THE CHESTNUT-BACKED WEAVER-BIRD.
PLATE XL (Figs. 1, 2).
Ploceus castaneo-fuscus, Less. Rev. Zool. 1840, p. 99.
Ploccus castaneofuscus, Reichb. Singvogel, p. 83 (1861) ; Russ, Stuben¬vogel, p. 301, pl. x. fig. 51 (1879) ; Shelley, Ibis, 1887, p. 38. Ploceus isabellinus ? Less. Rev. Zool. 1840, p. 226, female ? Reichb.
Singvogel, p. 83 (1861).
Hyphantornis isabellina, Gray et Mitch. Genera Birds, ii. p. 351 (1844).
Hyphantornis castaneofusca, Gray et Mitch. Genera Birds, ii. p. 351 (1844) ; Hartl. Journ, fur Ornith. 1854, pp. 110, 219. Mull. Journ, fur Ornith. 1855, p. 464 ; Scl Proc. Zool. Soc. 1859, p. 433 ; Sharpe, Cat. Afr. Birds, p. 59 (1871) ; Scl. Vert. Anim. Gard. Zool. Soc. p. 246 (1883).
Hyphantornis castaneofuscus, Hartl. Ornith. Westafr, p. 126 (1857) ; Sharpe, Ibis, 1869, p. 191 ; Shelley et Buckl. Ibis, 1872, p. 289 ; Garrod, Proc. Zool. Soc. 1873, p. 462 ; Ussher, Ibis, 1874, p. 67 ; Reichnw. Journ, fur Ornith. 1875, p. 39 ; Shelley, Ibis, 1883, p. 552 ; Rocheb. Faun. Seneg. Ois. p. 240 (1884) ; Shelley, John¬ston’s River Congo, p. 365 (1884).
Textor castaneo-fuscus, Bonap. Consp. Gen. Av. p. 442 (1850).
Ploceus (Cinnamopteryx) Castaneofuscus, Reiclmw. Zool. Jalirb. Jena, i. 1886, p. 126.
Figure. Russ, Stubenvogel, pl. x. fig. 51.
Dutch. Kastanjebruin Wever.
English. Chestnut-backed Weaver-bird. Chestnut-fuscus Weaver. Yellow-dun Weaver. Chestnut Weaver-bird. Isabelline Weaver.
French. le Tisserin couleur de Chataigne brun. Le Tisserin bran noir. Le Tisserin Isabelle.
German. Der Kastanienbraune Weber. Der Isabell-Weber. Der Kastanienbraune Webervogel.
habitat. West Africa : “from the Congo to Senegambia” (Shelley).
Localities. Bathurst, Senegambia (Rochebrune) ; Casamauze, Sene¬gambia (lesson) ; St. Paul’s River, Sierra Leone (MacDowell) ; St. Paul’s River and Robertsport, Liberia (Buttikofer) ; Ashantee (Berlin Mus.) ; Fantee (Ussher, Blissett, Kirby, Shel'ey and Buckley) ; River Volta (Ussher) ; Cape Coast (higgins) ; Cape (’oast Castle (Kirby); Abouri (Shelley); Accra (Haynes) ; Abokobi (Reichenow) ; Rio Boutry (Pel) ; Ornitsehi, River Niger (Forbes) ; Gaboon (A. Lacomte) ; Congo (Leyden Mus.).
Male. Black ; mantle and scapulars dark cinnamon-brown ; rump, basal portion of upper tail-coverts, sides, abdomen, thighs and under tail-coverts chestnut-brown, brightest on the rump ; iris straw-yellow ; bill black ; legs and feet dark brown : length 6.1, wing 3.1, tail 2.15, tarsus 0.9, culmen 0.75 (a).
Young Male changing Plumage. Similar to female and young, but with brighter reddish-brown on sides, Hanks and under tail-coverts ; interspersed with black and chestnut all over ; wings and tail black ; secondaries black with bright buffish outer margins : bill black ; feet brown ; length 6.05, wing 3.15, tail 2.4, tarsus 0.9, culmen 0.75 (g).
Female. Crown and hind neck dark greyish-olive, streaked with dull brown ; back brownish-olive, centre of each feather brownish-black edged with pale olive ; lower part of back, rump and upper tail coverts reddish-brown ; primaries dull black, edged with olive-green ; secondaries brownish-black broadly margined with yellowish-buff, like the median and greater wing-coverts ; lesser wing-coverts faintly edged with greyish-olive ; tail dull black faintly edged with greenish-olive ; cheeks, sides of head and neck greyish- olive ; chin and throat pale yellowish buff; breast, sides, flanks and under tail-coverts olive-brown, strongly tinged with rufous on the Hanks and under tail-coverts ; centre of belly bright sulphur-yellow ; axillaries and under wing-coverts brownish-bull ; under surface of wing-feathers grey ; iris brown ; bill dark brown, paler on the under mandible ; feet brown : length .5.85, wing 3.05, tail 2.2, tarsus 0.8, culmen 0.75 (j).
