The fire velvet weaver (Latin Euplectes orix) is a small bird from the Tkachikov family (Ploceidae). It owes its name to the bright red-orange dress that males wear during the mating season. A feature of this species is a great love for singing.
Feathered soloists devote to vocals almost all day, interrupting their exercises only for eating.
The habitat occupies a significant area of the African continent south of the equator. The largest populations are observed in savannas and meadows with shrubby vegetation, located nearby reservoirs.
Representatives of this species settle in Botswana, Congo, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Uganda, Mozambique and northeastern South Africa. They nest exclusively in the north of Namibia in the vicinity of the Etosha salt marsh, which is a dried-up lake. Now there is a national park of the same name, which covers an area of about 5000 square meters. km. Currently, 4 subspecies are known.
Previously considered a subspecies of E.o. franciscanus, the western fire velvet weaver is a separate species, Euplectes franciscanus, which lives in western Africa from Senegal to Ethiopia north of the equator.
It was introduced to Puerto Rico, Martinique, Basse-Terre and Grande-Terre in the Caribbean. In the United States, there are small populations in California and Texas.
Velvet weavers nest in small colonies and lead a gregarious lifestyle. They are quite noisy and like to communicate with each other. Their singing resembles tsip-tsip sounds of different tonality and volume.
Birds prefer to spend most of their time among tall grass, where they feed on seeds of various plants and insects. They fly slowly and very low, often flapping their wings. Fireweavers form small colonies.
During the nesting period, males occupy individual home areas and actively defend their borders from the invasion of competitors.
Each male builds several nests on his territory, which are located among thickets of grass, coastal vegetation or on plantations of corn and sugar cane.
He dreams of attracting the maximum number of females with his works of architecture. In addition, the feathered builder relies on vocal abilities and almost continuously lures her friends with simple arias.
The singer usually manages to mate with several females, but only some of them approve of the nests he built, the rest rush in search of love and better living conditions to the lands of other males. The female lays 2 to 5 eggs.
In incubation of future offspring and its feeding, vociferous fathers do not take part. Incubation takes about 2 weeks. Approximately the same period is required for chicks to get stronger and move to independent existence.
The body length of adults is 12-15 cm. The constitution is dense and muscular. Brightly colored males are slightly larger and more elegant than nondescript females.
Outside the nesting period, both sexes outwardly resemble a house sparrow.
The head is brownish to the base of the beak with black stripes. The feathers on the wings and neck have a slight reddish tint. Strong dark gray beak. The lower part of the abdomen is brownish or light brown with whitish specks.
During the breeding season, the male is decorated with orange-red feathers on the head, neck, chest, back and tail. The anterior region of the head, beak and abdomen become black. The juveniles have light tips of feathers on the flight wings.
The lifespan of the fire velvet weaver in natural conditions is about 5-6 years.
Fire velvet weavers are stocky birds 12-14 cm in size, females are slightly smaller than males. Both sexes in the color of their usual plumage resemble a house sparrow (Passer domesticus
). The main color is brown, on the back there are dark stripes, on the belly there are light gray shades. Light yellow-brown stripes above the eyes. The beak is thick and tapered. Young birds have wide light tips on wing feathers.
The fiery velvet weavers sing all day long, their singing sounds like "tsip-tsip-tsip".
About the long-tailed widow female, we can say that she is a "gray mouse", as she is rather inconspicuous. The color of its upper body is sandy black, the feathers are painted with thin and black stripes, and the plumage on the chest is much lighter with pale spots. The tail feathers of the female are narrow and short, the body length is 12-14 cm. It has a conical cream-colored beak. On the one hand, this unsightly female is lost against the background of a black-velvet handsome man, and on the other hand, it is very difficult to find her among the yellow grass and faded leaves.
During the mating period, males of the fire velvet weaver are covered with elegant plumage. It turns bright orange or scarlet, with the exception of the front of the head and abdomen, which turn black. The wings and tail remain brown. The mating singing of males sounds like a very high squeak, which they emit while sitting on high blades of grass, ruffling from time to time. Sometimes they take off and slowly hover above the ground.
