THE GREAT RED-BILLED WEAVER.
PLATES II. and III.
Loxia panicivora, Linn. Syst. Nat. i. p. 302 (1766).
Loxia panicivora, Mull. Vollst. Natur, iii. p. 550 (1773).
Loxia panicivora, Gmel. Syst. Nat. ii. p. 851 (1788).
Loxia panicivora, Lath. Ind. Orn. i. p. 388 (1790).
Bubalornis niger, Smith, Rep. Exp. Centr. Afr. p. 51 (1836).
Textor erythrorhynchus, Smith, Illustr. Zool. S. Afr. pl. LXIV (1841).
Textor erythrorhynchus, Gray et Mitch. Gen. Birds, ii. p. 350 (1849).
Aleeto erythrorhynchus, Bonap. Consp. Gen. Av. p. 438 (1850).
Textor niger, Strickl, et Scl. Birds Damar. Contr. Orn. p. 150 (1852).
Textor erythrorhynchus, Licht. Nomencl. Av. Mus. Berol, p. 50 (1854).
Aleeto erythrorhyncha, Mull. Journ, fur Orn. 1855, p. 460.
Aleeto panicivora, Mull. Journ, fur Ornith. 1855, p. 460.
Textor erythrorhynchus, Anderss. Lake Ngami, p. 215 (1856).
Bubalornis niger, Eyton, Cat. of Birds, p. 245 (1856).
Textor erythrorhynchus, Livingst. Trav. S. Afr. p. 545 (1857).
Textor erythrorhynchus, Reichb. Singvogel, p. 88. pl. xlv. fig. 329 (1861).
Alectornis panicivora, Reichb. Singvogel, p. 89 (1861).
Textor erythrorhynchus, Hartl. Journ, far Orn. 1861, p. 176.
Textor erythrorhynchus, Layard, Cat. Birds S. Afr. p. 178 (1867).
Textor erythrorhynchus, Chap. Trav. S. Afr. Append, p. 400 (1868).
Textor aleeto, Sharpe, Proc. Zool. Soc. 1869, p. 566.
Textor panicivorus, Gray, Hand-List Birds, ii. p. 40 (1870).
Textor erythrorhynchus, Gray, Hand-List Birds, ii. p. 40 (1870).
Textor erythrorhynchus, Sharpe, Cat. Afr. Birds, p. 58 (1871).
Textor erythrorhynchus, Gurney, Ibis, 1871, p. 255.
Bubalornis erythrorhynchus, Anderss. et Gurn. Birds Damara-Land. pp. 165, 199 (1872).
Textor panicivorus, Pelzeln, Ibis, 1873, p. 115.
Textor erythrorhynchus, Lay. et Sharpe, Birds S. Afr. p. 445 (1875-84).
Ploceus enythrorhynchus, Russ, Stubenvogel, i. p. 318. taf. x. fig. 52. (1879).
Bubalornis niger, Waterh. Proc. Zool. Soc. 1880, p. 491.
Textor niger, Salvin, Cat. Coll. Birds, Strickl, p. 240 (1882).
Textor panicivorus, Shelley, Ibis, 1887, p. 43.
THE INTERMEDIATE RED-BILLED WEAVER,
Textor intermedius, Cab. v. d. Decken’s Reisen, iii. p. 32. taf. xi (1869).
Textor intermedius, Finsch et-Hartl. Decken’s Reis. O.-Afr. p. 385 (1870).
Textor intermedius, Gray, Hand-List Birds, ii. p. 40 (1870).
Textor intermedius, Cab. Journ, fur Orn. 1878, pp. 217, 233.
Ploceus intermedius, Russ, Stubenvogel, p. 318 (1879).
Textor intermedins, Fischer, Zeitschr. Gesam. Ornith. 1884, p. 333.
Textor scioanus, Salvad. Ann. Mus. Civ. Gen. 1884, p. 195.
Textor scioanus, Salvad. Ibis, 1885, p. 232.
Textor intermedius, Shelley, Ibis, 1885, p. 410.
Textor intermedius, Fischer, Journ, fur Orn. 1885, p. 132.
Textor intermedius, Reichen. Journ, fur Orn. 1887, p. 67.
Figures, Smith’s, Illustr. Zool. S. Afr. pl. lxiv. Reichb. Sing¬vogel pl. xlv. f. 329. Russ, Stubenvogel, taf. x. f. 52. Decken’s Reis. taf. xi.
English. White-winged Grosbeak. Red-billed black Weaver-Bird. Buffalo Weaver-Bird. Millet eating Alectornis. Black Bubalorne or Rose-beaked Weaver. Intermediate Weaver.
