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Keeping a count of the 'least concerned' Baya Weaver birds

As BNHS invites you over for a weaver count this Sunday, here's a guide to the incredulous nest-weaving species

They are gregarious, sparrow-sized and known for their excellent nest-weaving skills. However, once a common species found in India, the Indian Baya Weaver (Ploceus Philippinus) seems to be declining in numbers due to the loss and modification of green cover and grasslands for development projects.

Male Baya Weaver bird. PICS COURTESY/DR RAJU KASAMBE
Male Baya Weaver bird. Pics Courtesy/Dr Raju Kasambe

Similar is the case with Streaked Weaver, Black-breasted Weaver (Black-throated Weaver) and Finn’s Weaver (Finn’s Baya or Yellow Weaver) — the three other weaver bird species commonly found in India. In fact, all Indian weaver bird species are protected and listed in Schedule IV of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.

Female Baya Weaver bird
Female Baya Weaver bird

In an attempt to assess their status, the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) recently announced a pan-India Baya Weaver count. This Sunday, bird watchers, ornithologists, NGOs, forest officials and nature lovers can record and report sightings of Baya Weavers in their area. Keen to be part of the citizen initiative?

The weaver bird factfile
>> Baya Weaver birds are social birds who stay and breed as flocks throughout the year. India is home to four species of weavers, of which the Yellow Weaver or Finn’s Weaver is a threatened species.
>> The Baya has a polygamous breeding system, that is, one male has many females as mates, not necessarily at the same time.
>> Baya Weaver males look like females during non-breeding season. During breeding season, between April and August, the Baya males acquire a distinctive yellow breeding plumage. Initially, the males start building the nests. Females visit the incomplete nests and pair with the male whose nests they like. When the females visit, the males sing to attract the females.
>> The suspended pendulous nests of Baya Weavers are considered one of the most complex nests in the avian world. Baya Weavers use mud pellets to maintain the centre of gravity of the nest and to prevent the eggs and chicks from falling down during monsoon winds. In some parts of India, Baya Weavers have started building their nests on power lines and clotheslines. This could be due to shortage of nesting trees.
>> The males are experts at tying knots of grass blades by just using the beak. They can tie many types of knots like experts in adventure sports.
>> The Baya Weaver builds its nests at inaccessible places, like on thin branch of a thorny tree (like Babul) or a scale tree (like toddy palm or coconut). They build nests on branches leaning over water, so the predators (like snakes) have to risk its own life to access the nests.
Inputs: Dr Raju Kasambe, Important Bird & Biodiversity Areas Programme Manager, BNHS

How to participate
On June 12, select a location of your choice and go for bird watching. Record sightings of the birds in that location. Submit your records on www.bnhs.org or send it onibabnhs@gmail.com (for details, call 9837122373)

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