The birds that weave magical nests
The Oldie Magazine|May 2020
The birds that weave magical nests
We had already spent an entrancing hour birding on Tanzania’s Lake Manze – imperious, white-chested fish eagles soaring overhead; glossy, blue, wire tailed swallows flitting over the water; stately yellow-billed storks patrolling the shore.
JAMES LE FANU

We were enchanted by the numerous nesting black-headed herons, crowded together with their offspring on a tree-covered island, and had spied three brilliantly ultramarine malachite kingfishers glistening like jewels in the green foliage. Twitchers’ paradise!

The best was still to come. We heard it first: a twittering of excitement almost drowning out the putt-putt of the outboard motor. A tall, solitary palm tree rose out of the water, besieged, or so it seemed, by dozens of bright yellow weaverbirds busily weaving their globular-shaped nests.

It took time to take it all in as they darted to and fro, wings whirring, strips of palm leaves clutched in their beaks, swooping into the round opening on the undersurface of their nests and popping out again like an excitable swarm of oversized bees.

That gymnastic agility and purposiveness is more impressive still when one reflects on how they weave from the air these seemingly fragile nests that will yet be strong and flexible enough to sustain the combined weight of the brooding mother and her clutch of growing chicks.

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May 2020