Fire velvet weavers build their nests in thickets of reeds, tall grass and coastal vegetation, as well as in fields of corn and sugar cane. The nests have a side entrance. Females lay three to five eggs. The males leave the incubation of eggs and the protection of the hatched chicks to the females. After two weeks of incubation, chicks are born, which leave the nest after another two weeks.
The main beauty, the original decoration of this weaver (male) is a long wide tail, which, during flight, curls like a velvet black ribbon. It is because of such a tail that this bird received an unusual name. Taking a closer look at its plumage, you can see that the longest feather (about 50 cm) is located between the sixth and eighth of the twelve tail feathers. The tail during flight is displayed vertically into a deep long keel below the male. It is because of its beauty, or rather because of its tail, that the velvet weaver flies slowly and is easy to see from afar. And in rainy weather this male cannot take off at all, because his long tail is wet and heavy. Naturally, many predators use this, and the velvet weaver becomes an easy prey. But this male is also quickly noticed by females during the mating season and prefer to flirt with such a handsome man.
Excerpt from the Fire Velvet Weaver
I felt very sorry for this sensitive, sweet little girl who, even in her death, was so worried about these completely + strangers and almost unfamiliar to her people, as many do not worry about the most dear ones ... - Probably there is some share of wisdom in suffering , without which we would not understand how dear our life is? - I said uncertainly. - Here! Grandma says that too! - the little girl was delighted. - But if people want only good, then why should they suffer? - Maybe because without pain and trials, even the best people would not really understand the same good? - I joked. But Stella for some reason did not take it as a joke at all, but very seriously said: - Yes, I think you're right ... Do you want to see what happened to Harold's son next? - already more cheerful she said. - Oh no, perhaps no more! - I begged. Stella laughed happily. - Do not be afraid, this time there will be no trouble, because he is still alive! - How - alive? - I was surprised. Immediately, a new vision appeared again and, continuing to surprise me indescribably, it turned out to be our century (!), And even our time ... A gray-haired, very pleasant person was sitting at the desk and thinking about something with concentration. The whole room was literally packed with books, they were everywhere - on the table, on the floor, on the shelves, and even on the windowsill. A huge fluffy cat sat on a small sofa and, not paying any attention to the owner, was concentrating on washing with a large, very soft paw. The whole atmosphere created the impression of "scholarship" and comfort. - This is that - he lives again. - I did not understand. Stella nodded. - And this is right now? - I did not calm down. The girl again confirmed with a nod of her cute red head. - Harold must be very strange to see his son so different. How did you find him again? - Oh, exactly the same! I just “felt” his “key” the way my grandmother taught. - Thoughtfully said Stella. - After Axel died, I looked for his essence on all the "floors" and could not find it. Then I looked among the living - and he was there again. - And do you know who he is now, in this life? - Not yet ... But I will definitely find out. I tried many times to "reach out" to him, but for some reason he does not hear me ... He is always alone and almost all the time with his books. With him only the old woman, his servant and this cat. - Well, what about Harold's wife? Did you find her too? ”I asked. - Oh, of course! You know my wife - this is my grandmother. - Stella smiled slyly. I froze in real shock. For some reason, such an incredible fact did not want to fit into my dumbfounded head ... - Grandma. - I could only say. Stella nodded, very pleased with the effect. - How so? Is that why she helped you find them? She knew. - Thousands of questions at the same time were spinning furiously in my agitated brain, and it seemed to me that I would not have time to ask everything of interest to me. I wanted to know EVERYTHING! And at the same time, I perfectly understood that no one was going to tell me "everything" ...
Charles Darwin on the long-tailed velvet weaver
Exploring the long-tailed velvet weaver, Charles Darwin first expounded his ideas about female mate selection in his book The Origin of Species by Natural Selection in 1871. Answering questions related to the original coloration of this bird, the researcher highlighted the difficult survival and poor reproduction of the long-tailed widow due to the long tail. Charles Darwin offered two explanations for the existence of such traits: these color traits are useful in the struggle between males, or are preferred by females.
