COVID-19 has significantly impacted our daily lives, including the new custom everyone is still trying to get used to: wearing a mask in public. There are many different types and colours of masks, from wildly colourful ones, to paper masks and even buffs, and people have quickly taken note of the trendiness of these new accessories. In the natural world however, there are some bird species who show off their mask every summer.
The breeding plumage of a number of weaver males is a bright yellow and some have a black Mask to impress the females. Although it is difficult to tell the difference between the Masked Weaver and the Lesser Masked Weaver from a distance, a closer look reveals that the black mask of the Masked Weaver only extends to the forehead. The Lesser Masked Weaver’s black mask however, extends to the crown of the bird. The most obvious ways to distinguish the two species, is in their eyes. During the breeding season Masked Weavers have red eyes (orange eyes whilst in their winter plumage) and Lesser Masked Weavers have yellowish eyes. The legs of Masked Weavers are brownish pink while the legs and feet of Lesser Masked Weavers are a blue-grey colour. Females are duller in colour and also have no masks.
Often these two weaver species breed in the same areas, building their kidney-shaped nests with a downward-pointing entrance. Lesser Masked Weavers have an entrance tunnel of a few centimetres long, while Masked Weavers have no tunnel entrance. Both species are parasitized by the Diederik Cuckoo. Masked Weavers are found in most parts of Namibia except in the south-western parts and Lesser Masked Weavers prefer the northern half of the country.
Author: Dirk Heinrich