Species names in all available languages
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This account is part of the 8th edition of Roberts Birds of Southern Africa. This project is a joint collaboration between the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. H. Dieter Oschadleus revised the account. Peter Pyle contributed to the Plumages, Molts, and Structure page. Shawn M. Billerman contributed to the Systematics page. Arnau Bonan Barfull curated the media. Huy C. Truong updated the distribution map.
Sporopipes squamifrons (Smith, 1836)
The Key to Scientific Names
The Scaly Weaver is a very small, social weaver found in arid and semi-arid regions throughout southern Africa, extending marginally into the southern parts of Angola and Zambia. The sexes are alike, with distinctive moustachial stripes, scaled crowns, and pinkish bills. Younger birds are less distinct; lacking scaling and with indistinct malar stripes.
This species inhabits dry Vachellia (formerly Acacia) savanna, arid scrub, and bush along dry watercourses, parks, and shrubs near houses. It is found in pairs or flocks of up to 20 birds, and regularly flocks with waxbills. It roosts communally in a nest throughout the year, with up to 12 birds using one nest to keep warm on cold winter nights. It forages on the ground, feeding mainly on small seeds, with insects being fed to the young. It drinks when water is available, but remarkably, it can survive for months without drinking; instead relying on the production of metabolic water from its diet.
The Scaly Weaver is monogamous, and some courtship behavior resembles that of waxbills. It is suspected to be a cooperative breeder, but this needs to be confirmed. Its nest is an untidy, dome-shaped mass of grass stems and grass seed heads, which is used for roosting and breeding purposes. There is usually one active nest, but often old nests may be present. The nest is placed in trees or bushes, 1–4 m above the ground. Incubation is by the female, while both sexes feed the nestlings.