Scientific Name :Ploceus philippinus
Tamil Name: Thukanang kuruvi
Descripton: These are sparrow-sized (15 cm) and in their non-breeding plumage, both males and females resemble female house sparrows. They have a stout conical bill and a short square tail. It is dark brown streaked fulvous buff above, plain (unstreaked) whitish fulvous below, eyebrow long and buff colored, bill is horn colored and no mask. Breeding males have a bright yellow crown, dark brown mask, blackish brown bill, upper parts are dark brown streaked with yellow, with a yellow breast and cream buff below.
Distribution and status : The Baya weaver (Ploceus philippinus) is a weaverbird found across the Indian Subcontinent and Southeast Asia. They are widespread and common within their range but are prone to local seasonal movements mainly in response to rain and food availability. Among the population variations, three subspecies are recognized
Habitat : Flocks of these birds are found in grasslands, cultivated areas, scrub and secondary growth and they are best known for their hanging retort shaped nests woven from leaves. These nest colonies are usually found on thorny trees or palm fronds and the nests are often built near water or hanging over water where predators cannot reach easily.
Habits: Baya weavers are social and gregarious birds. They forage in flocks for seeds, both on the plants and on the ground. Flocks fly in close formations, often performing complicated manoeuvres.
Food: They are known to glean paddy and other grain in harvested fields, and occasionally damage ripening crops and are therefore sometimes considered as pests. They roost in reed-beds bordering water bodies. They depend on wild grasses such as Guinea grass (Panicum maximum) as well as crops like rice for both their food (feeding on seedlings in the germination stage as well as on early stages of grain) and nesting material. They also feed on insects (including butterflies), sometimes taking small frogs, geckos and mollusks, especially to feed their young. Their seasonal movements are governed by food availability.
Life cycle:: The breeding season of the baya weavers is during the monsoons. Weaver birds are important in the country side in the villages in India. Their nests are often protected by villagers due to the elaborate nesting activities by males to attract females. They nest in colonies typically of up to 20-30, close to the source of food, nesting material and water. Baya weavers are best known for the elaborately woven nests constructed by the males. These pendulous nests are retort-shaped, with a central nesting chamber and a long vertical tube that leads to a side entrance to the chamber. The nests are woven with long strips of paddy leaves, rough grasses and long strips torn from palm fronds. The birds use their strong beaks to strip and collect the strands, and to weave and knot them while building their nests. The nests are often built hanging over water from palm trees and often suspended from thorny Acacias and in some cases from telephone wires. Although the birds prefer thorny trees, they sometimes use avenue trees in urban areas. Nests are often located on the eastern side of the tree, where they are believed to provide shelter from the Southwest Monsoon; however, late breeders are more likely to build their nests in other orientations relative to the trunk of the nest tree.
Nests are built mainly in colonies but isolated nests are not unknown. The nests are partially built before the males begin to display to passing females by flapping their wings and calling while hanging from their nests. The females inspect the nest and signal their acceptance of a male. Once a male and a female are paired, the male goes on to complete the nest by adding the entrance tunnel. Males are almost solely in charge of nest building, though their female partners may join in giving the finishing touches, particularly on the interiors. The female lays about 2 to 4 white eggs and incubates them for about 14 to 17 days. Males may sometimes assist in feeding the chicks. The chicks leave the nest after about 17 days. After mating with a female the male typically court other females at other partially constructed nests.
Role in the environment: Though a pests of crops the local villagers tolerate the presence of this bird as they are beautiful and social birds with a distinct life cycle.
Photo source: Dr. J. Patrick David