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The Sociable Weaver's Colonial Nest

It looks like a haystack suspended above the earth
© David Berliner & Dennis Paulson View Large

When it comes to nests, common sense suggests that large birds build large nests, and small birds build small nests. But in fact, some species of smaller birds build large nests. None, though, builds anything like the communal structures of Sociable Weavers in southern Africa’s arid plains. These House Sparrow-sized birds often live in accommodations with room for up to 500 birds. Each family has its own access hole and tunnel into a chamber within the larger complex. Some structures have persisted for more than 100 years, with constant occupation by succeeding generations. 

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Transcript: 

BirdNote®
Sociable Weavers’ Colonial Nest
Written by Bob Sundstrom

This is BirdNote.

When it comes to nests, common sense would suggest that if you’re a big bird, you build a big one — a small bird, a small one. But in fact, some species of smaller birds build large nests. None, though, build anything like the huge, communal, structures of Sociable Weavers in southern Africa’s arid plains. These House sparrow-sized birds often live in accommodations with room for up to 500 birds. [http://macaulaylibrary.org/audio/61174, use any parts in background] 

Made from stiff grass, they’re relatively cool during the intensely hot day and relatively warm during the very cold night. A colony is made up of hundreds of individual nests clumped together. Attached to acacia trees or utility poles, they look like haystacks suspended above the earth. Each pair or family of Sociable Weavers has its own access hole and tunnel into a chamber within the larger complex. 

Some structures have persisted for more than 100 years, with constant occupation by succeeding generations of Sociable Weavers. 

One drawback of these nest structures is their weight: up to a ton when dry, even more when wet. They’re so heavy they can break their supporting branches and go crashing to the earth below.

For BirdNote, I’m Michael Stein.

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Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Social Weaver [61174] recorded by Linda Macaulay.
BirdNote's theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Dominic Black

© 2016 Tune In to Nature.org     March 2016        Narrator: Michael Stein

ID#  SOCWEA-01-2016-03-29   SOCWEA-01

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