FIRE WEAVER Euplectes franciscanus West African weaver (Isert, 1789)
Scientific:Euplectes franciscanusProtonym:Loxia franciscana
The fire weaver is one of the most beautiful birds - it has other names: Franciscan, orange, fire weaver, red bishop's bird, small grenadier weaver, red African finch. It is distributed in Africa, from the Sahara south to Northern Cameroon and from Senegal to Ethiopia and Somalia. There are two subspecies of fire weaver - nominal, which occupies most of the species range and small (Euplectes franciscana pusillus) - inhabiting the central and southern regions of Ethiopia and Somalia.
The male in breeding plumage is endowed with colorful plumage. The upper part of the head, ear coverts, bridle, chest and abdomen are velvety black. Throat, neck, nape, lower back, upper and lower tail coverts are bright red. On the chest, these colors are sharply separated. The wings and tail are brownish in color with a golden tint, the upper back is brownish-red. The beak is black, slightly swollen at the base, curved along the ridge, the leg is pale pink. The tail coverts in breeding plumage are very long and almost cover the tail feathers.
The female has a very modest attire. She looks like a female house sparrow. The head, back, wings and tail are covered with dark streaks, the neck, chest and sides are yellowish-brown, the abdomen is white. The beak and legs are pale pink, with a light yellow “eyebrow” extending over the eye. After molting, the female does not change the color of her plumage. The male, after the end of the breeding period, changes beyond recognition. He is dressed in the same modest outfit as his girlfriend.
“It's hard to believe that this is the same bird. True, sometimes among fans there are birds that do not change their mating attire after molting. The males sing in a very peculiar way. Singing resembles the rubbing of pieces of iron, has whistles reminiscent of starlings.
The juveniles are similar in color to the female, but somewhat lighter and more contrasting. In nature, birds become sexually mature only in the third year of life. At the same time, young males acquire their bright mating outfit for the first time.
According to our observations, sexual dimorphism also exists in young birds. It is expressed in the following: the beak of the male is more sharply curved along the ridge than the beak of the female, the dark stripe above the yellow "eyebrow" is darker and more contrasting. In addition, the male has a more upright stance, which is associated with mating behavior. At the age of one month, a young male completely repeats the behavior of an adult, but his song sounds quieter. Young males wear a mating outfit in the third year of life.
In their homeland, fire weavers live in reed thickets located near the water. With the development of agriculture, cereal crops occupied large areas, periodically flooded with water. This contributed to the resettlement of weavers, including the fiery one, for whom the flooded fields became a favorite habitat and breeding ground. Here he leads, as Alfred Brehm pointed out, rather, the way of life of the warbler. With the same dexterity and speed it climbs up and down the stalks of cereal plants, nimbly runs along the ground and, in case of danger, just like the warbler, hides in the thicket of the stalks. In places of its distribution, this is a common and even widespread species of birds.
He does not form large colonies, but he loves the company of his fellows. Each male owns an individual nesting territory. He is polygamous, has 3 or 4 females and builds a nest for each of them.
The nests are usually oval in shape, woven from thin grass fibers. The inlet is located on the side near the top of the nest. Nests are fastened on stems, not high above the ground. Their weaving resembles a net through which you can see a clutch of 2-4 blue eggs with a turquoise hue. The breeding period within the range is from May to November.
During this time, fire weavers manage to produce 2-3 broods. In autumn, young and adult birds gather in "passerine flocks", often together with other species of weavers, and roam in open landscapes, feeding on seeds of various grasses. These flocks cause a lot of trouble for local residents, destroying a significant part of the crop.
European lovers of indoor bird keeping got to know the fire weaver in the 17th century. The first description of keeping it in a cage dates back to 1794. However, breeding of these beautiful birds was rarely successful. The first breeding in our country took place in 1975, as we wrote about earlier (Morozov, Ostapenko, 1977, 1988).
