14 02 2014 Weaver Bird Nest Building
Image: Peter Webb

When the male weaver bird's breeding clock starts ticking in spring, all hell breaks loose. His mind whirrs with hormonal excitement (everything screams: breed! breed!). His feathers go from drab to fab, turning brilliant yellow, with stark black feathers surrounding a piercing, blood-red eye. The colour change is key – he'll need all that flash to attract a mate. And it's a good thing his energy levels are off the charts ... he's after as many mates as he can possibly woo.

First things first, though: he needs to build a house. In the weaver's world, only homeowners get the girl. In a mad frenzy, he sets about gathering leaves and clearing branches for all of the construction work that's about to ensue. As this is the southern masked weaver (Ploceus velatus), his nest will be a woven basket of leaves and grasses hanging from the tip of a drooping branch – often with panoramic views over water.

But this is only the start of the season and his home-building skills are a little rusty (give him a break – it’s been a long, lazy winter). His first attempt takes roughly two days ... and the result fails to pass quality control. The ladies give it a once-over and move on to better things.

Oh, the fury! He tears the nest down in a fit of rage, removing every last scrap of evidence of his failure (even pieces that fall into the tree branches below are hauled off to ensure they can never be used again).

And it's back to the drawing board. He's in for many more doses of bitter disappointment as the build-and-break-down process goes from days to weeks, in between battles with intruding rivals. Finally, after all of the practice runs and with his home-making skills honed to perfection, a suitably impressed female agrees to move in. It's a much-needed confidence boost – after all, he's aiming for up to 20 mates this season!

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