THE SMALL BLACK WEAVER.
PLATE I. (FIGS. 1, 2).
Le Republicain a capuchon ecarlate, Temm. Cat. Cab. Ornith, p. 234, Female (1807).
Ploceus nigerrimus, Vieill. Nouv. Dict, xxxiv. p. 130 (1819); Vieill. Tabl. Encycl. Meth. ii. p. 700 (1823) ; Griff. Cuv. Anim. Kingd, ii. p. 134 (1829) ; Russ, Stubenvogel, p. 304 (1879) ; Shelley, Ibis, 1887, p. 38.
Ploceus niger, Swains. Classif. Birds, p. 279 (1837) ; Swains. Anim, in Menag. p. 306 (1837).
Ploceus (Melanopteryx) nigerrimus, Reichn. Zool. Jalirb. Jena, i. 1886, p. 125.
Sycobius nigerrimus, Gray et Mitch. Gen. Birds, ii. p. 352 (1849) ; Bonap. Consp. Gen. Av. p. 439 (1850) ; Hartl. Journ, fur Orn. 1854, pp. 106, 411 ; Muller, Journ, fur Orn. 1855, p. 461 ; Cassin, Proc. Acad. N. S. Philad. 1856 p. 318, 1859 p. 136 ; Hartl. Ornith. W. Afr. pp. 133, 274 (1857) ; Heine, Journ, fur Ornith. 1860, p. 143 ; Reichb. Singvogel, p. 90 (1861) ; Bocage, Ornith, d’Angola, p. 333 (1877-81).
Malimbus nigerrimus, Gray, Hand-List Birds, ii. p. 43 (1870) ; Sharpe, Proc. Zool. Soc. 1871, pp. 612, 615 ; Sharpe, Cat. Afr. Birds, p. 60 (1871) ; Sharpe, Ibis, 1872, p. 72 ; Ussher, Ibis, 1874, p. 68 ; Elliot, Ibis, 1876, pp. 458, 464 ; Sharpe et Bouv. Bull. Soc. Zool. France, i. 1876, p. 47. Hyphantomis nigerrimus, Reichn. Journ, fur Ornith. 1873, pp. 448, 450 ; 1875, p. 39 ; 1877, p. 26 ; id. Gesellsch. 1874, p. 181,
English. The Wholly-black Malimbus. The Small black Weaver. The White-naped Weaver-bird.
French. Le Malimbe tout-noir. Le Tisserin Noir.
German. Der ganz schwarze Malimbus. Der schwarze Webervogel.
Habitat. West Africa ; extending its range from Fantee to Angola.
Localities. Fantee and Denkera ( Ussher) ; Cameroon Mountains and Bimbia (Reichenow) ; Gaboon (Du Chaillu and Reichenow) ; Cape Lopez (Verreaux) ; River Camma and Moonda (Du Chaillu) ; Chinchosho (Petit and Falkenstein) ; Cabinda, Loango (Petit, Perrein, and Falkenstein) ; River Congo and Angola (Perrein).
Male. Black ; primaries and tail slightly tinged with brown, quills white along the edges, below the outer web ; axillaries and under wing-coverts black ; under surface of wing and tail dull black, bases of body-feathers dark slaty-grey ; iris straw-yellow ; bill black ; feet dark brown : length 6.05, wing 3.3, tail 2.35, tarsus 0.85, culmen 0.75. No. 1.
Female. Above olive-green, centre of each feather dark-brown, broadest on the mantle, and edged with yellowish-olive ; rump and upper tail-coverts yellowish-brown ; eyebrow greyish-green ; primaries and secondaries brownish-black, edged with pale yellowish- brown, broader and paler on the inner secondaries and greater wing-coverts; tail- feathers brownish-black ; under surface of body pale greyish-green, centre of belly pale yellow ; sides and flanks brownish ; under tail-coverts pale reddish-brown ; axillaries and under wing-coverts grey edged with yellow ; iris pale brown ; bill greyish-brown ; feet dirty fresh colour.
Young. “Upper parts dark green with longitudinal stripes of brown and black, under parts dull yellow darker on the sides ; wings and tail in some specimens brown, in others black. Bill lighter coloured than in the adult, under inaudible nearly white.”— (Cassin).
Jun. “Supra obscure viridis, fusco et nigricante striatus ; subtus obsolete flavidus, lateribus obscurioribus ; alis et cauda in nonnullis fuscis, in aliis nigris ; rostro pallidiore, mandibula fere albida” (Hartlaub).
Young. “Head and back dark olive-brown, each feather with a central line of black ; rump rufous brown ; cheeks, throat, and upper part of breast and flanks olive-yellow ; rest of under parts bright yellow ; under tail-coverts dark buff ; wings and tail dark purplish-brown; edges of secondaries yellow: length 6.1/2, inches, wing 3.1/4, tail 3.1/2, culmen 3/4 ” (D. G. Elliot).
