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Sociable Weaver (Philetairus socius) Fact Sheet: Summary

Sociable Weaver (Philetairus socius) Fact Sheet

a Sociable Weaver

Sociable Weaver (Philetairus socius)

Image credit: © San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. All rights reserved.


Taxonomy Physical Characteristics

Describer (Date): Latham (1790)

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Aves

Order: Passeriformes

Family: Passeridae/Ploceidae

Genus: Philetairus

Species: Philetairus socius

Body Weight:
Male: 24-32 g (0.84-1.1 oz)
Female: 24-32 g (0.84-1.1 oz)

Total Length:
c. 140 mm (5.5 in)

Wing Length:
Male: 72-79 mm (2.8-3.1 in)
Female: 70-78 mm (2.8-3.1 in)

Tail Length:
Male: 42-48 mm (1.7-1.9 in)
Female: 41-47 mm (1.6-1.9 in)

Bill Length:
Male: 16-18 mm (0.63-0.71 in)
Female: 17-19.5 mm (0.66-0.77 in)

Plumage: Cryptically colored, brown bird. Breast and belly creamy; a black throat patch extends from the base of the bill down onto the chin and throat. A small patch of white-edged, black feathers located on either flank.

Distribution & Status Behavior & Ecology

Range: Found year-round in southern Africa from Namibia to Botswana and South Africa. Non-migratory.

Habitat: Acacia savannahs of the Kalahari and Namib deserts. Range coincides with that of stout trees and stiff dry grasses that provide needed building material for large nests.

IUCN Status: Least Concern (2016 assessment)

CITES Appendix: Not listed

Population in Wild: Range-wide population not quantified, though local distributions are often described as being common to abundant. One estimate of c. 16,000 birds in Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.

Locomotion: On the ground, shuffle feet to walk for one or two steps. Hop most commonly; feet held together, only coming slightly apart . In flight, agile and highly maneuverable. Cover short distances with rapidly beating wings. Alternating patterns of wing beats characterize long distance flights; bursts of rapid beats interrupted by a dip in the flight path as the wings are closed.

Activity Cycle: Diurnal birds. Activity begins near dawn. Sleep in nest chambers at night.

Social Groups: Highly social, birds cooperatively build and maintain large nests which may house up to 500 individuals. Non-reproductive adults often sere as helpers, feeding young chicks of fellow colony members.

Diet: Eat insects and grains (typically grass seeds). Typical foods include harvester termites (Hodotermes mossambicus) and the seeds of green grasses.

Predators: Cape cobra (Naja nivea) and boomslang (Dispholidus typus) snakes are common nest predators. Various raptors may take adults in flight. Birds on the ground may fall prey to yellow and red mongoose (Cynoctis penicillata, Myonax ratlamuchi), caracal (Felis caracal), and Cape wild cat (F. lybica).

Reproduction & Development Species Highlights

Incubation: 13-15 days; begins with laying of the second egg in a clutch.

Clutch Size: 2-6 eggs

Eggs Characteristics:
Shell dull-white and densely spotted with shades of gray; measure 18.1-22.8 mm (tall) x 13.2-15.9 mm (wide) (0.7-0.9 in x 0.5-0.6 in).

Interclutch Interval: Variable; Quickly produce a replacement clutch following an unsuccessful brooding attempt, most often within 1 week. Produce multiple clutches within a single reproductive period when conditions are suitable.

Age at Fledging: 21-24 days

Fledging Weight: 18-35 g (0.6-1.2 oz)

Feature Facts

  • Live in large colonies
  • Build large, elaborate nests, which can can measure nearly 7 m (23 ft) in diameter
  • Many animals including insects, birds, and reptiles use Sociable Weaver nests for shelter
  • Mate pairs may remain together for several years
  • Small home range; remain near nests
  • Dominance status appears to correlate with bib size
  • Vocalize very frequently; many types of calls
  • Rarely (if ever) drink from water sources

About This Fact Sheet

© 2015 San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. Updated May 2015.

How to cite: Sociable Weaver (Philetairus socius) Fact Sheet. c2015. San Diego (CA): San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance; [accessed YYYY Mmm dd]. sociableweaver.
(note: replace YYYY Mmm dd with date accessed, e.g., 2014 Sep 15)

Disclaimer: Although San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance makes every attempt to provide accurate information, some of the facts provided may become outdated or replaced by new research findings. Questions and comments may be addressed to


We wish to thank Dr. Rita Covas for providing expert content review of this fact sheet.
Dr. Covas began studying the Sociable Weaver in South Africa in 1998. Her work has advanced understanding of cooperative breeding systems and their relationship to life history strategies, though her research interests are not limited to this topic.
Dr. Covas is currently a Senior Researcher at CIBIO, University of Porto (Portugal), and she serves as a research associate with the Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology.

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