Description/How to recognize

The Red-billed Buffalo Weaver is the largest weaver in South Africa at 23 cm. The male has a red bill and legs with overall black plumage. The shoulder patches and the primary edges of the wings are flecked with white. In flight, the white wing patches are visible. The female is duller and browner in colour, and also has with a red bill.

Getting around
Red-billed Buffalo Weavers fly around to get food as well as collect grass and twigs for building their nests.


Males and females both call; the male sings in brief bursts, starting with some chatter and ending with a croaky ‘tweedle-toodle-tweedle’.


The bird species are found in Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. In South Africa, the bird species is found in Mpumalanga, Limpopo, Gauteng, North West as well as in the Northern Cape.


Its natural habitat is dry savanna and sparse woodlands. Its colonies may be found close to water bodies; they especially like dead trees standing in shallow water for nesting.


The Red-billed Buffalo Weaver is omnivorous and feeds on seeds, insects and fruits, and they therefore forage mostly on the ground.


Red-billed Buffalo Weavers are polygynous (the breeding practice of a male breeding with more than one female at the same time) and colonial. A typical male Red-billed Buffalo Weaver will have up to eight nest chambers and numerous females. The female will lay between two and four eggs and incubation is carried out by the female. The eggs hatch after 12 to 14 days. The female feeds the chicks and they leave the nest after 20 to 23 days. Cooperative breeding has been observed.


Friends and Foes

Red-billed Buffalo Weavers are a source of food for a number of mammalian, avian and reptilian predators.

Smart Strategies

Generally, their nests are built facing the north or northeast away from the prevailing winds. The nest has a scruffy appearance and thorny twigs and branches are used to prevent invasion by predators.

Poorer world without me

So far no impact caused by the bird species has been reported.

People & I

This weaver is regarded as a pest in some farming areas as it causes damage to maize, rice, and sorghum crops, leading to a negative impact on livelihoods. However, the bird species is also caught and eaten in many parts of Africa.

Conservation status and what the future holds

The Red-billed Buffalo Weaver is currently listed as the Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.


The species is a member of the family Ploceidae, which also includes bishops, finches, queleas, other weavers and widows. The family includes 15 genera and currently more than 118 species.

Official Common Name: Red-billed Buffalo Weaver
Scientific Name and Classification:
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Ploceidae
Genus: Bubalornis
Species: B. niger

References and further reading

  • Gill, F., Donsker, D. & Rasmussen, P. (eds). 2023. IOC World Bird List (v13.1). DOI: h10.14344/IOC.ML.13.1.
  • Hockey, P.A.R., Dean, W.R.J. & Ryan, P.G. 2005. Roberts’ Birds of southern Africa, VIIth edition. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town.
  • Ward, P., Pant, N.C., Roy, J., Dorow, E., Betts, E. & Whellan, J.A. 1979. Strategy and tactics of control of migrant pests. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences 287(1022): 289–300.
  • Shefte, N, Bruggers, R.L. & Schafer Jr., E.W. 1982. Repellency and toxicity of three bird control chemicals to four species of african grain-eating birds. The Journal of Wildlife Management 46(2): 453–457.

Author: Nozipho Khumalo

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