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Building Engineer At Work

Building Engineer At Work
Photo Information
Copyright: Anna Eksteen (Miss_Piggy) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 2285 W: 5 N: 5300] (18714)
Genre: Animals
Medium: Color
Date Taken: 2007-12-31
Categories: Birds
Camera: Sony Cybershot DSC H9, Digital ISO 100
Exposure: f/4.5, 1/500 seconds
Details: (Fill) Flash: Yes
Photo Version: Original Version
Theme(s): Birds of Africa, Weavers, Birds of South Africa 2, Yellow Birds, Animals from my garden [view contributor(s)]
Date Submitted: 2008-02-17 3:21
Viewed: 5660
Favorites: 1 [view]
Points: 107
[Note Guidelines] Photographer's Note
Spottedbacked Weaver / Ploceus cucullatus

I am absolutely fascinated by the way weavers go about building their nests. Every time I have the opportunity I would go outside and watch these birds constructing their homes. We have many weaver nests in our palms, but it is just a pity that these birds damage the palms so badly through this nest building process. They tare and rip the leaves in shreds to find the right piece to build their homes. This often leaves a sore eye in our lovely garden. Although we are frustrated about the damage, we take pleasure in the birds being in the garden and have high regard for their intricate art. They are so determined to complete the task and to impress the females. I admire these hardworking weavers.

I have attempted so many shots of these birds, but because they are such busy bodies most of the photos ended up being out of focus or blurred due to the movement. With the birds in between all the vegetation and with them building high up in the palms it is also difficult to keep the camera still. I think this shaking even worsens with the thrill and delight I experience while taking the photos. This specific photo is very precious to me because it clearly shows one of these weavers in the act of collecting building material while it acrobatically hangs upside down in one of our Fan-tailed palms showing what little remains are left over of the palm.

Human beings build houses to live in, many turning them into homes to raise a family. Birds build nests to breed their young; well…most of them do anyway

Young students who had doubts that birds were master builders, was asked by Douglas Causey of Harvard University's Museum of Comparative Zoology to try making a nest themselves by using thin twigs and grass. They were not allowed to use their hands, only their mouths. They had to keep in mind that birds only use their beaks. You can just imagine the result.

Birds are masterful at building strong, intricate nests and capable of grand engineering feats. But are they engineers? Not in the way you might think. They didn't go to school and study architecture. They didn't even learn how to build by watching their parents or each other.

Just as birds know how to fly, they know how to build a nest without instructions or apprenticeship. It's a matter of instinct, scientist's claim. They are being described by scientists as hard-wired, sort of like robot animals. Birds craft their nests without consciously thinking about it.

Books have been written on the subject "How did some species of birds develop such well-engineered, elaborate nests?" without providing a real answer. One possible explanation involves natural variation and evolution. If a particular bird happens to build a nest that is stronger or more predator-safe, that bird's offspring are more likely to survive and pass along this trait to succeeding generations. Another possibility is that when females choose mates based on the quality of the nests they build, this means the best nest builders are more likely to breed. Nest building, therefore, may still be evolving, but so slowly that no one really detects any change. This makes nest-building one of the most difficult bird behaviours to understand.

Generally, nest building coincides with the arrival of springlike temperatures. That's when birds' internal "clocks" tell them it's time to mate and raise a brood. In the tropics, though, some birds build nests and breed all year-round. Which bird actually does the building – the male or female – varies by species. In some cases, they both collect material to build the nest and join in its construction. Many nests take about a week to build. Some birds draw it out as part of the mating ritual.

Most of the time, the female bird get to choose her partner in ensuring the fittest will only do for the survival of the species. With the Weaver species, the female gets invited by the male to view his weaving skills for her approval. An ideal and successful suitor usually seems the one who has built a strong, pear-shaped nest with a long funnel opening at the bottom.

What happens if the nest does not meet the approval of the female? She would rip it apart, leaving the aspirant avian architect with only bits and pieces of his hard work and then she would take off aghast without another look! He must then start afresh with building a new nest and courting her. POOR FELLOW!

