Malawi, September-October 2008

Page 13: Sparrows, Weavers, Bishops and Widowbirds

All dates between 22nd and 30th relate to September, all dates from 1st to 10th relate to October.

 

House Sparrow Passer domesticus [13]

Not a native species to Malawi but arrived in the 1960s having spread from an introduced population in coastal SE Africa. Apparently it can now be found across most regions in Malawi though it is still spreading - I only found them at 2 locations: 10 Satemwa Tea Factory (Thyolo) 29th and up to 3 Cool Runnings (Senga Bay) 9th-10th.

House Sparrow, Senga Bay, 9-Oct-08 Southern House Sparrows, Thyolo, 29-Sep-08

House Sparrow, Senga Bay, 9th October

 

House Sparrows, Satemwa Tea Factory (Thyolo), 29th September

 

Southern Grey-headed Sparrow Passer diffusus [36]

Two forms of Grey-headed Sparrow occur in Malawi: stygiceps in the Lower Shire Valley and south end of Lake Malawi and mosambicus throughout the country. Most authorities treat both of these forms as races of Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, however Birds of Malawi suggests that mosambicus might be better placed with (Northern) Grey-headed Sparrow Passer griseus. It also suggests that the form stygiceps might be of hybrid origin.

Grey-headed Sparrow spp. recorded as follows: at Liwonde 7 24th and 23 25th; 4 Makuzi 8th and up to 2 Cool Runnings (Senga Bay) 9th-10th. Liwonde falls within the range plotted in Birds of Malawi for stygiceps whereas the others should be mosambicus, whichever species that is.

Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, Liwonde, 24-Sep-08 Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, Liwonde, 25-Sep-08

Southern Grey-headed Sparrows, Liwonde, 24th-25th September - race stygiceps?

 

Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, Makuzi, 8-Oct-08 Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, Makuzi, 8-Oct-08
Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, Makuzi, 8-Oct-08 Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, Makuzi, 8-Oct-08

Southern Grey-headed Sparrows, Makuzi Lodge, 8th October - race mosambicus, sometimes treated as race of (Northern) Grey-headed Sparrow

 

Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, Senga Bay, 9-Oct-08 Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, Senga Bay, 9-Oct-08

Southern Grey-headed Sparrows, Senga Bay, 9th October - race mosambicus, sometimes treated as race of (Northern) Grey-headed Sparrow

 

Yellow-throated Petronia Petronia superciliaris [6]

Up to 6 Dzalanyama 1st-2nd.

Yellow-throated Petronia, Dzalanyama, 2-Oct-08 Yellow-throated Petronia, Dzalanyama, 2-Oct-08

Yellow-throated Petronia, Dzalanyama, 2nd October

 

White-browed Sparrow-Weaver Plocepasser mahali [100]

Up to 100 Liwonde 23rd and 25th. Most of these were along the track between the entrance to the park and Mvuu Camp - relatively few around Mvuu itself, hence only 2 on 24th.

White-browed Sparrow-Weaver, Liwonde, 23-Sep-08 White-browed Sparrow-Weaver, Liwonde, 23-Sep-08
White-browed Sparrow-Weaver, Liwonde, 25-Sep-08 White-browed Sparrow-Weaver, Liwonde, 23-Sep-08

White-browed Sparrow-Weavers, Liwonde, 23rd-25th September

 

Red-headed Weaver Anaplectes rubriceps [1]

1 at the entrance to Liwonde 23rd. When I saw it the guard was waiting for me to drive through the gate so I only had time for a single blurry photo.

Red-headed Weaver, Liwonde, 23-Sep-08  

Red-headed Weaver, Liwonde, 23rd September

 

Bertram's Weaver (Bertrand's Weaver) Ploceus bertrandi [1]

1 near Zomba Forest Lodge 27th.

 

Spectacled Weaver Ploceus ocularis [6]

1 Malosa 23rd, 1 Liwonde 25th, 1 nesting near Zomba Forest Lodge 27th, 1 Makuzi Lodge 8th and up to 2 (adult with juvenile) 9th-10th.

