Finding direction with Buffalo weaver nests

The Red-billed buffalo weaver (Bubalornis niger) is a common bird in parts of Southern Africa. These birds have the largest body size of all weavers and are common in dry woodland and savannas. Buffalo weavers have a peculiar trait when getting used to humans, they will try to stay around settlements and even vacate an area if these humans are leaving.

Finding direction West to North-West

Red-billed buffalo weavers usually build their nests on the Western to North-western side of large trees. These trees are often standing solitary. And therefore, these nests can be seen from a good distance away. With this indication, it is possible to determine direction on an overcast day.

But, as always in nature, there will be exceptions. Especially when a bigger buffalo weaver colony is breeding in one tree, there will be exceptions to the rule.

Buffalo weaver nests and breeding

The nests themselves are an untidy conglomerate of thorny twigs, which in total represent a very sturdy construction. They are often used by Verreaux’s eagle owls or White-backed vultures as a breeding platform. And this symbiosis is mutually advantageous. Owls and vultures have a ready-made platform, and the buffalo weavers are protected against predators from above.

Into the stick nests, some entrance- and exit tunnels are leading, and within the whole nest, there a individual chambers for various females. Males are polygynous and try to attract as many females as possible. After mating, the females furnish their breeding chambers with green grass and leaves and only they will incubate and care for the young.

There are two more peculiarities of buffalo weavers, both related to breeding. Firstly, these birds have the longest mating time of all birds, which will last up to two minutes. Normally birds are finished in seconds. Secondly, another fact is, that buffalo weavers of both sexes got a pseudo-penis, whose function is currently not fully known to science. See the following link.

Lessons learned from Red-billed buffalo weaver nests:

  • Red-billed buffalo weaver nests are usually built on the Western to North-western side of large trees
  • These trees are often standing alone
  • On overcast days, the direction W-NW can therefore be determined

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