Materials that make up the nest are braided, and with the weaverbird, are actually woven or thatched together using grass, strips of leaves, and twigs. It is to them hard work, with handsome results. Birds can make hundreds, even thousands, of trips to collect materials. In the avian world, weavers have taken the craft of nest building to elaborate extremes. But however coarse the outside of the nest is, the inside is usually lined with soft materials to make it comfy.

Many keep a very clean "house." This is, after all, the baby birds' bassinet. Hanging nests, particularly woven ones are perhaps the most admirable of bird architecture. They certainly look very beautiful and most require great skill on behalf of the bird to build. There are nearly 100 species of weaver birds renowned for their carefully woven nests.

If you found these notes interesting and want to read more about it you will probably find "Birds as Builders" by Peter Goodfellow (ISBN 07153 7410) very captivating as well. Not only does it contain much more fascinating information which I was unable to include here, being 160 pages long, but it is also well illustrated with beautiful photos. Source

gerbilratz, uleko, mariki, haraprasan, eqshannon, matatur, spalaxtr, Mikolaj, jaycee, nglen, PaulH, jusninasirun, anilnediyara, Adanac, nirmalroberts, meyerd, Aaltjie, Alex99, MMM, jcoowanitwong, takos1, fiyo, Luis52, angybone, yedidia, NinaM, peter_stoeckl, valy67, CeltickRanger, oscarromulus, loot, pierrefonds, fanni, boreocypriensis has marked this note useful
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ThreadThread Starter Messages Updated
To oscarromulus: Digital photographyMiss_Piggy 1 03-09 12:38
To AnimalExplorer: Thank youMiss_Piggy 1 03-09 12:31
To NinaM: Completed nestMiss_Piggy 1 02-25 05:48
To Aaltjie: Narsing konfytloot 3 02-19 07:35
To Janice: Completed nestMiss_Piggy 1 02-18 00:24
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Critiques [Translate]

Nice capture and unusual composition...the information you supplied is also impressive!!

  • Great 
  • uleko Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 3396 W: 172 N: 3310] (10940)
  • [2008-02-17 4:15]
  • [2]

Hello Anna,
Now that's a real master builder very well captured in fine light. Good details and beautiful colours against the blue sky. We used to swing around like that on a bar as kids but we didn't weave at the same time!! I envy you having palms and Weavers in your garden - how lovely!
Many thanks and cheers, Ulla

Hi Anna,
A fine capture of this spottedback weaver. A lovely composition with very good angle of view. Fine details. Great notes. Thanks a lot for sharing.

I certainly have never seen this, nor heard of it. Yet it is caught well and very nicely documented. A complete lesson. You are a good teacher for sure...Very nice read and look for a quiet Sunday here in the foggy western US.

A perfectly dramatic capture Anna, surely that weaver should be an acrobat to perform those contortions while building its nest! Thanks to your low POV we can watch it from an interesting angle against the blue sky. TFS indeed!

Hi Anna,
Great moment. Just starting point o a new home. I hope that you also take next steps. Thanks for sharing it. Regards,

Hello Anna! Amazing scene. Wonderful moment. Fantastic shot. Great effect. Good luck!

  • Great 
  • joey Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1739 W: 224 N: 6872] (24909)
  • [2008-02-17 8:55]

Hi Anna,
what a great shot of this Weaver.
The pose is very funny :-D
Dynamic composition and a great POV.
Nice colours.
Well done,

  • Great 
  • jaycee Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2454 W: 10 N: 8044] (25460)
  • [2008-02-17 9:07]

Hi Anna,

Your posts are always worth waiting for. This is an amazing shot of a bird I have never seen before. What a capture as this little acrobat weaves his nest. Superb colors, details and composition. I appreciate your wonderful notes.


Hi Anna,

What an original pose you caught of this little fellow. For sure, he seems to work very hard to maintain himself on this branch. I love the expression he has on his face, looks like he's asking for help. Well done!


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  • pvs Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1127 W: 254 N: 3161] (14464)
  • [2008-02-17 11:19]

Hi Anna,

You have captured this weaver in a busy and funny pose,I have seen them a few times (as well in southern africa) and are quite funny to watch making their homes (real archtects),I can however understand the mess they can create in your garden,tfs


  • Good 
  • Janice Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 3277 W: 148 N: 6163] (18832)
  • [2008-02-17 12:02]
  • [+]

Hi Anna, looks like this is stage 1 of the nest building. You will have to start using a tripod to keep the camera steady.

