Cape Weaver (Ploceus capensis)


The Cape Weaver is a medium-sized, brightly coloured bird. Males and females look similar but are not quite alike. Males also differ slightly in and out of the breeding season.

Cape Weaver (Ploceus capensis) male identification guide
Male Cape Weaver. Pamela Kleiman, Underberg, KwaZulu-Natal. 22 October 2021. BirdPix 190333
Inset photo: 7 May 2021. BirdPix 168226

Breeding males have olive green upperparts streaked with dark brown. The eyes are a pale whiteish colour and the long, thick bill is black. The underparts are brilliant yellow, and many males have a patch of deep orange around their face and throats. Outside of the breeding season, adult males keep the pale eyes, but lose the bright colours. Non-breeding males are duller yellow overall, and the dramatic black breeding bill becomes a brownish colour.

Cape Weaver (Ploceus capensis) female identification guide
Female Cape Weaver. Karis Daniel, Citrusdal, Western Cape. 2 March 2021. BirdPix 158722

Adult females almost resemble non-breeding males; the upperparts are dull yellowish-green streaked with dark brown, and the underparts are yellow. Females have pinkish-brown bills, and though most have dark brown eyes, around 20% may also have pale eyes! This can make it difficult to tell males and females apart on sight (more here). Juvenile Cape Weavers closely resemble females.

Cape Weavers produce a buzzy, chattery song and a distinct harsh alarm call. Males are particularly vocal around their nests—keep reading to learn more.


Cape Weavers have quite a varied diet, and are known to regularly feed on insects, spiders, fruit, nectar, and seeds. They forage in trees and on the ground, and are an important pollinator for many species of aloe.

Cape Weaver (Ploceus capensis) diet
Cape Weaver diet. L: Itxaso Quintana, Cape Town, Western Cape. 7 April 2020. BirdPix 110096; Top R: Giles Mulholland, Nelspruit, Mpumalanga. 8 July 2012. BirdPix 134656; Lower R: Andries Petrus & Joey de Vries, Nieuwoudtville, Northern Cape. 23 August 2019. BirdPix 93315

So long as some tree cover and permanent water are present, Cape Weavers can be found in a variety of open landscapes, often with shrubby vegetation or near farmland.

Ploceus capensis habitat
Examples of Cape Weaver habitat. Clockwise from top L: Rene Navarro, Riebeek Kasteel, Western Cape.
12 September 2021. BirdPix 184037; Les Underhill, Melkbosstrand, Western Cape. 2 August 2020. BirdPix 123181; Robertson, Western Cape. 23 July 2021. BirdPix 176264; Bitterfontein, Western Cape. 22 July 2020. BirdPix 121140

They are also frequent visitors to garden seed feeders, and will readily utilise bird baths.

Cape Weaver (Ploceus Capensis) visiting bird baths
Cape Weavers visiting bird baths. L: Corrie du Toit, Langebaan, Western Cape. 1 September 2020. BirdPix 128245; Fiona Hellman, Riebeek Kasteel, Western Cape. 8 April 2020. BirdPix 108780


The Cape Weaver is an endemic species; its range is confined to South Africa, eSwatini, and Lesotho. It is common in Lesotho and South Africa, except for the dry interior regions of the Northern Cape, and can also be found in western eSwatini.

SABAP2 distribution map for Cape Weaver (Ploceus capensis)
SABAP2 distribution map for Cape Weaver, downloaded 8 November 2021. Details for map interpolation here.


Cape Weavers are gregarious, and are often seen in mixed flocks with other species. They typically sleep in large communal roosts in reedbeds, which may also contain other species. The flock leaves the reedbed early in the morning to forage and returns just after sunset.

Cape Weavers are typically colonial nesters, meaning that several birds nest close together. Birds in the weaver family have some of the most fascinating nesting strategies and structures of any birds in the world. Males weave their bulky, globular nests from broad grasses, reed blades, and occasionally leaves. Cape Weavers are also polygynous, meaning that one male may have several female mates in a single breeding season. Each male constructs a few nests in his territory, which he fiercely defends.

Male Cape Weavers (Ploceus capensis) build elaborate nests and display territorial behaviour.
L: Male Cape Weaver starting a nest. Corrie du Toit, Somerset West, Western Cape. 13 August 2020. BirdPix 125266 R:
Male Cape Weavers in a territorial dispute. Karis Daniel, Lambert’s Bay, Western Cape. 20 September 2020. BirdPix 132078

Nests are visited and thoroughly inspected by females. If a female is impressed with the quality of a nest, she will line it with grass and soft feathers. You can watch a male constructing his nest in the video below.

Males will usually break down nests that are not selected by females. Nests are built in a variety of locations, and are commonly seen hanging from tree branches, suspended between reeds, or dangling from man-made structures such as fences or buildings.

Cape Weaver (Ploceus capensis) sites in trees, buildings, and reeds.
Cape Weaver nest sites. L: Dieter Oschadleus, Bellville, Western Cape. 19 May 2021. PHOWN 29998; top R: Johan & Estelle van Rooyen, Vermaaklikheid, Western Cape. 28 September 2020. PHOWN 29469; lower R: Itxaso Quintana, Darling, Western Cape. 13 August 2020. PHOWN 29406

Further resources

Species text in the first bird atlas (1997)

Weaver Watch text

Birds4Africa: Weaver News

Virtual Museum (BirdPix > Search VM > By Scientific or Common Name)

More common names: Kaapse Wewer (Afrikaans); Tisserin du Cap (French); Kapweber (German); Tessitore del Capo (Italian) Tejedor de El Cabo (Spanish)

List of bird species in this format is available here.

Recommended citation format: Daniel KA 2021. Cape Weaver Ploceus capensis. Biodiversity and Development Institute. Available online at

Bird Feeder Project: Karis Daniel & Megan Loftie-Eaton
Bird Feeder Project: Karis Daniel & Megan Loftie-Eaton
The Bird Feeder Project is a BDI citizen science initiative involving school learners and youth eco-clubs. Learners are taught a scientific protocol for doing 10-minute watches and recording the species they see, in the order they see them. The Bird Feeder Project includes an online identification guide to about 30 of the species seen in gardens in Cape Town. Students will learn how to upload their cellphone photos into the BirdPix section of the Virtual Museum, where they will be curated for posterity. The 10-minute watches will rapidly grow into a valuable monitoring database. Karis Daniel is the Project Coordinator and put together the identification guide, Megan Loftie-Eaton helped with the species texts.