Pick on Someone Your Own Size!

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A Reichenow's weaver gathers nest material.

A Reichenow’s weaver gathers nest material.

Valentine’s Day may be tomorrow, but the birds at the San Diego Zoo are already wooing their sweethearts, and I’d like to share a story about a brave male weaver sticking up for his shy girlfriend.

Reichenow’s weavers Ploceus baglafecht reichenowi aren’t known for being aggressive birds. They are small, black-and-yellow birds with great personalities and have a tendency to get along with all their roommates. That’s why I was surprised to see the San Diego Zoo’s male Reichenow’s weaver (in the African aviary between Scripps aviary and the gorilla exhibit) get into a disagreement with an oriole warbler Hypergerus atriceps. When I explain why he told off the larger female oriole warbler, you may think that he was only being fair….

At the time of the incident, the oriole warbler had only been in the exhibit for a few days. During her introduction into the exhibit, she had established a few favorite perches. One day the weaver female accidentally flew to one of the oriole warbler’s favorite perches right when the oriole warbler was trying to land there! They landed on the branch at about the same time, and the warbler scolded the weaver female. Sternly squabbled at, the weaver immediately flew to a neutral perch and seemed to be content to let the matter rest. Her mate was not!

An oriole warbler is the new bird on the block.

An oriole warbler is the new bird on the block.

The scolding oriole warbler must have attracted the male weaver’s attention, because he launched himself across the aviary, landed next to the startled warbler, and gave her the same scolding she had given his mate moments earlier. The warbler instantly backed down and flew off, leaving the male weaver to fly over to his mate to make sure she was okay. I kept an eye on this trio for the next few days and saw that everyone was getting along and had easily moved past the misunderstanding.

I think we could draw a number of funny, anthropomorphic tales from this interaction, but I do think that the weaver female hadn’t meant to anger the oriole warbler, which possibly overreacted due to being a little nervous in an unfamiliar aviary. And I do think that the weaver male was absolutely sticking up for his mate.

Interesting how much humans have in common with 1.5-ounce birds, isn’t it?

Mike Grue is a senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo. Read his previous post,