Every year around spring, the lesser masked weavers are hard at work building nests and attracting females. Not only do they try to make their nests as impressive as possible, but they also dress up for the occasion. Their plumage changes from dull colours to bright yellow with a characteristic black mask on their heads. All of this is done in an effort to attract the female to lay her eggs in HIS nest.
The male begins to weave his nest out of grasses and reeds. Once he’s completed it, he will display around the nest and hopefully attract her attention. If the nest does not meet her approval, she will simply undo it leaving the male to start the process all over again. It can sometimes take up to 5 nests before the female is satisfied with the male’s workmanship. However if she likes what she sees, she will line the inside with soft grass while he builds an entrance tunnel.
Once the nest is prepared, the female will lay between 2-4 eggs, which she will incubate for about 13 days. The nesting period is around 15 days and in this time both parents will go out to find food for their chicks.
However sometimes there is an unwelcome visitor. Meet the Diederik’s Cuckoo, a brood parasite who sneaks into an empty nest, lays an egg in under 10 seconds and palms off her parenting duties to the unsuspecting weaver.
Suddenly the carefully constructed weaver’s nest has become home to the Diederik’s Cuckoo’s egg. The weaver parents return home and are blissfully unaware that they are hosting and raising an intruder’s young.
Because the cuckoo’s egg hatches before the weaver’s eggs, the cuckoo chick has a few days head start developmentally. It then kills any other eggs or chicks in the nest thereby ensuring its survival and the survival of its species. Whether or not this is cruel or genius, we can all agree that this is a fascinating adaptation of one of mother nature’s creatures. It certainly provides us with some amazing views and scenes right here at the lodge entrance.