Spectacled Weaver, Liwonde, 25-Sep-08 Spectacled Weaver, Malosa, 23-Sep-08

Spectacled Weaver, Liwonde, 25th September

 

Spectacled Weaver, Malosa, 23rd September

 

Spectacled Weaver, Zomba Plateau, 27-Sep-08 Spectacled Weaver, Zomba Plateau, 27-Sep-08
Spectacled Weaver, Zomba Plateau, 27-Sep-08  

Spectacled Weaver, near Zomba Forest Lodge, 27th September

 

Yellow Weaver (African Golden Weaver) Ploceus subaureus [41]

1-2 Dzalanyama 2nd, 10 Makuzi Lodge 8th and 30 between Makuzi and Salima 8th.

Yellow Weaver, Makuzi, 8-Oct-08 Yellow Weaver, Makuzi, 8-Oct-08
Yellow Weaver, Makuzi, 8-Oct-08 Yellow Weaver, Makuzi, 8-Oct-08

Yellow Weavers, Makuzi Lodge, 8th October

 

Yellow Weaver, Dzalanyama, 2-Oct-08  

Yellow Weaver, Dzalanyama, 2nd October

 

Southern Brown-throated Weaver Ploceus xanthopterus [15]

Up to 12 Liwonde 23rd-25th, probably involving over 15 birds. These were very easy to see around Mvuu Camp, even visiting the tables and chairs at the restaurant to find crumbs after the paying guests had finished eating!

Southern Brown-throated Weaver, Liwonde, 23-Sep-08 Southern Brown-throated Weaver, Liwonde, 23-Sep-08
Southern Brown-throated Weaver, Liwonde, 24-Sep-08 Southern Brown-throated Weaver, Liwonde, 24-Sep-08

Southern Brown-throated Weavers, Liwonde, 23rd-24th September

 

Lesser Masked Weaver Ploceus intermedius [23]

Up to 22 Liwonde 23rd-25th. Less common than Southern Brown-throated Weaver at Mvuu Camp but higher numbers in total due to nesting flocks at the riverside. Also a female photographed in the colony of Village and Yellow Weavers at Makuzi Lodge 8th, although no males seen among these.

Lesser Masked Weaver, Liwonde, 23-Sep-08 Lesser Masked Weaver, Liwonde, 23-Sep-08
Lesser Masked Weaver, Liwonde, 24-Sep-08 Lesser Masked Weaver, Liwonde, 24-Sep-08

Lesser Masked Weavers, Liwonde, 23rd-24th September

 

Lesser Masked Weaver, Makuzi, 8-Oct-08 Lesser Masked Weaver, Makuzi, 8-Oct-08

Lesser Masked Weaver, Makuzi Lodge, 8th October

 

Southern Masked Weaver (African Masked Weaver) Ploceus velatus [-]

2 possibles Vwaza Marsh 4th - I'm not sure about the identity of these, one of which is shown in the dreadful photos below - if you can shed any light please get in touch. The rather bright-edged flight feathers recalled Southern Brown-throated Weaver, which is perhaps possible, but the pattern of the wing-coverts and pale upper mandible is at odds with the birds seen at Liwonde. Also the eye seems like it might not be dark enough.

Southern Masked Weaver, Vwaza Marsh, 4-Oct-08 Southern Masked Weaver, Vwaza Marsh, 4-Oct-08

probable Southern Masked Weaver, Vwaza Marsh, 4th October

 

Village Weaver (Spotted-backed Weaver) Ploceus cucullatus [22]

12 nesting at Makuzi Lodge 8th. In addition I carelessly dismissed a colony of red-eyed, dark-hooded weavers along the river at Lilongwe 10th as Village Weavers; as I didn't have much time and knew I'd already got photos of this species I didn't take any record shots, but in hindsight I wondered whether or not they could have been Southern Masked Weavers. I have since discovered that there are indeed Village Weavers nesting along the river here so I assume that my original ID was correct.

Village Weaver, Makuzi, 8-Oct-08 Village Weaver, Makuzi, 8-Oct-08

Village Weavers, Makuzi Lodge, 8th October

 

Forest Weaver (Dark-backed Weaver) Ploceus bicolor [4]

1 near Zomba Forest Lodge 27th, 2 Ruo Gorge (Mulanje) 29th and 1 Thyolo Mountain 30th.

