Summer is most definitely here and its influence has prompted one of the most spectacular injections of colour into the bush. Many male birds that were adorned in their eclipse plumage during the dry winter months have moulted their drab exterior and replaced it with a cacophony of colours of all shades and vibrance. The wetter summer months mean that there is an abundance of food, providing unlimited resources to feed the hungry mouths of the next generation. Mating calls echo through the bush as males look to attract potential mates but in the avian kingdom, some males have to prove their maintenance ability before finding a receptive mate. One of the most fascinating families of bird to watch during these early summer months is the Weavers. There are many different species found at Sabi Sabi but perhaps the most striking are the Red-headed Weavers. The males’ almost florescent orange-red head shines out like a beacon as they flit through the undergrowth collecting nesting material, which they then, as the name suggests, weave into Christmas tree-like decorations suspended from branches.
The intricate nature of the construction defies the fact that a bird’s brain is tiny. The majority of their skull is made up of the eyes and therefore little space is left for much in the way of cognitive ability. Regardless of their low IQ, these tiny feathered architects attach and then weave individual twigs and grasses into secure homes. A male will then advertise his handiwork and hope to attract a mate on this basis. If the female is suitably impressed, she will take over the duties and complete the interior decorating, lining the nest with a variety of material to ensure a comfortable environment. However, if a male is rebuffed on the basis of his failings as a home builder, he is compelled to rip the structure apart and start again from scratch; a process that takes 7-10 days!
Nature is full of these small examples of perfection and if one takes the time to look for them and to examine them, can lead to a whole new dimension of the bush experience. The fact that these tiny birds are able to produce such intricate work with minimal ‘intelligence’ and no prior experience or formal training is one of life’s many riddles. The enjoyment we gain from trying to fathom them out is just another facet of this inspiring environment.