Out Of This World Exploring The Unknown

Marvel at the handiwork of the sociable weaver bird

These enormous nests are built by birds who weigh little more than an ounce

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Sociable weavers are unusually friendly birds, inviting multiple bird species to live in their nest colonies. Image by Dillon Marsh Photography

Although humans can build some pretty impressive nests themselves, one humbling look at the handiwork of the sociable weaver bird of southern Africa will remind anyone who the true masters of nest-craft are. Often resembling enormous bell-shaped haystacks and housing hundreds of birds at a time, these nest neighborhoods can grow in excess of 20 feet wide and 10 feet tall, all woven twig by twig by tiny birds weighing little more than an ounce. Sociable weavers are unusually friendly, inviting different species of birds to live in their avian apartment blocks. In fact, the South African pygmy falcon has become a permanent resident, relying completely on weaver nests for their housing needs.

Being friendly has its benefits. More birds means more eyes watching for predators, and weavers often learn from their neighbors where to find food. The nests may be used by several generations of birds and must be constantly repaired and maintained. The birds are diligent, though, as some weaver nests have been known to last more than a century. Like most birds, weavers like to build their nests high, and their penchant for taking up residence on utility poles has become both a curiosity and a curse in southern Africa. Causing outages and sparking fires, the monster nests sometimes overburden and interfere with the infrastructure they’ve co-opted. Check out these woven wonders below.

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Nests like these may be used by several generations of birds and, with proper maintenance, can last more than a century. Image by Dillon Marsh Photography

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Weaver nests built on utility poles have become both a curiosity and a curse in southern Africa, causing outages and sparking fires. Image by WikiCommons

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Like most birds, weavers prefer to build their nests up high. Tall trees or utility poles are the norm, but the odd weather vane will do. Image by Karen Corby

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Weaver nests can grow to more than 20 feet wide and 10 feet tall, sometimes outgrowing the infrastructure they’ve co-opted. Image by Ralph Malan

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Being neighborly has advantages as more birds means more eyes to both spot predators and find food. Image by Paffy

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The largest weaver nest colonies will house hundreds of birds at a time. Image by WikiCommons

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Entrances to each individual nest are usually visible from below and create a honeycomb effect. Image by Ralph Malan

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These busy builders are only about 5 1/2 inches long and weigh just over an ounce. Image by Frank Vassen