Forest Weaver, Thyolo, 30-Sep-08 Forest Weaver, Thyolo, 30-Sep-08

Forest Weaver, Thyolo Mountain, 30th September

 

Forest Weaver, Zomba Plateau, 27-Sep-08 Forest Weaver, Zomba Plateau, 27-Sep-08

Forest Weaver, near Zomba Forest Lodge, 27th September

 

Forest Weaver, Zomba Plateau, 27-Sep-08  

Forest Weaver, Ruo Gorge (Mulanje), 29th September

 

Red-billed Quelea Quelea quelea [70]

70 Liwonde 25th. At the time I thought these were likely to be Red-billed Queleas but was concerned by the dullness of the red bills. The strength of red varied, but none were brighter red than the right-hand bird in the photo below. On returning home I still can't find any reference confirming that the bill colour is ok but two experienced birders who are regular visitors to Africa (thanks Martin and Duncan) both suggested Red-billed Quelea as the ID.

Red-billed Queleas, Liwonde, 25-Sep-08  

apparent Red-billed Queleas, Liwonde, 25th September

 

Black-winged Bishop Euplectes hordeaceus [2]

Generally the non-breeding plumaged Bishops were impossible (for me) to identify but single very contrastingly dark-winged birds (in flight) among Bishop flocks were presumably males of this species: 1 Lake Chilwa 26th and 1 Dzalanyama 2nd. It's possible that the whole flocks were Black-winged Bishops, but I suspect they were mixed flocks.

 

Yellow Bishop (Yellow-rumped Bishop) Euplectes capensis [2]

1 near Liwonde 23rd and 1 Nyika 7th; both were in small flocks which may all have been the same species.

Yellow Bishop, Liwonde, 23-Sep-08  

Yellow Bishop, near Liwonde, 23rd September

 

White-winged Widowbird (White-winged Whydah) Euplectes albonotatus [1]

A possible female Liwonde 24th and a much easier male Vwaza Marsh 4th.

White-winged Widowbird, Vwaza Marsh, 4-Oct-08 White-winged Widowbird, Vwaza Marsh, 4-Oct-08

White-winged Widowbird, Vwaza Marsh, 4th October

 

Yellow-shouldered Widowbird (Yellow-shouldered Whydah) Euplectes (macroura) macrocercus [3]

3+ Addis Ababa Airport 22nd. Yellow-shouldered Widowbird and Yellow-mantled Widowbird (below) are often considered conspecific.

 

Yellow-mantled Widowbird (Yellow-mantled Whydah) Euplectes (macroura) macroura [15]

Up to 15 Dzalanyama 1st-2nd. This form is often treated as a race of Yellow-shouldered Widowbird (above). I'm not 100% sure if the birds in the photographs below are the birds that I identified in the field as this species - please let me know if you can confirm what they are!

Yellow-mantled Widowbird, Dzalanyama, 1-Oct-08 Yellow-mantled Widowbird, Dzalanyama, 1-Oct-08
Yellow-mantled Widowbird, Dzalanyama, 1-Oct-08 Yellow-mantled Widowbird, Dzalanyama, 1-Oct-08

Probable Yellow-mantled Widowbirds, Dzalanyama, 1st October. If I heard and remember rightly, Ben (local Malawi guide) mentioned the pale central crown stripe was a diagnostic feature of this species (presumably in separating them from other Euplectes only), but I can't find any reference to it in the field guide - can anyone confirm whether or not I heard/remembered this right?

 

Montane Widowbird (Mountain Marsh Widowbird, Buff-shouldered Widowbird) Euplectes psammocromius [60+]

60+ Nyika 5th and 6th. This species has a very small world distribution, restricted to southern Tanzania and the Nyika Plateau in Malawi. It proved very common at Nyika, especially between the airstrip and the dams. Its identification was much easier than other species of Bishop and Widowbird because unlike the others the males of this species attain breeding plumage by late September/early October.

