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Friday, May 4, 2012

Baya - the Bird Architect

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The Baya weaver birds are the master Architects in Bird’s world. They build the nest in perfect shape and size. The males Build the nest and invite the female to inspect and certify. If the likes it, then it will mate and start breeding. If it doesn’t like the nest, the male has to build a new nest. The Baya weaver male, build different nests to please different females. So, number of wives depends on the number of nest it builds.

Most of us have seen the Baya birds – peculiar birds of monsoon season. These beautiful birds are found in many states of India and of course in many countries of the world. These birds are also found all over British India, Java and Sumatra.

The baya bird is a weaver bird. It weaves its nest that hangs from a tree and swings in air. I have seen many nests of baya birds hanging from a single tree in many rural and sub-urban areas whenever I happened to pass through these areas in monsoon season.

The biological name of this bird is Ploceus philippinus. Now you may think that this bird may surely be found in Philippines and that is why it has been named so. But, it is not correct. Baya is not found in Philippines. These birds are found across South and Southeast Asia and inhabit grassland, cultivated areas, scrub and secondary growths usually near fresh or brackish water.
Naturalists have recognized three geographical races of baya birds found in different parts of India. These three races are 

·         The race philippinus is found through much of mainland India.
  • The race burmanicus is found eastwards into Southeast Asia.
  • A third race travancoreensis is darker above and found in southwest India.

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. Non-breeding males and females look alike, dark brown streaked fulvous buff above, plain (unstreaked) whitish fulvous below, eyebrows long buffy, 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.

Habits of weaver birds

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 skills. They are known to glean paddy and other grain in harvested fields. They 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 paddy for both their food and nesting material. They also feed on insects. The seasonal movement of these birds is governed by the availability of food.

Nest Weaving
The breeding season of the Baya Weavers is during the monsoon. They nest in colonies of up to 20-30, close to the source of food, nesting material and water. The nests are often built hanging over water. Baya Weavers are best known for their elaborately woven nests. 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. Each strip that these birds tear off; can be 20 to 60cm in length. A male bird is known to make up to 500 trips to complete a nest. The birds use their strong beaks to strip and collect the strands, and to weave and knot them while building their nests.

Nests of Baya Birds

Breeding behavior

During the breeding season the males begin building nests. The nests are partially built when the males display to passing females by flapping their wings and calling while hanging to their nests.. The females inspect and choose a nest before signaling their approval to a male. Once a male and a female are paired, the male goes on to complete the nest including the entrance tunnel, males are solely in charge of building the nests, though their female partners may join in giving the finishing touches. Studies have shown that nest location is more important than nest structure for the female decision making.

Males build many partial nests and start attracting females. A male finishes the nest to its completion only after finding a mate, after mating the female lays about 2 to 4 white eggs and incubates them. The females are solely responsible for incubating and bringing up the brood.

Key Words: Baya, weaver, architects, breeding

Image Credit: flickr.com

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