The fire weaver is one of the most beautiful birds - it has other names: Franciscan, orange, fire weaver, red bishop's bird, small grenadier weaver, red African finch. It is distributed in Africa, from the Sahara south to Northern Cameroon and from Senegal to Ethiopia and Somalia. There are two subspecies of fire weaver - nominal, which occupies most of the species range and small (Euplectes franciscana pusillus) - inhabiting the central and southern regions of Ethiopia and Somalia.
The male in breeding plumage is endowed with colorful plumage. The upper part of the head, ear coverts, bridle, chest and abdomen are velvety black. Throat, neck, nape, lower back, upper and lower tail coverts are bright red. On the chest, these colors are sharply separated. The wings and tail are brownish in color with a golden tint, the upper back is brownish red. The beak is black, slightly swollen at the base, curved along the ridge, the leg is pale pink. The tail coverts in breeding plumage are very long and almost cover the tail feathers.
The female has a very modest attire. She looks like a female house sparrow. The head, back, wings and tail are covered with dark streaks, the neck, chest and sides are yellowish-brown, the abdomen is white. The beak and legs are pale pink, with a light yellow "eyebrow" extending over the eye. After molting, the female does not change the color of her plumage. The male, after the end of the breeding period, changes beyond recognition. He is dressed in the same modest outfit as his girlfriend.
"It is hard to believe that this is the same bird. True, sometimes among fans there are birds that do not change their mating attire after molting. The males sing in a very peculiar way. Singing resembles the rubbing of pieces of iron, has whistles reminiscent of starlings.
The juveniles are similar in color to the female, but somewhat lighter and more contrasting. In nature, birds become sexually mature only in the third year of life. At the same time, young males acquire their bright mating attire for the first time.
According to our observations, sexual dimorphism also exists in young birds. It is expressed in the following: the beak of the male is more sharply curved along the ridge than the beak of the female, the dark stripe above the yellow "eyebrow" is darker and more contrasting. In addition, the male has a more upright stance, which is associated with mating behavior. At the age of one month, a young male completely repeats the behavior of an adult, but his song sounds quieter. Young males wear a mating outfit in the third year of life.
In their homeland, fire weavers live in reed thickets located near the water. With the development of agriculture, cereal crops occupied large areas, periodically flooded with water. This contributed to the resettlement of weavers, including the fiery one, for whom the flooded fields became a favorite habitat and breeding ground. Here he leads, as Alfred Brehm pointed out, rather, the way of life of the warbler. He climbs up and down the stalks of cereal plants with the same dexterity and speed, runs nimbly on the ground and, in case of danger, just like the warbler, hides in the thicket of the stalks. In places of its distribution, this is a common and even widespread species of birds.
He does not form large colonies, but he loves the company of his fellows. Each male owns an individual nesting territory. He is polygamous, has 3 or 4 females and builds a nest for each of them.
The nests are usually oval in shape, woven from thin grass fibers. The inlet is located on the side near the top of the nest. Nests are fastened on stems, not high above the ground. Their weaving resembles a net through which you can see a clutch of 2-4 blue eggs with a turquoise hue. The breeding period within the range is from May to November.
During this time, fire weavers manage to produce 2-3 broods. In autumn, young and adult birds gather in "passerine flocks", often together with other species of weavers, and roam in open landscapes, feeding on seeds of various grasses. These flocks cause a lot of trouble for local residents, destroying a significant part of the crop.
European lovers of indoor bird keeping got acquainted with the fire weaver in the 17th century. The first description of keeping it in a cage dates back to 1794. However, breeding of these beautiful birds was rarely successful. The first breeding in our country took place in 1975, as we wrote about earlier (Morozov, Ostapenko, 1977, 1988).
The content of this type of weaver is similar to that of other weavers. The main food is millet, mogar, canary seed and chumiza. Soft and green food is given daily or every other day. The birds ate live food in the form of mealworms well. On the pallet of the cage, you need clean river sand, crushed shell, eggshells and charcoal.
In small cages, due to the aggressiveness of the males, they are kept alone, and in large enclosures - together with other birds. So, in the Moscow Zoo, in an open-air cage of 3x1.5x2 m, 2-3 pairs of fire weavers and several pairs of red-billed, red-headed and other species of real weavers lived. Fireweavers live for a long time with good maintenance. So, at R.L. Boehme one male lived for about 26 years
Our experience in breeding fire weavers has shown that for these purposes it is quite possible to use a medium-sized cage (60-70 cm long). Difficulties lie only in the selection of a pair. Therefore, before breeding, it is necessary to have several birds for the possible replacement of mating partners.
If it is enough to install a dense bush or a bunch of reeds in the aviary, then the base for the nest is needed in the cage. We offered the birds two canary nests fastened together, which as a result formed a small ball with a slit-like opening on one side. In males, nest-building activity was observed, which manifested itself in the fact that birds curled with grass one or two sides of the cage. But the activity itself had a beneficial effect on the female, which occupied the nest and laid several feathers there.
