(1016) Ploceela chrysoea Hume.
THE GOLDEN WEAVER-BIRD.
Ploceela chrysoea, Fauna B, I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. iii, p. 76.
This, the most handsome of all our Oriental Weaver-Birds, occurs in Upper Burma between the Irrawaddy and Sittoung Rivers from Mandalay South to the Gulf of Martaban. It is found in Northern Tenasserim, Siam, Cochin China, Annam and Java.
Oates found these birds breeding in great numbers in the Pegu plains while, later, Mackenzie and Hopwood found them equally common in the same district in and round the village of Yitkangale,
16 miles from Pegu. The colonies seem to vary in size from three or four to about thirty and are most often built either in, or close to, marshy places, ponds or rivers, the sites most often selected being small thorny trees or, less often, rank reeds and grass.
The nests seem to be of two sorts, the first a neat copy of the nest of the Common Baya but with a very short entrance tube. The second type is very like a Munia’s nest. Oates describes this latter form of nest as follows :—“The nest is placed about 5 feet from the ground invariably supported from below and not hanging as is the case with the nests of other Weaver-Birds. It is securely fastened to several stems and leaves of a large species of grass, or to the branches of some strong weed.
“The nest is cylindrical, about 6 inches high and 4 inches in diameter externally, composed entirely of grasses, woven on the outside in a very clumsy manner, the whole exterior presenting a series of loops and sharp angles. The interior is formed of fine grass, nicely curved to the shape of the nest and perfectly smooth. The flowering ends of these fine grasses are in some nests brought forward so as to form a ring, through which the bird enters the nest. The entrance is at various heights, sometimes in the middle and sometimes quite at the top of the nest. It is about an inch in diameter.”
Herbert in Siam first found nests of the pendent kind but says that the more general type is a spherical nest exactly like that described by Oates.
Mackenzie (Journ. Bomb. Nat. Hist. Soc. vol. xxiv, p, 821, 1916) gives a very interesting note on this bird’s breeding. He writes:—“The nests were placed from 3 to 12 feet from the ground, generally about 8 or 10 feet. They were mostly built in a thorny bush, locally called ‘Kathel,’ at the extremities of the branches, supported by the twigs being worked into their structure ; the support came indiscriminately from above, below, or all round the nest, I found a few nests (mostly unfinished) in Elephant-grass, but 80 per cent, were in small trees or bushes,
“In all cases the birds had apparently exercised care in the selec¬tion of the site. All colonies found in trees (with the exception of 5) were in ‘Kathel’ or 'Zee,’ both of them thorny and most unpleasant to deal with. Of the 5 exceptions, 4 were built in thornless trees which contained hornets’ nests, and the fifth was in a tree infested by a very large ant with a fearsome bite. My man had a badly swollen hand as a result of getting eggs from the last colony.”
This characteristic of the Golden Baya seeking the protection of ants and hornets has also been noticed by other collectors, and Hopwood in one of his letters to mo remarks on the fact that if the nests are in places which appear easy to rifle one may regard it as certain that the tree also contains hornets or huge red ants. Other Bayas, also, sometimes seek this same defence against vermin, and O’Donel (ibid.) says that three times he has found the neats of the Common Weaver-Bird with hives of the common. Jungle-Bee alongside. I, too, have twice seen Black-throated Bayas’ nests in grass round a hornet’s nest.
In India and the Indo-Chinese countries the breeding season is from June to September, nearly all eggs being laid in late June and July. In Java the most common month for eggs is May. The normal clutch of eggs, everywhere, is two. Mackenzie puts the number of three-egg clutches as about 5 per cent., but occasion¬ally four are laid, Herbert having taken this number in Siam,
The eggs are very different to those of the genus Ploceus and, instead of being white, exhibit a wonderful range of variation. Many eggs are like small eggs of the Meadow-Pipit but, as a rule, the markings are so fine that they cannot be seen even with a mag¬nifying-glass, and the eggs look light grey-brown, buffy-brown or slate-grey. Some have a faintly greenish tinge, a few a suspicion of lilac or pink. Other eggs have a definite pale grey, almost white, ground, occasionally with the faintest possible freckling of grey, while in others the freckling is more pronounced and in others again almost as heavily marked as some Sparrows’ eggs, which they then closely resemble, though the freckles never develop into blotches. I have only seen one pure white clutch. As a rule both or all the eggs in a clutch are of the same colour, but now and then one sees a pair which differ slightly from one another.
The texture is smooth, fine and often has s strong gloss and always a certain amount. In shape they are generally broad, short ovals, some eggs being rather longer and more pointed.
Two hundred eggs average 18.3 x 13.75 mm. : maxima 26.2 x 14.1 and 19.0 x 14.8 mm. ; minima 16.1 x 12.3 mm.
Both sexes take an equal share in nest-building but the female alone incubates. In their fussiness, cheerful chirping and constant energy whilst breeding they resemble the birds of the genus Ploceus and, like them, often amuse themselves making odd nests at odd times.
1016. Ploceela chryssea
(1016) Ploceela chrysoea Hume.