French. Alectornis mangeur de Millet. Bubalornis noir ou a bee rose.
German. Rosaschnabeliger Biiffel-weber. Hirse-Alectovogel. Buffel-Webervogel. Buffel-vogel. Der Kornfresser. Viehweber, Vieh-Webervogel.
Native Name. Tsaba Gushoa, Andersson.
Habitat. Central South and portion of West Africa, “with the exception of Cape Colony and Namaqua-land.” (Shelley).
Localities. Damara-land (Andersson). Kurrichaine (Smith). Trans-vaal and Crocodile River (Ayres). Kalahari Desert (Moffatt). Bamangwato (Buckley). Tati, Makalaka Kraal (Oates). Koaroomoorooi Pan (Jameson). Zambesi (Bradshaw). Humbe, Cunene River, Quillengues, Caeonda, Kiulo and Gambos (Anchicta). Kalomo River (Livingstone). River Coanza, Angola (Montiero). Galunga, Loanda (Sala).
Localities of Textor intermedius and Scioanus. Central and Bast Africa, extending its range into Southern Abyssinia. Kisuani and Dalaoni River (Dcckcn). Ikanga in Ukamba (Heilderburg). Pare, Ultinei, Uruscha, Kilbaia, Victoria N’yanza (Fischer). Daimbi, Shoa (Antinori). Taf, Somali-land (Philipps).
Male. Black, with slight brownish tinge ; basal portion of feathers white ; patch on each side of chest and centres of side feathers white ; outer edges of second to eighth primary white, quills black ; bastard and outer web of first primary black ; under wing-coverts black ; tinder side of primaries white for more than half their length, tips black : iris dark brown ; bill and feet red : length 9.0, wing 4.7, tail 4.1, tarsus 1.2, culm. 0.9.
Female. Similar, dark brownish black ; base of feathers slaty grey ; chin and throat whitish : iris brown ; bill pale reddish brown, darker at the tip ; legs reddish brown.
Young Bird. Dull chocolate brown, darkest on crown and mantle ; base of feathers slaty grey ; chin, throat and breast variegated with dirty white, a submarginal brown band on each feather ; under tail-coverts slightly edged with dirty white : bill and legs reddish brown. Pl. III. fig. 1.
Young Male. Blackish brown, shewing feathers at all stages of growth, from dull brown to nearly black ; basal portion of feathers slaty grey ; a submarginal heart-shaped brown band on feathers of chest, tips whitish ; margins of under tail-coverts whitish : “iris dark hazel ; bill and legs reddish brown.” (T. E. Buckley.)
Toung Bird, Somali. Dark brownish black, with slaty grey tinge on crown, neck and breast ; shewing brownish feathers on the back of various stages of growth ; base of feathers greyish white ; heart-shaped submarginal blotches on feathers of breast : bill yellowish brown at base, tip blackish ; feet dark brown. Pl. III. fig. 2.
THE two large black weavers which I now wish to distinguish have, I may say, been intermixed to such an extent, that they are almost, beyond separation, and in attempting to divide them I find it advisable to follow up the original diagnosis of the two birds from the earlier authors, but this is rather perplexing, for neither Brisson or Linnaeus give a locality beyond Africa for the species under consideration.
In the diagnosis given by Brisson in 1760, the bill and feet of his Pyrrhula Africana nigra are described as follows—“Rostrum einereo-allum. Pedes, unguesque einerei which is unmistakably meant for Textor albirostris. Six years after the above was published Linnoeus describes in his ‘Systema Naturae' 1766, another species which he calls Loxia panieivora, described thus, “Loxia nigra, alula alba, rostro incarnato," which cannot be any other bird than (Textor erythrorhynchus, Smith), at the same time he quotes Brisson’s work for the species, and in doing so led all subsequent Orni¬thologists to follow up the entanglement he commenced, for I find all intervening authors up to within a few years of the present day, have used the same synonymy for the two birds ; under these circumstances I have placed all the references to the white or grey-billed bird from X. E., E., and West Africa, under Textor albirostris ; and those of the red-billed bird of South, and part of West Central Africa, under Textor panicivora ; but in doing this another difficulty arises as to which species Dr. Cabanis’s Textor intermedius belongs, then again there is Textor seioanus, Salvad., both described as having red bills and inhabiting the same country, in juxta¬position with T. albirostris.
