The baya weaver (Ploceus philippinus) is native to Southeast Asia, ranging from Pakistan to Singapore and Malaysia (they are not actually found in the Philippines despite their name). Members of Family Passeridae (the sparrow family), they are small birds (around 15 cm), and their beaks are adapted for seed consumption. Like their closest relatives, the munias, the baya weavers prefer to eat grass seeds, and feed in flocks in grasses or on the ground.

The females and males look similar for most of the year, with average, drab brown colouring with a lighter, streaked underside and a light colored beak. During mating season (usually December-March), though, the males adopt a darker beak colour, darker brown back, unstreaked underparts, striking yellow cap, and black face.

Perhaps the most interesting feat in the life of the baya weaver is its nesting habit. The birds typically nest in colonies of 20-30, which isn't all that interesting until you take into account the type of nest they build. The nests are usually placed on the edges of low palm fronds (when available) or far out on the branches of trees, near fresh water and close to the ground. It's thought that this is done to prevent predators (snakes and suchlike) from entering their nest. The nest itself is shaped something like a ... er... well, it kind of looks like a Klein bottle, only closed... Here. Let me show you:

    /  \
   /    \ 
  / |\__/ <-- eggs go here
  | |  
  | |
The nest is attached to the branch/frond at the top. The attachment, though small, is incredibly secure, and practically impossible to remove without destroying the nest. The nest itself is made of strips of grass blades (not the entire blade) that is woven and knotted together into the complicated structure shown above. During mating season, the male will sometimes partially build a nest in order to attract a mate in sort of a "My house isn't complete without you" ploy. After mating, the female usually finishes the nest and raises her young on her own, while the male goes off to attract other mates at other half-built nests.

The baya weaver is considered a pest in the ricefields of Southeast Asia. As such, the bird is often captured and eaten (though I couldn't find a recipe for them). Bird enthusiasts, on the other hand, take much pleasure in watching these birds, and there exists a multitude of photographs on the Web (a small sampling is listed below).



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