Despite the east African country of Uganda boasting a bird list of over 1060 species, including some iconic ones like Shoebill, Grey Parrot, African Pitta and Great Blue Turaco, the “Pearl of Africa” only has one endemic species, the little known Fox’s Weaver Ploceus spekeoides.
The first Fox’s Weaver was collected by Harold Munro Fox, an English zoologist, who visited Uganda in the early 1910s. Fox gave these specimens to Stephenson Robert Clarke, who presented his own (and these) African specimens to the British Museum in 1923. The Fox’s Weaver specimens were overlooked until 1947 when Captain Claude Henry Baxter Grant, a British ornithologist and collector, and Cyril Winthrop Mackworth-Praed, a British sport shooter & ornithologist, recognised this as a new species.
The male Fox’s Weaver is 14 cm long with a golden-yellow forehead, crown and nape, contrasting with a black throat, chin, lores and cheek. The eyes are orange-red and the bill black, and the back and mantle are black with the outer feathers having narrow yellow fringes. The female, as almost always in the avian world, is much duller! It looks so much alike some other African weavers that experts reckon most photographs of the Fox’s Weaver have actually been misidentified and are other species! Even part of the scientific name spekoides is Greek for “resembling”, meaning the species resembles another, namely Speke’s Weaver Ploceus spekei of northeast Africa.
Fox’s Weaver occurs only in a 10,000 km2 area of eastern-central Uganda, where it inhabits bushed and wooded grassland in swampy areas, particularly where papyrus grows. Very little is known about its feeding habits, but it is thought that it eats seeds and small insects.
There is equally little known about the breeding habits of the Fox’s Weaver, but it might be a colonial system. It is presumed that it is a resident species, with local movements depending on rain and water levels.
It is currently regarded as Near Threatened (IUCN 3.1) due to habitat loss as a result of human activity in its restricted range. For your chance to see this poorly-studied species, join us on our 14 day, small group, expert-guided birding tour to Uganda in August 2020. Who knows, you may even become a birding celebrity if you manage to get some good photographs or figure out what they eat or how they breed! For more information enquire directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.