Male southern masked weaver building a nest © Groblerdu Preez / iStock
Southern masked weavers – Africa’s most widespread weaver – are true artisans, creating distinct dome nests that hang suspended in trees. To build such an abode, the male selects a suitable branch, strips it of any leaves, then knots a long, thin blade of grass around it (no easy task when using just your beak and feet).
From this he weaves a sturdy hoop, continuing to thread, knot and plait until his construction resembles a neat oval dome. The whole process takes about five days, and the more experienced the weaver, the more intricate and attractive the results.
When he is finished, the male advertises the residence to potential mates with fluttering wings and song, but females are picky and select only the freshest, finest abodes. Indeed a male may have to build several before a partner is satisfied enough to move in, lining the nest herself before laying her eggs.