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Bubalornis niger (Red-billed Buffalo Weaver)

Buffelwewer [Afrikaans]; Kamugcara (check: same name as African pygmy-goose) [Kwangali]; Xighonyombha [Tsonga]; Mabônyana, Pônyane [Tswana]; Roodsnavel-buffelwever [Dutch]; Alecto à bec rouge [French]; Büffelweber [German]; Tecelão-de-bico-vermelho [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Passeriformes > Family: Ploceidae

Bubalornis niger (Redbilled Buffalo Weaver) Bubalornis niger (Redbilled Buffalo Weaver)

Red-billed buffalo-weaver, Krugersdorp, South Africa. [photo Gerhard Theron ©]

Red-billed buffalo-weaver, South Africa. [photo Peet van Schalkwyk ©, see also scienceanimations.com]

Distribution and habitat

Occurs in two separate areas of sub-Saharan Africa; one extending from Somalia and Ethiopia through to Tanzania and the other population from southern DRC, Angola and Zambia to southern Africa. Here it is locally common from northern and central Namibia to Botswana, Zimbabwe, southern Mozambique and northern and north-eastern South Africa, generally preferring Acacia savanna, especially when it has been disturbed by humans and livestock

Distribution of Red-billed weaver in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project (© Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  

Predators and parasites

The nestlings and sometimes adults are thought to be hunted by the following animals:


It eats insects, seeds and fruit, doing most of its foraging on the ground, searching the soil and low vegetation for food. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:


  • It is breeds in colonies (see image below for an example) made up of different separate "lodges", each with a number of nesting chambers within them. The males may be polygamous, each controlling 1-8 nest chambers and up to about 3 females; usually there is one dominant male in a colony who has the most females and egg chambers, while other males may have one female and a few chambers. The males vigorously defend their lodges against other males, using aggressive displays and calls, and females within harem do not tolerate each others presence in their egg chambers. Colonies may use a different system altogether, with two males cooperating with each other to build the nest, both defending the territory and helping to feed the chicks.
  • The nest is a huge, bulky mass of interconnected thorny twigs, divided into separate complexes (lodges) with multiple egg chambers, each with a nest built by the female, consisting of a ball of grass, leaves and roots. The colony is typically placed in the branches of a large, often thorny tree or alternatively a windmill or pylon, usually near human habitation. In fact if the people in the area leave, the colony often departs as well. Large raptors such as White-backed vultures (Gyps africanus) and Bateleurs (Terathopius ecaudatus) often build their nests on top of Red-billed buffalo-weaver nests; this is though to be mutually beneficial, as the raptor nests are  camouflaged and the weavers are protected from other predators.
Bubalornis niger (Redbilled Buffalo Weaver)  

Red-billed buffalo-weaver colony in a windmill, Phabeni Gate area, Kruger Park, South Africa. [photo Warwick Tarboton ©]

  • Egg-laying season is from September-June, peaking from about December-March
  • It lays 2-4 eggs, which are incubated solely by the female for about 14 days.
  • The chicks are usually fed solely by the female (except in cooperative breeding colonies, see above) on a diet of insects collected in and around the nest, leaving after about 20-23 days.


Not threatened, in fact it has benefited from the destruction, disturbance and settlement by humans in savanna.


  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town.