Montane Widowbird, Nyika, 6-Oct-08 Montane Widowbird, Nyika, 6-Oct-08
Montane Widowbird, Nyika, 6-Oct-08 Montane Widowbird, Nyika, 6-Oct-08
Montane Widowbird, Nyika, 6-Oct-08 Montane Widowbird, Nyika, 6-Oct-08
Montane Widowbird, Nyika, 5-Oct-08 Montane Widowbird, Nyika, 5-Oct-08
Montane Widowbird, Nyika, 5-Oct-08 Montane Widowbird, Nyika, 5-Oct-08
Montane Widowbird, Nyika, 5-Oct-08 Montane Widowbird, Nyika, 5-Oct-08
Montane Widowbird, Nyika, 5-Oct-08  

Montane Widowbirds, Nyika Plateau, 5th-6th October

 

Bishop/Widowbird sp. Euplectes sp. [-]

Up to 40 Dzalanyama 1st-2nd, 500 Vwaza Marsh 4th and 5 Nyika 7th. With the exception of the birds at Dzalanyama, the small size, absence of dark wings, yellow rumps/shoulders or other distinguishing marks made me wonder if these were most likely Red Bishops (Southern Red Bishops) Euplectes orix. One of the birds in the large flock at Vwaza shows quite a bit of white in the wings - could White-winged Bishop be a better ID? That species is meant to be common at Vwaza (I saw at least one, above), but most of the birds didn't seem to have an unusual amount of white on the wings whereas I'd expect the males to have done so if they were all White-winged. The flock of larger birds at Dzalanyama on 2nd contained 1 Yellow-shouldered Widowbird but the absence of yellow shoulders suggests that they were not all this species, unless it was a flock of females.

Euplectes sp., Dzalanyama, 1-Oct-08 Euplectes sp., Dzalanyama, 1-Oct-08

Euplectes sp., Dzalanyama, 1st October

 

Euplectes sp., Dzalanyama, 2-Oct-08 Euplectes sp., Dzalanyama, 2-Oct-08

Euplectes sp., Dzalanyama, 2nd October - note the lack of a pale central crown stripe on this one

 

Euplectes sp., Dzalanyama, 2-Oct-08 Euplectes sp., Dzalanyama, 2-Oct-08
Euplectes sp., Dzalanyama, 2-Oct-08  

Euplectes sp., Dzalanyama, 1st October - part of a flock of about 40

 

Euplectes sp., Vwaza Marsh, 4-Oct-08 Euplectes sp., Vwaza Marsh, 4-Oct-08
Euplectes sp., Vwaza Marsh, 4-Oct-08 Euplectes sp., Vwaza Marsh, 4-Oct-08

Euplectes sp., Vwaza Marsh, 4th October - these four photos all show the same bird, part of a very large flock (roughly 500). Note the pale crown stripe, grey bill, breast streaking and yellow wash to the throat and lores.

 

Euplectes sp., Vwaza Marsh, 4-Oct-08 Euplectes sp., Vwaza Marsh, 4-Oct-08
Euplectes sp., Vwaza Marsh, 4-Oct-08 Euplectes sp., Vwaza Marsh, 4-Oct-08

Euplectes sp., Vwaza Marsh, 4th October - these birds were in the same flock, the bird in the bottom left photo is the same as the right hand bird in the top two photos. Note the extensive white in the wings of this bird, and again, the yellow throat. The left hand bird in the upper photos seems to have a rather warm reddish face but I'm not sure if that's just the light. Still no sign of any red in any of their bills.

 

Euplectes sp., Vwaza Marsh, 4-Oct-08 Euplectes sp., Vwaza Marsh, 4-Oct-08

Euplectes sp., Vwaza Marsh, 4th October - the left hand one is another bird in the same large flock but if memory serves me correctly the right hand one, with its pinkish bill, was part of a different, smaller flock (in the same area and perhaps broken off from the other flock).

 

Euplectes sp., Nyika, 4-Oct-08 Euplectes sp., Nyika, 4-Oct-08

Euplectes sp., Nyika, 4th October - these weren't part of a large flock

 

Grosbeak Weaver (Thick-billed Weaver) Amblyospiza albifrons [4]

1 Lake Chilwa 26th, 1 flew over the dambo at Dzalanyama 1st and 3 flew over at the same time and place on 2nd.

Grosbeak Weaver, Dzalanyama, 1-Oct-08 Grosbeak Weaver, Dzalanyama, 1-Oct-08
Grosbeak Weaver, Dzalanyama, 1-Oct-08 Grosbeak Weaver, Dzalanyama, 1-Oct-08

Grosbeak Weaver, Dzalanyama, 1st October

 

Grosbeak Weaver, Lake Chilwa, 26-Sep-08 Grosbeak Weaver, Lake Chilwa, 26-Sep-08

Grosbeak Weaver, Lake Chilwa, 26th September

 

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