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the web of life in southern Africa

Plocepasser mahali (White-browed sparrow-weaver) 

KoringvoŽl [Afrikaans]; Mogale [Tswana]; Mahali-wever [Dutch]; Mahali ŗ sourcils blancs [French]; Mahaliweber [German]; Tecel„o-pardal [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Passeriformes > Family: Ploceidae

Plocepasser mahali (White-browed sparrow-weaver)  Plocepasser mahali (White-browed sparrow-weaver)

White-browed sparrow-weaver, Erongo Mountains, Namibia. [photo Johann Grobbelaar ©]

White-browed sparrow-weavers, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, South Africa. [photo Peet van Schalkwyk ©, see also scienceanimations.com]

Distribution and habitat

It mainly occurs in two separate areas of sub-Saharan Africa; one extending from Ethiopia through Somalia and Kenya to Tanzania, with a larger population from Zambia to Tanzania south to southern Africa. Here it is locally common to abundant across much of the region, excluding most of Mozambique and the southern and eastern provinces of South Africa. It generally prefers semi-arid Acacia and Mopane (Colosphermum mopane) savanna woodland, especially along the border between degraded and undisturbed habitat.

Distribution of White-browed sparrow-weaver in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project (© Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  

Predators and parasites

It (at various stages of development) has been recorded as prey of the following animals:


It mainly eats insects, seeds, fruit and fleshy leaves, doing most of its foraging in flocks of 4-10 birds (sometimes along with other species), plucking food items from the ground. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:


  • Monogamous, colonial cooperative breeder, living in groups within which each bird has their own nest. However there can only be one active breeding pair per group who are usually the largest in size, remaining dominant until their death, at which point another pair steps up to the plate. The group are highly territorial, vigorously defending their ca. 50 metre long foraging territory, often chasing intruders out of the territory.
  • The nest (see images below) is built by both breeders in about 5-30 days but maintained throughout the year, consisting of an untidy, retort-shaped structure made of dry grass, with two entrances one of which is closed by the breeding pair. It is typically wedged into the branches of a thorny tree, but it may also use telephone wires, power lines and fences.

Plocepasser mahali (White-browed sparrow-weaver) 

White-browed sparrow-weaver next to its nest, Northern Cape, South Africa. [photo H. Robertson ©]

White-browed sparrow-weaver nest, South Africa. [photo Callie de Wet ©]

  • It breeds opportunistically in response to rainfall, with egg-laying season peaking from June-December.
  • It lays 1-3 eggs, which are incubated solely by the dominant female for about 14 days.
  • The chicks are fed by the breeding female only for the first few days of their lives, after which all group members contribute. They leave the nest at about 21-23 days old, remaining dependent on the group for at least one month more.


Not threatened.


  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town.