Young Female. Crown olive-brown, not tinged with grey, and only faintly streaked with brown ; brown centres of feathers of mantle and scapulars not so large or decided as in the adult female ; outer margins of inner secondaries broader and paler yellowish-buff ; under parts much paler ; centre of abdomen brighter sulphur-yellow ; bill and legs paler brown : length 5.0, wing 2.9, tail 2.1, tarsus 0.8, culmen 0.7 (h).
THE Chestnut-backed Weaver-bird, although described by Lesson in the ‘Revue Zoologique par la Societe Cuvierienne ’ for 1840, remained unfigured until now, with the exception of a small chromo portrait of it in Carl Russ’s 'Stubenvogel,’ published in 1879.
The distribution of this species resembles that of the preceding, with which it associates, occupying as it does the whole of the forest-bound coast of West Africa, from Senegambia in the north to the River Congo in the south, but it does not appear to penetrate far into the interior. The species, according to the little knowledge we possess of its habits, is extremely abundant in its native haunts, breeding in large colonies in the great palm and bamboo swamps bordering the rivers, where it suspends its nest from every available branch or frond, in common with a host of its congeners.
During Messrs. Shelley and Buckley’s two months’ Bird-collecting at Fantee on the Gold Coast, they found that Hyphantornis castancofuscus “generally frequented the more wooded districts, where it is very common : the irides are yellow in the male, and brown in the female and young.”
According to Governor H. T. Ussher, the Chestnut-back Weaver is “very common in Fantee, especially round Cape Coast. They are invari¬ably found in grassy swampy places, and are particularly fond of the bamboos or canes, whence their nests may be seen depending in hundreds. They are very sociable, and are occasionally captured as cage-birds.”
Dr. A. Reichnow says: “According to my observations, the Fox- weaver avoids the localities, or at any rate does not build in places frequented by P. cucullatus and nigerrimus. It does not hang its net on cocoa-nut palms or other high trees, but rather on low bushes. It prefers open ground which is strewn here and there with single bushes and trees, and likes to build on the waving reeds of the papyrus. The nest resembles in form that of Pl. cucullatus, but has no tube-like appendage at the entrance-hole. and is somewhat more loosely built than the latter. The eggs are bright blue, 23—24.5 mm. in lens;th, and 15.5—16 mm. in breadth. I always found only two in a brood. Buttekofer also confirms the preference of this species for thickets of reeds wherein to place its nest, but found the bird, however, building on low bushes, in community with Ploccus cucullatus. This traveller mentions the number of eggs in a brood to be two or three.”
This Weaver-bird is often brought to England alive, and appears to thrive on the ordinary food supplied to most finches ; there is no doubt it does best in large aviaries where its liberty is not too confined. The large centre dome of the southern aviary in the Zoological Gardens is apparently suited to this species, in which I find it has bred several times ; but those who are accustomed like myself to the notes and voices of these wild birds cannot fail to observe this extraordinary bird as it flies from one branch to another, raising all its feathers and uttering its prolonged zwitz-zee-ee-ee just as though it was scolding all the other inhabitants of its castle for their bad behaviour. During the summer it is always busily engaged weaving its nest, which is often destroyed before completion. I have examined nineteen specimens of this species, many of which were very obligingly lent to me by Capt. G. E. Shelley, Canon H. B. Tristram, and M. A. Boueard.
No. Sex. Mus. Locality. Length. Wing. Tail. Tars. Culm.
a Male E. B. W. Africa 6.1 3.1 2.15 0.9 0.75
b Male E. B. W. Africa 5.75 3.25 2.45 0.85 0.75
c Male E. B. Fantee, W. Africa (Ussher) 6 3.25 2.45 0.85 0.75
d Male E. B. Fantee, W. Africa (Ussher) 6.1 3.25 2.4 0.9 0.8
e Male E. B. Gaboon, W. Africa. 6 3.15 2.35 0.9 0.75
f Male E. B. Fantee, W. Africa (Kirby) 6.15 3.05 2.2 0.85 0.7
g Male imm. G. E. Shelley Gold Coast, W. Africa (Kirby) 6.05 3.15 2.4 0.9 0.75
h Female G. E. Shelley Abouri, W. Africa (Shelley) 5 2.9 2.1 0.8 0.7
i Female G. E. Shelley Abouri, W. Africa (Shelley) 5.5 2.85 2.1 0.75 0.7
j Female E. B. Fantee, W. Africa (Ussher) 5.85 3.05 2.2 0.8 0.75
The figures (Plate II.) are taken from (fig. 1) a, the male in my own collection; and (fig. 2) i, a female kindly lent to me by Capt. G. E. Shelley.