I had never seen a weaver bird and his nest before and I just loved this image when Gerhard Theron posted it in 2005:
and this one too

I look forward to seeing more photos from you of this nest when he's finished building it - and I hope his missus likes it too!


  • Great 
  • nglen Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2883 W: 30 N: 9683] (36145)
  • [2008-02-17 12:07]

Hi Anna. What a fantastic thing to watch it make me wonder how do they know what to do. I like the wat your shot shows it hanging on with its feet. good colour. you have some noise in thepicture but the interest out way this small thing. well done TFS. great notes to. will be in teresting to see the nest as it gets built.

well done TFS.

  • Great 
  • PaulH Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1137 W: 26 N: 3879] (13882)
  • [2008-02-17 12:13]

Great moment to capture Anna, a very interesting pose you've caught of this industrious little bird here, his yellow feathers stand out nicely against that blue sky. Great comprehensive note too, fascinating stuff thanks!

Hello Anna,

Thanks for sharing this capture of something that I have never seen before. Some birds are very technical in their nest building technique and hope you can post one once this one is done - probably with the missus and the young ones :-).

The angle for the shot here is brilliant. A simple twig in diagonal position provides excellent perspective against that spotless blue sky. The light shining down on the bird making the plumage appear in good contrasting colors. Perching on a branch like that with the initial straw is a perfect catch for the foundation of the coming architecture. Well timed capture Anna and this is very pleasant to see and read.

Best regards from Malaysia and very well done.


Hello Anna,
Nice picture of the acrobat and very informative notes. TFS, Regards

  • Great 
  • Adanac Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 1273 W: 1 N: 6188] (21378)
  • [2008-02-17 23:29]

Hello Anna,
What an acrobat and also a fine construction engineer. I have seen the nests these wonderful birds construct they are truly amazing. Your fine image shows the foundation of the new nest going up. Thank you for this great image and notes Anna.

Hello Anna,

Very nice capture of this bird. Very good pose of the bird and very good timing. Perhaps you tried to sharpen too much and the picture seems a little bit to noisy. Very nice colours.

Hi Anna,
Thanks a lot for having such great opinion about engineers.
Very nice candid shot. A bit noisy though.
Congratulations and thanks for sharing.
- Nirmal

Hi Anna - Baie mooi foto, maar vir my oog is die kleure bietjie skerp??
Baie goeie notas oor hierdie voeltjie. Hoop jy gaan vir ons 'n "update" gee van hoe die nessie vorder.

Hi Anna,
This is a tinny engineer :) Looks like a real acrobat. Colors and action captured are very nice. I suspect that you cropped the picture a lot or used high ISO because of this little noise I see. Your notes are as usual, very interesting and well documented. TFS,

  • Great 
  • EOSF1 Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1393 W: 119 N: 5267] (23955)
  • [2008-02-18 4:52]

Hello Anna, great capture of this beautiful construction worker! Good details, well composed scene and good exposure, well done, thanks!


Hi Anne,
for once we see a weaver---weaving, thanks to you! An amazing sight, and you had the good instincts for an interesting shot. Thanks for presenting it and thanks for the informative note.
My best regards

Dear Anna
I was wondering why your points look a bit skew and Sherlock Holmes (aka Aaltjie) (aka die Kaaskop) did some investigating. Then I saw one of your points was a one pointer. I am a little confused, and looked up and down, inside out, from corner to corner and just cannot see why? Maybe it is the old age creeping in slowly. But then again some of the comments is really positive and indebted. Anyway. I think this is such a beautiful scene. Just showing a closer look at how these birds go about and must endure to build a home. In comparison to these birds we humans have it so easy. Just phone and get a builder, and he takes care of all the building materials etc.etc. As per your note these birds fly up and down, to and throw many times to get its nest build, and it may even not be appreciated by the female. I agree with your note that I also have lot of admiration for them. Once again I must thank you for your very interesting note and information shared. It is much appreciated.
Kind regards.
Ps. Tell Mr L that my eyes are glued to the screen waiting in anticipation for his next posting. So Ms P. If it is your fault at all that he does not have time to prepare his own photo, because you are using his computer. I am telling you now to get away from the PC and let the man have it back for himself. Go and compile another recipe book and leave the man in peace. ( You can return when he is finished.)

