While visiting North Uthungulu in South Africa, we stopped at a strip mall (aka little souvenir location built for tourists). I usually tried to buy something to help support the local artisans, but this time I was so taken by the birds that I could hardly take my eyes off them long enough to look for soaps, candles, or glassware! A really squawky colony of brilliantly arrayed Cape weaver birds
were busily making nests in a tree along the path, and they immediately captured my attention, because I’d never seen anything quite like them before. In fact, there are weaver birds in some tropical areas of Asia and Australia,
but weaver birds are most common in sub-Saharan Africa, where they tend to live in colonies of 2-20 gregarious (though fiercely territorial) males and how-many-ever females they attract. Male Cape weavers (Ploceus capensis) are about 7 inches long,
have long, conical bills (good for weaving and for sucking nectar).The males are especially colorful during the long mating season,
which lasts from June to February and peaks during the rainy season. During the mating season, Cape weaver males are decked out
with golden underparts and orange faces, although their heads and back are more olive drab in coloring
(which is also the year-round color of females and young chicks.) These talented guys weave intricate, kidney-shaped nests
out of grass, reeds, and leafy fibers to attract prospective mates. Their nests have small, downward-facing entrances and are fully waterproof. Interested females test the construction quality by tugging at the interior walls, and if a nest makes the young lady feel snug and secure, she’ll adopt it for the season, mating with her benefactor. Unlike most birds, Cape weavers are polygynous, and one male may build
and therefore entice up to seven mates during any one season. Each female spends a couple of weeks brooding her clutch of 2-5 eggs.
She stays the first few nights with the chicks after they hatch, but then she roosts close by in one of the unused nests. Although the females initially care for the chicks, as they get older, the males help out with their own chicks,
which must keep them extremely busy for awhile! Happily, in about 17 days the fledglings are big enough to find their own suppers of seeds, fruit, nectar, unsuspecting small spiders, and insects,
and the parents become empty nesters.
Are you an empty nester? Do you have a home? Keeping up a home seems like a never-ending job to me. Have you considered Jesus, who worked constantly—much harder than the energetic weaver birds—to prepare spiritual homes for “whosoever will”? Still, despite his tireless work, he never had a nest of his own, because He was too busy helping others!
“The Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them…
Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests;
but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head“ (Luke 9:56, 58).
(If you want to hear what Cape Weaver birds sound like, this is from YouTube):