The content of this type of weaver is similar to that of other weavers. The main food is millet, mogar, canary seed and chumiza. Soft and green food is given daily or every other day. The birds ate live food in the form of mealworms well. On the pallet of the cage, you need clean river sand, crushed shell, eggshells and charcoal.
In small cages, due to the aggressiveness of the males, they are kept alone, and in large open-air cages - together with other birds. So, in the Moscow Zoo, in an open-air cage of 3x1.5x2 m, 2-3 pairs of fire weavers and several pairs of red-billed, red-headed and other species of real weavers lived. Fireweavers live for a long time with good maintenance. So, at R.L. Boehme one male lived for about 26 years
Our experience in breeding fire weavers has shown that for these purposes it is quite possible to use a medium-sized cage (60-70 cm long). Difficulties lie only in the selection of a pair. Therefore, before breeding, it is necessary to have several birds for the possible replacement of mating partners.
If it is enough to install a dense bush or a bunch of reeds in the aviary, then the base for the nest is needed in the cage. We offered the birds two canary nests fastened together, which as a result formed a small ball with a slit-like opening on one side.In males, nest-building activity was observed, which manifested itself in the fact that birds curled with grass one or two sides of the cage. But the activity itself had a beneficial effect on the female, which occupied the nest and laid several feathers there.
A week after the start of mating, 1-2 blue eggs were laid, which were incubated exclusively by the female. The incubation period is 14 days. After 12-13 days, the chicks leave the nest and are fed for another 17-18 days, after which they acquire complete independence. Parents prefer to feed their chicks with live food, less often they take soft and grain food. Foreign poultry farmers advise feeding the birds during the rearing period with ant eggs, chopped mealworms, fly larvae, an egg mixture with cottage cheese and pecked millet. In breeding enclosures, 2-3 females can be placed per male.
Franz Robiller describes this kind of breeding, which was only possible for European amateurs in large enclosures. The male builds several nests, which he places in dense bushes or in half-open nest boxes.
Fire weavers, in his opinion, should be kept separate from other birds at this time, since with mixed housing, male fire weavers disturb the nesting of other birds, throwing eggs and chicks out of the nests. In a clutch there were 2-4 eggs, and during the season it was possible to get 2 broods. (V. Ostapenko. "Birds in your home")
These weavers are widespread in many countries of the African continent: Cameroon, Sudan, Uganda, Ethiopia, etc. They inhabit open landscapes such as savannahs, with separate groups of trees, on which they arrange their colonial settlements.
Their food is mainly the seeds of the grasses that cover the savannahs, as well as termites and other small insects. In non-nesting times, fire weavers keep in flocks, which, merging with flocks of other species of weavers, for example, red-billed weavers, form flocks of thousands, wandering along the savanna in search of food.
The raid of such a horde of weavers on the fields of agricultural crops, especially millet, brings colossal losses to farmers, therefore the fight against these birds is merciless, up to the use of dynamite and flamethrowers, with which trees with nesting colonies of these birds are blown up and burned
In Europe, the fire weaver is one of the most popular cage birds, long kept at home by amateurs. The very name of these birds speaks of the brightness of their color, although this is true only in relation to males during the nesting season. During this period, the color of their plumage is dominated by orange-red tones, sharply contrasting with the velvety-black color of the head and abdomen.
At the end of the breeding season, males of the fire weaver lose their catchy outfit and become like females, that is, ordinary birds of a "passerine" color. When kept in cages or open-air cages, some males of the fire weaver do not change their bright mating outfit for several years.
Among the fire weavers, sometimes quite aggressive individuals, especially males, can be found, therefore it is not recommended to keep them with smaller birds. Fireweaver breeding cages must be at least 1m long. Fireweavers are fed with various varieties of millet, canary seed, and mogar. The daily rate for a bird is 1.5-2 teaspoons. They also need to be given animal feed: egg mixture, mealworms, bloodworms and small insects.
This is especially important when feeding chicks. When there is a shortage of animal feed, fire weavers abandon feeding the chicks, regardless of their age. In nature, the male fire weaver practically does not take part in incubating and feeding the chicks, since he usually takes care of two or three females at the same time, therefore, when caged in order to breed these weavers it is better to stick to the same sex ratio, i.e. 1: 2 or 1: 3.