  • Great 
  • wuta Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 855 W: 2 N: 617] (2142)
  • [2008-02-18 7:42]

Hello Anna , A Very cute compositie from the bird , great sharpnes colours details and the blue sky, nice to see in your garden , tfs greetings teunie .

Hello Anna,
A very fine image of light and shadows displayed with a Weaver building a home!
very impressive pose of the bird with good clarity, colour and details
many thanks for sharing with us also a useful notes always

Amazing POV, quelle belle posture bien réussi, belles couleurs.

  • Great 
  • Alex99 Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 4072 W: 133 N: 7096] (23735)
  • [2008-02-18 11:52]

Hi Anna.
Superb note and very nice shot. I am impressed how well you have pictured this attractive dynamic scene. Timing is really excellent as well as the details and sharpness of the entire image. Bravo.

Hi Anna, great capture of this lovely working bird in acrobatic pose, lovely composition with splendid colors, excellent sharpness and great details, very well done, ciao Silvio

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  • MMM Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 1114 W: 0 N: 2546] (11425)
  • [2008-02-19 15:20]

Hello Anna
nice presentation.Your POV is very different but nice.Sharp mage and good details.Light and colors are nice.
TFS Michel

Hello Anna,
My first time to see a bird building nest. It is fantastic to observe the nest building starting with the first foundation leaf. Very well done and TFS this wonderful moment.

  • Great 
  • takos1 Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 261 W: 25 N: 208] (2607)
  • [2008-02-20 22:58]

Ciao Anna,
simpaticissima questa foto!
Sembra che stia facendo esercizi alla sbarra.

  • Great 
  • fiyo Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 1053 W: 5 N: 3475] (15161)
  • [2008-02-21 0:52]

Great shot Anna, very nice capture with a superb composition.
Fine detail, and nice bright colours.Thanks for posting

  • Great 
  • Luis52 Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 1175 W: 8 N: 4240] (15809)
  • [2008-02-21 9:08]

Hola Anna.
Sorry. I miss this one. Great image of this little bird. He must work in a circus.
It is always very nice for me to read Your notes, and admire You work.
Your friend.
Luis Leal.

What a cute little bird and an intriguing perch. Great POV and angle here. Nice with the clear blue background!

  • Great 
  • arfer Gold Star Critiquer [C: 2731 W: 0 N: 0] (0)
  • [2008-02-22 12:06]

Hello Anna

A very clever bird indeed.
You have a wonderful POV here as it looks at you.
The colours are super,the plumage detail is excellent.
You have made very good eye contact.


Hello Anna,
This act photo make an excellent illustration of the Weaver building, miraculous ability. When I am looking at its face expression, I can almost enter to its design thinkings. Moreover it visible a talented acrobat. Wonderful inspired photo indeed.
Best regards,

  • Great 
  • Nilson Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 488 W: 0 N: 566] (4423)
  • [2008-02-23 12:11]

Exelente imagem muito boa de qualidade espetacular meus parabéns.

  • Great 
  • NinaM Gold Star Critiquer [C: 773 W: 3 N: 1157] (4077)
  • [2008-02-23 16:00]
  • [+]

Many thanks Miss Piggy for this very informative note and the great picture to go with it. I would like it if you could post a picture of the terminated nest, if it is possible to you! You are right, birds are great builders and if the subject interests you, in the National Geographic of this month, the US issue, there is an article about animals and intelligence. It is not a thorough research but at least it is now available to the public. It is quite interestin and it tears down many thinking people believe in, like animal are like machines and feel nothing. Your post today demonstrates that they are not and the picture is incredible. Many thanks!