A week after the start of mating, 1-2 blue eggs were laid, which were incubated exclusively by the female. The incubation period is 14 days. After 12-13 days, the chicks leave the nest and feed for another 17-18 days, after which they acquire complete independence. Parents prefer to feed their chicks with live food, less often they take soft and grain food. Foreign poultry farmers advise feeding the birds during the rearing period with ant eggs, chopped mealworms, fly larvae, an egg mixture with cottage cheese and pecked millet. In breeding enclosures, 2-3 females can be placed per male.
Franz Robiller describes this kind of breeding, which was only possible for European amateurs in large enclosures. The male builds several nests, which he places in dense bushes or in half-open nest boxes.
Fire weavers, in his opinion, should be kept separate from other birds at this time, since with mixed housing, male fire weavers disturb the nesting of other birds, throwing eggs and chicks out of the nests. There were 2-4 eggs in a clutch, and during the season it was possible to get 2 broods. (V. Ostapenko. "Birds in your home")
These weavers are widespread in many countries of the African continent: Cameroon, Sudan, Uganda, Ethiopia, etc. They inhabit open
savanna-type landscapes, with separate groups of trees, on which they arrange
their colonial settlements.
Their food is mainly the seeds of the grasses that cover the savannahs, as well as termites and other small insects. In non-nesting time, fiery
weavers keep in flocks, which, merging with flocks of other types of weavers, for example, red-billed weavers, form flocks of thousands, wandering along
savannah looking for food.
The raid of such a horde of weavers on the fields of crops, especially millet, brings colossal
losses to farmers, therefore, the fight against these birds is merciless, up to the use of dynamite and flamethrowers, which are used to blow up and burn
trees with nesting colonies of these birds
In Europe, the fire weaver is one of the most popular cage birds, long kept at home by amateurs. The very name of these birds speaks of the brightness of their color, although this is true only in relation to males during the nesting season. During this period, the color of their plumage is dominated by orange-red tones, sharply contrasting with the velvety-black color of the head and abdomen.
At the end of the breeding season, males of the fire weaver lose their catchy outfit and become like females, that is, ordinary birds
"Sparrow" color. When kept in cages or aviaries, some males of the fire weaver do not change their bright mating outfit for several years.
Among the fire weavers, sometimes quite aggressive individuals come across,
especially males, so keeping them with smaller birds is not recommended. Fireweaver breeding cages must be at least 1m long. Fireweavers are fed with various varieties of millet, canary seed, and mogar. The daily rate for a bird is 1.5-2 teaspoons. They need to be given
and animal feed: egg mixture, mealworms, bloodworms and small insects.
This is especially important when feeding chicks. When there is a shortage of animal feed, fire weavers abandon feeding their chicks, regardless of their age. In nature, the male fire weaver practically does not take part in incubating and feeding
two or three females at the same time, therefore, when caged for the purpose of breeding these weavers, it is better to adhere to the same ratio
sexes, i.e. 1: 2 or 1: 3.
If a pair of weavers is kept, then it is necessary
create any shelters (bunches of branches, an additional house, etc.) in order to
so that the female can hide there from too active pursuit by the male.
The current male fire weaver is a very interesting and peculiar sight. Raising the feathers of its "frill", stretching out on straight legs and fluffing the feathers of the body, the bird sways from side to side,
resembling a fireball, while making a whole set of sounds, screeching and grinding,
similar to separate knees from the song of common starlings. In between such mating games, the male usually builds a nest.
He can simultaneously "lay the foundation" of several, but completely completes
usually one of them, something he liked. The material for building a nest is dry blades of grass, palm or bast
The bird very deftly weaves and knots from this material, using its beak and paws. The result is a round nest.
with an elongated inlet (tube) pointing down. There is a partition inside,
directly separating the nest chamber from the entrance. The female is engaged in the internal structure of the nest, lining it with soft blades of grass, feathers, etc.
Usually there is little nesting litter, but it is mandatory. In a clutch of fire weavers, there are usually two, less often three eggs of greenish-blue
colors without specks. One female incubates them for 14-15 days. Chicks hatch blind,
reddish-pink (the color of raw meat) with a rare light fluff on the head. At the age of 6-7 days, their eyes open, and at 15-17 days of age
they fly out of the nest.
In color, the chicks are similar to the female, but smaller in size and have a very short tail. At the age of one month, the young become completely independent and can be removed from the female. The male can be removed after the female sits down to incubate the clutch,
since it is not uncommon for the male to ruin the nest, throwing out eggs or chicks.
Young males first "put on" their bright outfit only in the 3rd year of life.
Can live in captivity for up to 20 years