Observ. After a very careful comparison of a series of thirteen specimens of the true Ploccus nigerrimus, and Ploceus albinucka, and before reading Dr. Reichenow’s descrip¬tion of the female of the former bird, I hurriedly came to the conclusion that the indi¬vidual now described by me (see No. 2) was the true female of Ploceus nigerrimus (see No. 1), and the example described by Professor Barboza du Bocage as Si/robins albinucha I considered to be the young bird, which I figured as such in Plate 1, but the characters given by Cassin, Hartlanb, Elliot and Reichenow of the adult female and young of Pl. nigerrimus, with the details of the specimens in the British Museum, kindly sent to me by Mr. F. W. Frohawk, exclude all doubts as to the sexes of this species ; but we must regard Ploceus a/bimtcJm, Bocage, as a distinct species, the synonymy of which, with descriptions, I have given below.
The earliest description of an entirely brownish-black Weaver-bird, which apparently refers to the present species, is given by Temminek in his ‘Catalogue Systematique da Cabinet d’Ornithologie,’ published in 1807, where he calls it the female of “Le Republicain a capuchon ecarlate," and describes it as follows : "Le femelle est entierement d'un noir rembruni."
In 1819, Vieillot. in his ‘Nouvelle Dictionnaire,’ recognised the species as being distinct from its allies, and characterised it under the appellation of Ploceus nigerrimus.
Mr. J. Cassin, whose valuable observations on birds are well known throughout the Ornithological world, published an account of the birds collected by M. du Chaillu, in the ‘Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences’ for 1856, in which our attention is called for the first time to the different stages of plumage of this peculiar form of Weaver- bird, viz. :—“ The specimens labelled by M. du Chaillu as both sexes of this little-known species are entirely black, and differ only slightly in size and lustre of plumage. The young are, however, very different, having the upper parts dark green with longitudinal stripes of brown and black ; under parts dull yellow, darker on the sides ; wings and tail in some speci¬mens brown, in others black. Bill lighter coloured than in the adult ; under mandible nearly white. In young plumage this bird might readily be mistaken for a distinct species.”
In the same ‘Proceedings’ for 1860, Mr. Cassin, although retaining this species under the generic name of Sycobius, remarks that it is “ per¬haps not properly referrible to this genus ; the green colour of the young approximating it to Ploceus and Hyphantornis.”
Capt. G. E. Shelley, in the ‘ Ibis ’ for 1887, points out that “ The Gold
Coast specimens are apparently always rather small, and have occasionally, but not always, white, bases to the feathers of the hind neck ; when these feathers are worn, a white collar at the back of the neck may sometimes be traced. One of these specimens formed the type of Sycobius alblnucha, Bocage."
Dr. A. Reichenow, who has devoted much time and labour in working out the Weaver-birds of the genus Ploceus, which he published in the ‘Zoologische Jahrbiicher’ for 1886, tells us that the Black Weaver-bird "inhabits Lower Guinea from the Cameroon River to Angola. In Upper Guinea its appearance seems to be only sporadic, until lately it has only been collected by Ussher in Denkera on the Gold Coast. In Lower Guinea, however, from the Cameroon onwards, it is very common, in some places the commonest Weaver-bird. Its special resorts are : the Cameroon wastes, Wuri, the Cameroon Mountains to the height of 3,000 feet. In its habits it very much resembles Pl. cucullatus, and where both species are found near together, it forms the constant, faithful companion of the latter. The nests of both species often hang mixed together on the same cocoa-nut palm, and not the slightest jealousy or unfriendliness can be detected between them. Pl. nigerrimus is fond of building on palms in the negro villages, or in plantations of Bananas, where it hangs its nests on the tips of Banana-leaves at no great height from the ground ; however, where opportunity offers on the branches of trees overhanging the banks of rivers, and always in colonies of considerable size. The rounded nest is composed of fresh, wide grasses, runs up at the top into a point, by which it is fastened to the tree. The entrance has no tube-like appendage. The width always amounts to 12 cent., the length to 15 cent., of which six are covered by the mouth of the entrance. The well of the nest is frequently lined with flowering maize stalks. As a rule the nests hang quite independently on separate branches ; still it may happen that a neighbouring shoot is twined in between. In large colonies two or three nests are often found close together, fastened on to the same branch, which is then likewise entwined by the building materials. The eggs arc bright blue, and vary in length from 22 to 25 mm., in breadth from 15 to 16.5 mm. Two or three eggs form a clutch.’’
No. Sex. Mus. Locality. Length. Wing. Tail. Tars. Culm.
a Male E. B. West Africa (Du Chaillu) 6.05 3.3 2.35 0.85 0.75
b ? E. B. West Africa 5.45 3.1 1.95 0.75 0.73
c Male E. B. Gaboon 6.4 3.35 2.25 0.85 0.75
d ? G. E. Shelley Congo (Dr. A. Lucan) 6.3 3.4 2.3 0.9 0.8
e ? G. E. Shelley Gaboon (Ansell) 6.5 3.4 2.35 0.85 0.75
f ? G. E. Shelley Gold coast 5.45 3.25 2.2 0.85 0.75
g Male A. Boucard Gaboon 6 3.3 2.35 0.9 0.75