White-browed sparrow-weaver

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White-browed sparrow-weaver
Plocepasser mahali -Baringo Lake, Kenya -male-8.jpg
Male, Baringo Lake, Kenya
White-browed sparrow-weaver (Plocepasser mahali) female.jpg
Female, Tswalu Kalahari Reserve, South Africa
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Passeridae
Genus: Plocepasser
Species: P. mahali
Binomial name
Plocepasser mahali
(Smith, 1836)
White-browed Sparrow-weaver Range Map.jpg
Distribution of the white-browed sparrow-weaver across southern Africa. Note: This partial map depicts only the southern range. See text for complete distribution.

The white-browed sparrow-weaver (Plocepasser mahali) is a predominantly brown, sparrow-sized bird found throughout central and north-central southern Africa.[2] It is found in groups of two to eleven individuals consisting of one breeding pair and nonreproductive individuals.


There are four recognized subspecies of the white-browed sparrow-weaver.

  • P. m. mahali is found in the eastern part of the northern Cape Province of South Africa
  • P. m. stentor is found from the western part of the northern Cape Province northwards along the Namibian escarpment
  • P. m. terricolor is found towards the center of the white-browed sparrow-weaver's range, occurring predominantly in eastern Botswana
  • P. m. pectoralis is found in northeastern Zimbabwe along the lower Zambezi river[2]


It ranges from 17 to 19 cm (6.7 to 7.5 in) in length and is characterized by a broad, white eyebrow stripe and white rump visible in flight. While the male white-browed sparrow-weaver sports a black bill, the female's bill is horn-colored (light gray); that of the juvenile is pinkish-brown. In Zimbabwe, the white-browed sparrow-weaver shows faint brown spotting across its white breast.[3]


The white-browed sparrow-weaver may emit either a brief chik-chick or a loud, fluid, cheoop-preeoo-chop whistle.[3]

Similar species[edit]

The yellow-throated petronia has a pinkish brown (not black) bill, a buff (not white) eyebrow stripe, black (not pink) feet, and yellow shading at the bottom of a white throat. Additionally, the white-browed sparrow-weaver is larger than the yellow-throated petronia. Unlike the white-browed sparrow-weaver, the yellow-throated petronia may be found in broad-leaved woodland.[3]

Distribution, habitat and migration[edit]

The white-browed sparrow-weaver is found in greatest numbers in north-central southern Africa. While this species most densely populates dry regions with woodland or wooded grassland at northern South Africa, its range includes Botswana, northern and central Namibia, and western Zimbabwe. It is seen very often in South Luangwa National Park, Zambia and southern Malawi. Populations may be found as far north as Ethiopia.[2]

This species nests along thornveld and scrubby, dry riverbanks.[3]

Because the white-browed sparrow-weaver nests in colonies, populations are sedentary.[2]



Year round, groups of the white-browed sparrow-weaver are active and nest-building. Groups of ten to sixty inverted-U-shaped nests of dry grass appear in the outside limbs of trees, although only several are used for breeding or roosting. While breeding nests have only one entrance, roosting nests have an entrance located at each of the two nest extremities. Research has shown that, throughout a region, nests are located at the leeward side of a tree. This behavior preserves a greater number of intact nests for breeding and roosting. White-browed sparrow-weaver nests are sometimes used by other birds, such as the red-headed finch and ashy tit.[4]


Breeding has been observed year round, but occurs mainly in warmer months.[2]

Conservation status[edit]

The white-browed sparrow-weaver is becoming more abundant, expanding its range on southern, northern, and eastern fronts.[2]


  1. ^ BirdLife International (2012). "Plocepasser mahali". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f Harrison, J. A.; Allan, D. G.; Parker, V.; Brown, C. J. (1997). The Atlas of South African Birds (PDF). BirdLife South Africa. p. 532. 
  3. ^ a b c d Sinclair, Ian; Hockey, Phil; Tarboton, Warwick (2002). Princeton Field Guides: Birds of Southern Africa. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press. pp. 396–397. ISBN 0-691-09682-1. 
  4. ^ Ferguson, J. W. H.; Seigfreid, W. R. (January–February 1989). "Environmental Factors Influencing Nest-Site Preference in White-Browed Sparrow-Weavers (Plocepasser Mahali)" (PDF). The Condor. 91 (1): 100–107. doi:10.2307/1368152. JSTOR 1368152. Retrieved March 2007.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)

External links[edit]