Wild Birds

White-browed Sparrow-weavers

The White-browed Sparrow-weavers (Plocepasser mahali; Afrikaans: Koringvoël) is a predominantly brown, sparrow-sized weaver found throughout central and northcentral southern Africa.

It is found in groups of two to eleven individuals consisting of one breeding pair and nonreproductive individuals.

White-browed Sparrow-Weavers


It ranges from 17 to 19 centimeters (6.7 to 7.5 inches) in length and is characterized by a broad, white eyebrow stripe and white rump visible in flight.

While the male White-browed Sparrow-weaver sports a black bill, the female’s bill is horn-colored; that of the juvenile is pinkish-brown.

In Zimbabwe, the White-browed Sparrow-weaver shows faint brown spotting across its white breast.

White-browed Sparrow-weaver


The White-browed Sparrow-weaver may emit either a brief chik-chick or a loud, fluid, cheoop-preeoo-chop whistle.

Similar species

The Yellow-throated Petronia has a pinkish brown (not black) bill, a buff (not white) eyebrow stripe, black (not pink) feet, and yellow shading at the bottom of a white throat.

Additionally, the White-browed Sparrow-weaver is larger than the Yellow-throated Petronia. Unlike the White-browed Sparrow-weaver, the Yellow-throated Petronia may be found in broad-leaved woodland.

Distribution of the White-browed Sparrow-weaver across southern Africa.

Distribution, habitat and migration

The White-browed Sparrow-weaver is found in greatest numbers in north-central southern Africa. While this species most densely populates at dry regions with woodland or wooded grassland at northern South Africa, its range includes Botswana, northern and central Namibia, and western Zimbabwe. Populations may be found as far north as Ethiopia.

This species nests along thornveld and scrubby, dry riverbanks.

Because the White-browed Sparrow-weaver nests in colonies, populations are sedentary.


There are four recognized subspecies of the White-browed Sparrow-weaver.

  • P. m. mahali is found in the eastern part of the northern Cape Province of South Africa.
  • P. m. stentor is found from the western part of the northern Cape Province northwards along the Namibian escarpment.
  • P. m. terricolor is found towards the center of the White-Browed Sparrow-weaver’s range, occurring predominantly in eastern Botswana.
  • P. m. pectoralis is found in northeastern Zimbabwe along the lower Zambezi river.
White-browed Sparrow Weaver


Year round, groups of the White-browed Sparrow-weavers are active and nest-building. Groups of ten to sixty inverted-U-shaped nests of dry grass appear in the outside limbs of trees, although only several are used for breeding or roosting.

While breeding nests have only one entrance, roosting nests have an entrance located at each of the two nest extremities.

Research has shown that, throughout a region, nests are located at the leeward side of a tree.

This behavior preserves a greater number of intact nests for breeding and roosting. White-browed Sparrow-weaver nests are sometimes used by other birds, such as the Red-headed Finch and Ashy Tit.

White-browed Sparrow-Weaver Nests


Breeding has been observed year round, but occurs mainly in warmer months.

Conservation status

The White-browed Sparrow-weaver is becoming more abundant, expanding its range on southern, northern, and eastern fronts.

White-browed Sparrow-Weavers (Plocepasser mahali)

Weaver Information and Species ListingWeaver Photo Gallery


Gordon Ramel

Gordon is an ecologist with two degrees from Exeter University. He's also a teacher, a poet and the owner of 1,152 books. Oh - and he wrote this website.

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