The sociable weaver (Philetairus socius), also commonly known as the common social weaver, common social-weaver, and social weaver, meeasures around 14 cm (5.5 in) in length. The sociable weaver has a black chin, black barred flanks and a scalloped back. They weigh 26-32 g (0.92-1.13 oz), and sexes are indistinguishable.
Habitat and Distribution
The species ranges across northwestern South Africa, southwest Botswana and extending northwards across Namibia. It is strongly associated with the arid savannahs characteristic of the southern Kalahari region. The presence of stiff grasses such as Aristida ciliata and Stipagrostis, an important nesting material is an important determinant of its distribution. The taller grasses and the fire-prone nature of the Northern and Central Kalahari regions may be a factor for the absence of the bird in those regions. The area is semi-arid with low and unpredictable rainfall occurring mostly in the summer.
The sociable weaver is insectivorous with insects comprising 80% of their diet. As an adaptation to living in the dry Kalahari Desert, where standing water is scarce, the sociable weaver obtains all of its water from a diet of insects. They also feed on seed and other plant products. Foraging is predominantly on the ground, but also on bark and leaves of trees.
In the southern range of the weaver's habitat, breeding may occur any time of the year and is closely linked to rainfall. In the northern range, discrete breeding season between December to August has been noted. They may skip breeding during years when there is low rainfall and a substantial number (sometimes over half) of birds in the colony may never breed in a given season. Under typical conditions, weavers raise up to four broods per breeding cycle. Sociable weavers are known to assist in the care of younger siblings and unrelated hatchlings and nearly all pairs are assisted by helpers. A mating pair has been recorded as producing nine broods in a single season in response to repeated predation of its young. Unlike northern temperate passerine birds which commence breeding within the first year of life, sociable weavers exhibit delayed onset of breeding, sometimes up to two years of age. Sociable weavers construct permanent nests on trees and other tall objects. These nests are the largest built by any bird, and are large enough to house over a hundred pairs of birds, containing several generations at a time. The nests are highly structured and provide birds with a more advantageous temperature relative to the outside. Nests built in electricity poles sometimes cause short circuits in the rainy season and can catch fire in the dry season.