On the shore of almost any body of water in Akagera National Park in the east of Rwanda, trees festooned with balls of dried grass are a common sight, although what will often draw your attention to these trees first is not the strange vegetation, but the cacophony of a dozen or more weaver birds chattering away as they bring strands of grass to build these nests, display to potential mates, or warn of possible predators. The species featured here, the Village Weaver Ploceus cucullatus, is a fairly common bird in this region, and entertained us with their craft on the day that we visited Lake Ihema, the second largest lake in Rwanda after Lake Kivu to the west.
The male birds weave their nest and then display on it for the females, hanging upside down from the woven orb and fluttering their wings. If the female finds the nest satisfactory, they will more closely inspect the nest, and then further prepare it to be a proper accommodation by accepting bedding material from the male to line the interior of the home.
Village Weavers stay relatively safe from predators by nesting near or over water, and the trees tend to be Acacias, which are thorny. Staying in colonies—which apparently can reach into the triple digits—also helps with collective monitoring.