Weaver Bird/Finch, Tempua (Malay)
Like the munias they are closely related to, Baya Weavers eat mainly
grass seeds. They too have large conical beaks to deal with their
food. They forage in flocks, in grass as well as on the ground. The
flock flies in close formation, often performing complicated manouvres.
These dull looking birds have a most interesting breeding season (December-March).
At this time, the males put on a brighter costume and they start to
build their amazing nests.
Baya Weavers nest in colonies of up to 20-30, usually in trees near
freshwater and open ground. In Singapore, they appear to prefer coconut
palms. Elsewhere, they may nest in an isolated low tree. They have
been known to nest in trees with a hornet's nest or with the nests
of fiercely biting Red Ants.
and wetland wildlife at
Sungei Buloh Nature Park
features: Small (15cm).
Male: Breeding: crown yellow;
dark brown mask; underparts unstreaked; upper parts dark
brown streaked buff; bill blackish brown.
Non-breeding male: no yellow crown (then dark brown streaked
buff); no mask; eyebrows long buffy; bill horn-coloured.
calling out on his
newly built nest
Female: Similar to non-breeding
Call: Loud harsh chip;
at nest a curious wheezy rattling song chit-chit-chit-chee-ee-ee-ee.
Status in Singapore: Fairly
common resident throughout the mainland and North offshore
World distribution: Pakistan
to Southwest China, down Southeast Asia to Sumatra and
Java. Despite their species name, they are not found in
the Philippines or Borneo.
Similar birds: Munias: they
are closely related and have similar habits.
Classification: Family Passeridae.
World 386 species, Singapore 16 species.
The Baya Weaver's nest is an architectural feat. It hangs from a palm
frond or branch and looks like an upside down flask. The general features
are a central nesting area with a long tube that leads to a side entrance.
This tube makes it difficult even for snakes to enter the nest. Although
they look precarious, most nests are very well attached and are impossible
to remove without almost destroying the nest. The nests last well
through the 3-month breeding season, sometimes even up to a year.
After the breeding season, other small birds may roost in the abandoned
nests. The nests are made entirely out of strips of grass which the
birds collect by cutting a notch in a tall grass, then stripping off
a 30-60cm length.
stalks or entire grass blades are used. The birds then use their strong
beaks to weave and knot the strips of grass. A newly-made nest is
green with fresh grass and turns brown as the grass dries. A bird
may make up to 500 trips to complete a nest. Madoc reports that a
"male" nest he examined comprised 3,437 strips of grass
4-50 cm long.
checking the inside
of a nest while the hopeful
male waits outside
males are promiscuous and try to attract females by building several
nests halfway. These half-built "male" nests look like motorcycle
helmets complete with chin strap! Lumps of dry clay may be inserted
around the rim to stabilise the nest in strong winds. The male performs
displays and songs on these half-built nests to attract a mate. This
type of nest is also called a "cock-swing"!
A female bird first inspects the male's handiwork of a nest before
signalling her approval to him. Once a female chooses to mate with
him, he might finish the nest. But often, the female completes the
nest. When the female lays and is preoccupied with incubating the
eggs, the male abandons her and immediately uses his other half-finished
nests to woo a new female. Most males mate with two females, but sometimes
three. The males defend his nests from other males. Meanwhile, the
female is left to incubate and raise the brood on her own. 3-4 white
eggs are laid and the nestlings are fed insects.
Status and threats: Baya Weavers depend
on tall grasses such as Guinea Grass
(Panicum maximum) for both their food and for their nesting material.
In Singapore, they are found in grassland, cultivated areas, scrub and secondary
growths usually near fresh or brackish water. They are considered
a pest on ricefields and Madoc describes that they were caught and made
into "a succulent dish".
breed and brood by N. Shiva Kumar on the Hindustani Times: a lively
article about the birds with photos of the nests.
- Morten Strange,
"A Photographic Guide to Birds of Malaysia and Singapore: including
Southeast Asia, the Philippines and Borneo", Periplus, 2000
(p. 369: description, voice, habits, distribution, status, photo).
- Lim Kim Seng,
"Pocket Checklist of the Birds of the Republic of Singapore",
Nature Society (Singapore), 1999 (Abundance, status, Chinese and Malay
- Morten Strange,
"Birds of Southeast Asia: A photographic guide to the birds
of Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines and Indonesia",
New Holland, 1998 (p. 98: photo, facts).
- Lim Kim Seng and
Dana Gardner, "Birds: An Illustrated Field Guide to the Birds
of Singapore", Sun Tree Publishing Ltd., 1997 (p. 120: identification,
status in Singapore, distribution, diagram, number of species).
- Wang Luan Keng,
"Nature's Nest Architects at Sungei Buloh", Wetlands
Vol 3 No 1, Jun 1996.
- G W H Davison
and Chew Yen Fook, "A Photographic Guide to Birds of Peninsular
Malaysia and Singapore", New Holland Publishers Ltd., 1995
(p. 131: identification, status in Singapore, distribution, photo).
- Morten Strange
and Allen Jeyarajasingam, "Birds: A Photographic Guide to the
Birds of Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore", Sun Tree Publishing,
1993 (p. 93: description, distribution, habits, habitat, photo).
- Clive Briffett,
"A Guide to the Common Birds of Singapore", BP Science
Centre,1992 (p. 136: photo of a bird on its nest).
- Christopher Hails,
"Birds of Singapore" illustrated by Frank Jarvis, Times
Editions, 1987 reprinted 1995 (p. 154: habits, description, status in
Singapore, and lovely drawings of the birds).
- M W F Tweedie,
"Common Birds of the Malay Peninsula", Longman,1970
(p. 63-64: description, distribution, habits, habitat, drawing of nest
- G C Madoc, "An
Introduction to Malayan Birds", Malayan Nature Society, 1947
(p. 215-216: description, habits, habitat).
- Sir John A S Bucknill
and E N Chasen, "Birds of Singapore and South-East Asia",
Tynron Press, 1927, edition 1990 (p. 207: brief description of the bird
and its nest).