I do here most candidly admit that the two latter birds, are as much entitled to be placed with one as the other, and on careful examination of a series of seventeen specimens now before me, I have no hesitation in saying that they are hybrids between the South and North-east African forms, unless the black or more Northern form is the older, or origin of the Southern, which may account for the gradation from one into the other. Textor intermedius has less white on the under side of the wing and a stouter bill than T. panicivora, and T. scioanus still less white, but the bill is the same as T. intermedius, the legs of both, being dark brown or blackish, as in T. albirostris, but the legs of all the examples of various ages of the true T. panicivora are red or reddish brown ; the young of the two distinct forms in the dull liver-brown plumage are only distinguished by the white underside of the wings and red legs.
I propose to unite the synonomy of the species as follows :—
Red-billed white winged forms—
1 Textor panicivora. The most Southern form, Damara-land.
intermedius. The nort-eastern forms, Shoa, and Somali.
White, grey or black-billed form—
2. Textor albirostris. The North and N. E. form, Abyssinia extending West to Seuegambia.
I subjoin the most interesting portions of the literature, which I have brought together respecting the habits of these well known birds, the earliest being Dr. Andrew Smith’s, published in 1841 :—
“It was not till after we had passed to the northward of the 25th degree of south latitude that we discovered this bird ; and if we are to believe the natives, it rarely extends its flight farther to the southward, which they attribute to the scarcity of Buffalloes south of that parallel. Wherever it was discovered it was always in attendance upon herds of the animals just mentioned, and either flying over the members of which the group was composed, or else perched upon the back of some individual animal. While perched, it appeared, generally, to be employed in collecting articles of food from the hide ; and while so occupied it passed quickly from one part of the Buffaloe to another, without the latter appearing to bestow the slighest attention upon its movements. On opening the stomachs of the specimens we procured we found, what we had been led to expect, namely, that its food consisted in part at least of parasitical insects ; and that to obtain them it selected the company in which, as has already been remarked, we always found it. According to the evidence of the natives, it also frequently alights upon the ground, examines the excrement of the Buffaloes, and from it collects certain articles of food. Sometimes a number of individuals were observed associated with a herd of the quadrupeds in question, frequently only one or two, and on many occasions we encountered troops of Buffaloes without even one in attendance. This bird, besides being of service to its huge associates, by ridding them of many of the insects with which their skins are infested, also performs for them another valuable service. On observing any unusual appearance in the neighbourhood, its attention is immediately directed to it ; and if alarm is eventually excited the bird flies up, upon which all the Buffaloes instantly raise their heads, and endeavour to discover the cause which had led to the sudden departure of the sentinel. If they are successful in the attempt, and see reason to fear for their safety, they take to flight in a body, and are accompanied by the birds who fore-warned them of their danger. On the herd again halting to feed, the birds return to their avocation, and pursue a course similar to that we have just described, provided the like circumstances recur. We never found this bird attaching itself to any quadruped but the Buffaloe, nor did we ever find the latter with any other attendants.”
In Dr. David Livingstone’s ‘ Missionary Travels in South Africa,’ (p. 545. 1857,) will be found the following interesting particulars respecting this bird, which I give at length :—He says, “Buffaloes abound (Kalomo river) and we see large herds of them feeding in all directions by day. When much disturbed by man, they retire into the densest parts of the forest, and feed by night only. We secured a fine large bull by crawling close to a herd : when shot, he fell down, and the rest, not seeing their enemy, gazed about wondering where the danger lay. The others came back to it, and when we showed ourselves, much to the amusement of my companions, they lifted him up with their horns, and, half supporting him in the crowd, bore him away. All these wild animals usually gore a wounded companion and expel him from the herd ; even zebras bite and kick au unfortunate or a diseased one. It is intended by this instinct, that none but the perfect and healthy ones should propagate the species. In this case they manifested their usual propensity to gore the wounded, but our appearance at that moment caused them to take flight, and this, with the goring being continued a little, gave my men the impression that they were helping away their wounded companion. He was shot between the fourth and fifth ribs ; the ball passed through both lungs and a rib on the opposite side, and then lodged beneath the skin. But though it was two ounces in weight, yet he ran off some distance, and was secured only by the people driving him into a pool of water and killing him there with their spears. The herd ran away in the direction of our camp, and then came bounding past us again. We took refuge on a large ant-hill, and as they rushed by us at full gallop, I had a good opportunity of seeing that the leader of a herd of about sixty, was an old cow ; all the others allowed her a full half-length in their front. On her withers sat about twenty Buffalo-birds (Textor erythrorhynchus, Smith), which act the part of guardian spirits to the animals. When the buffalo is quietly feeding, this bird may be seen hopping on the ground picking up food, or sitting on its back ridding it of the insects with which their skins are sometimes infested. The sight of the bird being much more acute than that of the buffalo, it is soon alarmed by the approach of any danger, and, flying up, the buffaloes instantly raise their heads to discover the cause, which has led to the sudden flight of their guardian. They sometimes accompany the buffaloes in their flight on the wing, at other times they sit as above described.”
