Skip to Main Content
San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance logo
San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance Library logo

Sociable Weaver (Philetairus socius) Fact Sheet: Diet & Feeding


Insectivorous and granivorous (from Maclean 1967; Maclean 1973e)

  • Insects and seeds compose nearly the entire diet
    • Insects
      • Harvester termite (Hodotermes mossambicus)
        • Dominant dietary staple
        • Eaten year-round
      • Moths and butterfly larvae
      • Small grasshoppers
      • Adult wasps and moths occasionally eaten
    • Seeds
      • Prefer green grass seeds with a high water content

Uncommonly eaten foods (from Maclean 1967; Maclean 1973e)

  • Soft fruit and portions of flowers and grass stems

Feeding and Drinking

Feeding (from Maclean 1967; Maclean 1973e unless otherwise noted)

  • Feed in flocks
    • Stand on the ground to gather food, most often
      • Capture insects in flight on occasion
      • Perch on flower to eat at times
    • Move forward in a ‘leap-frog’ fashion
      • Birds behind fly over those in front to land at the head of the flock
  • Seeds picked off the ground, typically
    • Flick bill to uncover seeds covered with sand
    • Husk grass seeds before being swallowed
    • Crack larger seeds (e.g. legumes) before eating
  • Harvester termites unearthed from soil cones and swallowed whole
    • Flick cones with the bill to break open and gain access
  • Other terrestrial insects
    • Adult grasshoppers
      • Beak captures and manipulates adult grasshoppers
      • Hold prey by the abdomen and beat its head and thorax on the ground before consumption
    • Insect larvae
      • Picked from the ground or dug (with the beak) from soil burrows
        • Swallow small larvae whole or ‘pulp’ larger larvae
        • Dismember large beetle larvae
  • Flying insects
    • Uncommonly capture food while in flight


  • Rarely (if ever) drink from water sources in the wild (Maclean 1967; Maclean 1973e)

Colonies Feed Together

Sociable Weaver Feeding

Birds travel to feeding locations together and feed as a flock on the ground. Seeds and insects are plucked off the ground with the beak; the feet are often seen kicking loose soil to expose buried food.

Image credit: © CraftOlogy from Flickr. Some rights reserved.

Page Citations

Maclean (1967)
Maclean (1973e)

SDZWA Library Links