Large Masked Weaver (Ploceus cucullatus) distributed from Sudan and southern Ethiopia to Angola and the Cape province of South Africa. These birds inhabit the outskirts of forests, as well as agricultural areas and villages. Previously, this species belonged to the genus Textor and was called Textor cucullatus.
Body length big mask weaver reaches 15-18 cm. Males have bright yellow plumage during the mating season, the head and wings are black. Outside the mating season, the plumage of males is similar to that of females, it has a greenish color with fine strokes.
Large Masked Weaver nests in colonies. These birds build their nests from thin blades of grass in the form of a retort-like chamber with an entrance from below. In some nests, a long entrance tube-lobby is attached to the entrance. The nest is firmly fixed at the very tips of the branches and often hangs over the water. Males are engaged in construction. Clinging to the nest entrance with its claws, the male screams and flaps its wings in order to attract the female to the nest. The construction is usually so light that it gives the impression of a pass-through. Clutch of 2-4 bluish eggs with rare brown specks is incubated by one female. The chicks hatch after about two weeks and remain in the nest for about three weeks. After the chicks leave the nest, the female usually feeds them for at least two weeks.
Threats to existence
In Africa large mask weavers often fall prey to the nesting parasitism of the bronze cuckoo (Chrysococcyx caprius). In the course of evolution, weavers have developed effective methods of protection. They lay individually colored spotted eggs that can be easily distinguished from cuckoo eggs. Evolutionary biologist David Lati of the University of Massachusetts has investigated nesting colonies in the islands of Haiti and Mauritius, where large mask weavers were introduced by humans in 1790 (Haiti) and 1886 (Mauritius), and where nesting parasites are absent. He compared the eggs of weavers from islands to those from nesting colonies in the Gambia and other regions of Africa. It turned out that in large mask weavers from both islands, the individual pattern of egg markings disappeared - the eggs were less colored and less spotty.
Keeping in captivity
When kept in captivity, the food for the large mask weaver should be very varied. A common grain mixture of millet and canary seed is supplemented with wild grass seeds and lots of greenery. It is necessary to give the birds and sprouted grains, in particular wheat, soft food from grated carrots with white rusks and hard-boiled eggs, pieces of fruit, berries and daily animal food. In addition to the larvae of mealworm and ant pupae, it is recommended to give these birds in the summer even such large insects as the May beetle, crickets, fat-bodied butterflies. Birds also take other invertebrates, such as snails, earthworms.