Among the ‘ Notes on the Birds of the territory of the Trans-vaal Republic’ Mr. T. Ayres says :—
“ This Finch inhabits the bush, and is not, so far as I know, ever found in the open country ; we met with but few of them, and then always in company with the little blue Hoopoe (Irrisor cyanomelas) in twos and threes. The stomach of the bird sent contained insects ; but berries, seeds and fruits, were not to be had at that season, our trip being in mid¬winter.”
Mr. Charles John Andersson gives us the following valuable details respecting the habits of this interesting Weaver bird :—
“This large finch-like bird is rather common in Damara-land and also in the Lake-regions, where it is known to the natives by the name of ‘ Tsaba Gushoa.’ It is a noisy species, gregarious in its habits, breeding in colonies, and constructing many nests in the same tree : it seems to prefer the giraffe-acacia for the purpose of nidification ; and it is curious that when these birds have used a tree for this purpose it usually withers in a short time after the building of the nest is completed ; but whether the birds instinctively select such trees as have a tendency to decay, I am unable to say. The collective nests consist externally of an immense mass of dry twigs and sticks, in which are to be found from four to six separate nests or holes of an oval form, composed of grass only, but united to each other by intricate masses of sticks, defying the ingress of any intruder except a small snake. In each of these separate holes are laid three or four eggs, exactly resembling Sparrows’ eggs, but much larger. I obtained no less than forty of these eggs (all much incubated), on January 29th, from two low trees standing close together, at Amatoni, in latitude 18° south ; and on the following day the birds were busy in repairing one of the collective nests, which had been injured during the collection of eggs which it contained. I believe these nests are annually added to ; for, so far as I have been able to see, the same nest is retained for several consecutive seasons.”
Mr. E. Lort Philipps procured Textor intermedius in Somali-land where it is “very plentiful in flocks near Taf in the interior of the Plateau, which in the rainy season becomes a lake. In March they were busily building colonies of nests in the higher trees. In habits they much remind one of Starlings, especially when feeding in flocks on the ground.
“Iris brown ; feet black ; male bill red ; female bill dark brown.”
I am indebted to Capt. G. E. Shelley and the Rev. Canon Tristram for the loan of their specimens, from which the following measurements have been taken.
The plant is Patterlickia pyracantha, of South Africa.
No. Sex. Mus. Locality. Length. Wing. Tail. Tars. Culm.
1 Male E. B. Otjimbinque, Damara-land (Andersson). 9 4.7 4.1 1.2 0.9
2 jun. E. B. South Africa. 8.9 4.5 3.95 1.1 0.8
3 Male G. E. Shelley. Otjimbinque, Damara-land (Andersson). 9.65 4.7 4.2 1.15 0.85
4 ? G. E. Shelley. Zambesi (Bradshaw.) 9.2 4.85 4.45 1.2 0.85
5 Male G. E. Shelley. Transvaal (Buckley). 8.65 4.9 4.25 1.2 0.85
6 Male G. E. Shelley. Humbe, Angola (Anchieta). 9.55 4.8 4.3 1.2 0.9
7 Femae G. E. Shelley. Kiulo, Angola (Anchieta). 9 4.4 4.05 1.1 0.85
8 Male jun. G. E. Shelley. Bamangwato (Buckley). 8.1 4.5 3.9 1.1 0
9 Male G. E. Shelley. Otjimbinque, Damara-land (Andersson). 9 4.7 4.1 1.2 0.9
TEXTOR INTERMEDIUS, CAB
10 ? G. E. Shelley. Somali (E. Lort Phillips). 8.75 4.8 4.1 1.2 0.95
11 jun. G. E. Shelley. Somali (E. Lort Phillips). 8 4.5 3.75 1 0.85
TEXTOR SCIOANUS, SALVAD.
12 Male G. E. Shelley. Daimbi, Shoa (Antinori) 8.7 4.7 4.1 1.1 0.85
The specimens figured, in Plate II. are No. I. (fig. 1) Damara-land. No. 7. (fig. 2). Angola, 3/4 size. Those figured in Plate III. are No. 2. (fig. 1) S. Africa. No. II (fig. 2) Somali, 3/4 size.