including exotics) or artificial structures (like utility poles), in which they stay throughout the year. Families of White-browed Sparrow-Weavers aggressively defend their territories against intruding neighbours. Each bird in the group has its own nest, and only the dominant, monogamous, pair in the group breed. While breeding has been recorded throughout the year in response to rain, there is a definite peak in the warm summer months. Sleeping nests can be identified by having two entrances, while breeding nests have a single opening. The dominant female is responsible for incubating the clutch of 1-3 eggs for 2 weeks but the entire group assists her in the feeding of the chicks as they grow. The chicks fledge when they’re about 3 weeks old.

The IUCN describes the White-browed Sparrow-Weaver as being common to abundant and lists it is “least concern“. They occur from Ethiopia south to Angola and South Africa. In South Africa, White-browed Sparrow-Weavers are found mainly in the drier north-western parts of the country – the provinces of the Northern Cape, North West, Free State, Gauteng and Limpopo and parts of Mpumalanga and the Eastern Cape – and it would appear that they are expanding their range and increasing their numbers.


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