If a pair of weavers is kept, then it is necessary to create some kind of shelter (bunches of branches, an additional house, etc.) so that the female can hide there from too active pursuit by the male.
The current male fire weaver is a very interesting and peculiar sight. Raising the feathers of its "frill", stretching out on straight legs and fluffing the feathers of the body, the bird sways from side to side, resembling a fireball, while making a whole set of sounds, screeching and grinding, similar to individual knees from the song of ordinary starlings. By such mating games, the male usually builds a nest.
He can simultaneously "lay the foundation" of several, but usually completely completes one of them, something he liked. The material for building a nest is dry blades of grass, palm or bast fibers, etc.
The bird very deftly weaves and knots from this material, using its beak and paws. The result is a round-shaped socket with an elongated inlet (tube) directed downward. Inside there is a partition that directly separates the nesting chamber from the entrance. The female is engaged in the internal structure of the nest, lining it with soft blades of grass, feathers, etc.
Usually there is little nesting litter, but it is mandatory. In the clutch of fire weavers, there are usually two, less often three, greenish-blue eggs without specks. One female incubates them for 14-15 days. Chicks hatch blind, red-pink (the color of raw meat) with a sparse light fluff on the head. At the age of 6-7 days, their eyes open, and at 15-17 days of age, they fly out of the nest.
In color, the chicks are similar to the female, but smaller in size and have a very short tail. At the age of one month, the young become completely independent and can be deposited from the female. The male can be deposited after the female sits down to incubate the clutch, since there are often cases when the male ruins the nest, throws out eggs or chicks.
Young males first "put on" their bright outfit only in the 3rd year of life. Can live in captivity for up to 20 years
Birds in the house. V.B.Shneider, V.A.Ginev
Experiment by researcher Malte Andersson
It was ninety years after Darwin's initial proposal when the theory was tested. The researchers decided to focus their females experiment on the convoluted example of a long-tailed widow.
Malte Andersson and his colleagues changed the length of the tails in males and studied their mating. At the beginning of the breeding season, thirty-six males were selected and used by the experimenters as their own controls. The number of nests on the territory of each male before the start of the experiment was also taken into account from the total number of nests after the end of the study. In this experiment, males of the same color were divided into nine groups of four birds each. These groups were similar in territory and tail length. The tail of one randomly selected male within each group was trimmed to a length of about 14 cm. Each feather removed was then glued to the corresponding feather of a larger other male, lengthening its tail by another 20-30 centimeters. The other two males in the group were control, that is, their tails remained unchanged. As a result, a clear picture of success emerged, with males with elongated tails being the most successful, followed by males with control (normal tails) and then males with shortened tails. The result showed that adult females prefer mates with long tails and orange-red epaulettes. Andersson's experiment confirmed that female long-tailed velvet weavers preferred supernatural tails, as males with elongated tails were the most successful in terms of reproduction. Thus, the tail is used to attract females rather than direct competition among males.
One explanation for why females prefer long tails on males is that a flared tail increases the male's lateral surface area by a factor of 2 to 3, making it much more visible from far away over open ground. However, this is most likely not the whole explanation, especially considering that before mating, females spend a lot of time comparing males and thus do not rely on long-range sights. At the moment, the exact function of the bright "epaulettes" in male long-tailed velvet weavers is unknown, so the researchers have something to work on.
Loddighezia is not the only bird species to have tail endings similar to small tennis rackets. The drongo of paradise (Dicrurus paradiseus) with the same flat tips is a medium-sized bird from Asia. Due to the fancy tail from afar, the flight of the drongo is more like the pursuit of two large bees after a black bird.
Drongos are aggressive and sometimes attack larger birds, especially when they nest. These birds show increased activity at dusk. Their calls are extremely varied and include monotonously repeating whistles, metallic and nasal sounds, as well as more complex imitations of other birds. Scientists say that for this, drongos study the behavior of other birds in flocks. This is a very unusual ability not found in other species.