City in a Tree

Last week when I wrote about the Avian Architecture book, Sharon Leadbitter commented on two amazing nests she’d seen on the web.  Here’s one of them.

Sociable weavers (Philetairus socius) are sparrow-sized birds who live in the Kalahari desert in Namibia, Botswana and South Africa.

Unlike most birds who build a nest for their own babies and then abandon it when the young have flown, sociable weavers build a permanent structure that functions as a communal nest and roost.  It’s the size of a small car, the largest nest found anywhere, and can house up to 100 pairs of birds, their children and grandchildren.

The top of the nest is basically flat while the underside, shown above, is dotted with entries to the chambers.  The weavers build it entirely of straws which they shove into the structure.  This BBC video by David Attenborough shows how the weavers do it.

Sociable weavers are such good builders that other species, such as the pygmy falcon, nest in the empty chambers while the weavers live there.

It’s an amazing feat for a small bird. They’ve built a city in a tree.

(photo BBC Worldwide video posted on

4 thoughts on “City in a Tree

  1. There’s over 50 different species of weaver birds … they have a Taveta Golden Weaver at the Aviary

    I just find them so fascinating. The one I’m most familiar with is the red and white billed buffalo weavers .. so named because they feed off of the ticks, flies and other “passengers” on the Cape Buffalo. If you have the opportunity to watch them for a while, either through webcams or in a zoo setting or, to be so lucky, in their natural habitat – you’ll be hooked on these quirky, curious and sociable birds

  2. Very interesting! I love how the pygmy falcon also takes advantage of the commune. Hopefully, they are good neighbors 😉

  3. I wonder how those poor birds felt about David Attenborough shining his flashlight up into their bedrooms. Pretty rude of him if you ask me 😉

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