SPECIES

Scaly Weaver Sporopipes squamifrons Scientific name definitions

H. Dieter Oschadleus
Version: 2.0 — Published February 23, 2023

Diet and Foraging

Introduction

The Scaly Weaver forages on the ground; hopping briskly, seldomly walking, feeding on fallen seeds on the ground. Its diet is primarily small seeds, particularly grass seeds, and seeds of millet or sorghum. It also feeds on termites, which are caught on the ground and in the air. This species drinks water regularly when it is available, but it can survive for extended periods without access to surface water.

The Scaly Weaver typically roosts communally in ball-shaped nests constructed of grass, sometimes as many as 12 birds in a nest. Communal roosting allows these birds to save substantial amounts of energy and is likely important for their survival, especially during cold winter nights in the Kalahari Desert. It is most active early in the morning, retreating to cooler sites such as trees or other elevated objects when the temperature rises.

Feeding

Microhabitat for Foraging

The Scaly Weaver forages mostly on ground . It is attracted to sandy ground that has been disturbed by recent movements of large animals or people; even feeding inside fresh footprints as disturbance of the surface sand exposes seeds lying at lower depths (54). Termites are caught on the ground and in the air (55).

Food Capture and Consumption

It hops briskly (rarely walks), as it feeds on fallen seeds on the ground (2).

Diet

Major Food Items

The Scaly Weaver's diet is primarily small seeds, particularly grass seeds, e.g., Aristida and Schmidtia spp. (2), and seeds of millet (Pennisetum glaucum) or sorghum (Sorghum bicolor) (15). It also feeds on termites (Isoptera) (2).

Quantitative Analysis

Information needed, but one road-killed individual had 63 seeds (56).

Food Selection and Storage

Information needed.

Nutrition and Energetics

Information needed.

Metabolism and Temperature Regulation

The Scaly Weaver typically roosts communally in ball-shaped nests constructed of grass, sometimes as many as 12 birds in a nest (See Behavior: Social and Interspecific Behavior) (57, 2). Lubbe and colleagues showed that communal roosting allows these birds to save substantial amounts of energy and is likely important for their survival, especially during cold winter nights in the Kalahari Desert, where night temperatures frequently drop below freezing and sometimes as low as -10 °C (58). Their study also showed that energy savings increased with increasing group size (optimal for a group of 8 birds), and the benefits of communal roosting and the use of a well-insulated nest were additive when used simultaneously. As such, huddling in an enclosed, insulated nest during roosting is an important energy-saving and thermoregulatory behavior for the Scaly Weaver (58). The Scaly Weaver occasionally roosts in groups of 3–4 birds in exposed sites such as a branch within a bush or tree. Although not as substantial as for communal roosting in an enclosed nest, an individual roosting in a cluster of 4 birds in an exposed site at 10 °C may spend up to 24% less energy compared with a single bird (58). Communal roosting, whether in a nest or in the open, is an important thermoregulatory strategy of a small bird such as the Scaly Weaver, and confers significant energy savings to individuals, especially during cold winter nights.

The Scaly Weaver is most active early in the morning, retreating to cooler sites such as trees or other elevated objects when the temperature rises. Depending on the ambient temperature, it shows a preference for trees offering different degrees of shadiness. On cool days and in the early morning, the Scaly Weaver shows a preference for the less shady camelthorn trees (Vachellia erioloba), and avoids the dense shade offered by shepherd's trees (Boscia albitrunca). On hot days and during the hottest parts of the day, it switches its preference to shepherd's trees, avoiding trees that offer less shade (59).

The Scaly Weaver is one of the southern African species for which a small increase in the number of days per year on which there is a significant risk of lethal dehydration in some parts of its range (i.e., west-central Namibia) is anticipated (60 ). The maximum temperature tolerated by half of a sample of the Scaly Weaver was around 48°C, slightly lower than larger weavers tested in the same way (61).

Drinking, Pellet-Casting, and Defecation

The Scaly Weaver drinks water regularly when it is available, but it can survive for extended periods without access to surface water. Some birds, at least, occur a considerable distance away from the nearest surface water, sometimes as much as 50 km (62, 63, 54). These birds may utilize any source of surface water when available, e.g., both natural and artificial waterholes and puddles formed after rain or from leaking water pipes (54).

In one study, wild-caught individuals were kept in captivity for up to 62 days without access to drinking water. After this time, during which their only intake consisted of air-dried seeds, mainly millet, these weavers maintained their mass near normal levels. Afterward, the birds were given access to water. During the next five days, their average consumption was 1.1 ml. per bird per day or roughly twice as much as their initial ad libitum consumption had been; and they gained an average of 0.65 grams per bird (54).

Recommended Citation

Oschadleus, H. D. (2023). Scaly Weaver (Sporopipes squamifrons), version 2.0. In Birds of the World (G. D. Engelbrecht, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.scawea1.02