Kalahari Desert region in South Africa, Botswana, and Namibia.


Savanna and semidesert

Weaver world wonders

The sociable weaver is a common little brown bird in the Kalahari region of southern Africa. Yet this sparrow-sized critter may be one of the most interesting birds in the world! Sociable weavers are unlike most other birds due to their lifestyle and nest building. They weave one nest for their entire colony as well as for future residents.

Not your average nest

This is no ordinary nest—it is massive, like a giant apartment block occupied by up to 100 sociable weaver families all year long. Some sociable weaver nests have remained occupied for over 100 years!

From a distance, the sociable weaver nest may resemble a haystack hanging in a tree. But if you crawl under the nest and look up, you can see the entrances to the different chambers within the nest. It's sort of like a bee's honeycomb. Nest entrance tunnels can be up to 10 inches (25 centimeters) long and 3 inches (7 centimeters) wide. Round, cozy nesting chambers are usually 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 centimeters) in diameter. There may be 5 to 100 nesting chambers in a single sociable weaver nest, providing a home for 10 to 400 birds!

Some sociable weaver nests weigh several tons and can get so heavy they knock down the supporting tree.
The largest sociable weaver nests are over 20 feet (6 meters) wide and close to 10 feet (3 meters) tall with more than 100 individual nesting chambers.
Record holder: the sociable weaver is the builder of the largest tree nests in the world.

The San Diego Zoo is home to the only colony of sociable weavers in the United States. In 1997, we started with an original colony of 22 birds. As they years have passed, they have become a successfully reproducing colony, with over 300 hatches.

Our colony currently numbers between 50 and 60 weavers. Through trial and error, we have learned what to provide for nesting material. Favorite items include various dried grasses, pine needles, and Bermuda hay. The result of this acquired knowledge is that their current nest is the largest it has ever been and is extremely visible in their exhibit.

Always in motion, always together, the sociable weavers are an inspiration to see. Watch them in action along Monkey Trail in Lost Forest.

Fortunately, sociable weaver populations are currently stable in the wild.

You can help us bring less fortunate species back from the brink by supporting the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy. Together we can save and protect wildlife around the globe.