Hehehe Anna,
splendid pose of this beautifull bird,
excellent post
cheer and thanks,

Hello Anna,
charming pose, excellent light, an elegant ornamental composition of twigs and the actor in front of a clear blue uniform background - a truly eye catching image. Maybe slightly too much postwork sharpening making it look a bit grainy - at least on my monitor. Cheerful capture, well seen and reported. Thank you!
My best regards,

Hi Anna,
Delicious shot of this beautiful birdy. Excellent POV and sharpness.
Very good composition.

  • Great 
  • valy67 Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1727 W: 59 N: 3060] (9219)
  • [2008-03-03 12:44]

Hello Anna !
This is a wonderful picture ! You have captured the bird at the perfect moment, in this very strange and unusual pose, poor bird, must not be easy ! :-) I also like your POV and the composition very much, with the branches at a diagonal. The blue sky makes a wonderful BG for your little acrobat. Very well done !

Hello Anna,
Lovely image of a weaver in the beginning stages of making it's home. I think it would be really neat to see sequence shots showing the progress of their nest being constructed until completion.(ex. day 1, day 2, ect...).
Very interesting post on bird behavior. I find most animals very interesting as to their incredible survival skills. One instance that always comes to mind is the cuckoo and it's brood-parasite behavior. They lay their egg in a host nest where they do not have to worry about parental care and they're off doing their regular daily routine without worries. I have recently read 'The Making of the Fittest' by Sean B. Carroll. The book talks about DNA and the ultimate forensic record of evolution. I recieved a free copy from the author as one of my images appear in the book. I don't read much, but found the book very explanatory on the topic. TFS :)

hello Anna

what a wonderful shot of the acrobatic pose of this bird,
excellent luminosity of your image, wonderful all blue sky,
excellent POV and excellent way the bird framed on the image,
lovely colours and excellent details of the plumage, TFS


This is truely a remarkable bird. We saw them in Brazil doing what you have so BEAUTIFULLY registered.
I do have some images of them too; they are B/W. Had no telelens in those days. Who expected "digital" & TN to show up???
Mario from not so cold Calgary these days with friendly greetings.

  • Great 
  • SkyF Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2234 W: 188 N: 1912] (8073)
  • [2008-03-10 6:52]

Hi Anna,
did you sign it up for the next Oluympics.
Great little gymnast you captured, what a pose!
Sharpness, colors and details are very nice.

Buen ángulo de disparo y excelente composición Anna. Algo pixelada pero una buena fotografía igualmente.
Saludos: J. Ignasi

  • Great 
  • loot Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 5524 W: 722 N: 4163] (11276)
  • [2008-03-27 23:16]
  • [2]

Hi Anna

These so-called "hard working birds" are destroying my palms and ripping it to threads on a daily basis just because of some finicky females that cannot make up their minds about how the new home should look. And after all, they all look quite fine to me, but then again, I obviously don't look at it with the same "eye". Mine is a purely practical eye that looks at the sturdiness of the construction, would it keep out the wind and the rain, and would it provide protection or early warning against approaching snakes. The female weavers obviously have some other agendas because one after another they would reject these eagerly and diligently built nests and simply tear it apart.

You've captured this guy in the process of stripping the palm leave from any foliage before he would actually start to build the nest. This is in order that there is a clean area around the nest so that they would be able to see any approaching snakes. The bird is well etched against the blue sky as BG and although it is on the shady side of the light you've managed to capture sufficient detail to show feather and facial features.

Well done and TFS.

Hi Anna,

The weaver is working hard on the branch. It seems that it has a precarious position. The details and colors of the bird are clear and precise. The subject is well framed. Have a nice day.


Hello Anna,
The funny action is well framed!
An interesting pose, acrobatic if any...
Aside from the fun situation the image is well composed, the colours are outstanding, and the yellow bird contrast so well with the blue sky!
Pablo -

  • Great 
  • fanni Silver Workshop Editor [C: 5 W: 0 N: 7] (96)
  • [2008-06-27 6:46]

Hello Anna,
a really very rare snapshot, I would say! We can see the bird's work in detail :)
Good composition and bright balanced colours.

Hi Anna,

An artistic action capture of this pretty nest-maker
in a lovely pose! Incredible shot in all around!
TFS and have a nice WE!


Hallo Anna,
a very interesting picture of the Spottedbacked Weaver, good sharpness and beautiful natural colours, nice composition
Best regards

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