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Olive-headed Weaver Ploceus olivaceiceps
BirdLife is updating this factsheet for the 2016 Red List
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This species is classed as Near Threatened because it is suspected to be experiencing a moderately rapid population decline, owing habitat destruction and degradation across its range and almost qualifies for listing under criteria A2c+3c+4c. Any evidence of a rapid population decline may qualify this species for a higher threat category.

Taxonomic source(s)
Dowsett, R. J.; Forbes-Watson, A. D. 1993. Checklist of birds of the Afrotropical and Malagasy regions. Tauraco Press, Li
Sibley, C. G.; Monroe, B. L. 1990. Distribution and taxonomy of birds of the world. Yale University Press, New Haven, USA.

Distribution and population
Ploceus olivaceiceps is known from scattered areas in Malawi (nine main locations, all of which are legally, but not effectively, protected) (F. Dowsett-Lemaire and R. J. Dowsett in litt. 1997, 2000), Zambia (apparently localised, but perhaps more widely distributed, in suitable habitat along the Malawi border, including at least one protected area [Dowsett et al. 1999a]), Tanzania (uncommon in Songea District [Britton 1980], and recently recorded from the north, south of Lake Victoria [T. Oatley in litt. 1999], and Karumwa [Fry and Keith 2004], suggesting that it may occur at low density in a huge area of intervening habitat in west Tanzania [T. Oatley in litt. 1999]), and northern and southern Mozambique (Clancey 1996, Nuttall 1998, Parker 2001). The total population in 1998 was estimated to be c.20,000 pairs (Parker 2001).

Population justification
The total population was estimated at 20,000 pairs in 1998, roughly equating to 60,000 individuals.

Trend justification
The population is suspected to be in decline owing to ongoing habitat destruction.

The species is associated with mature Brachystegia woodland (up to 1,700 m [F. Dowsett-Lemaire and R. J. Dowsett in litt. 1997, 2000]) where Usnea lichen is abundant (Nuttall 1998). It is found in the canopy, sometimes in mixed-species flocks. It feeds on a variety of insects, including lepidopterans (Fry and Keith 2004). This species is a solitary and monogamous breeder, and pairs remain together all year. Its nest, in which 2-3 eggs are laid, is constructed entirely from Usnea and always placed in a thick clump of lichen. Egg-laying occurs in August-October (Fry and Keith 2004).

It is considered threatened throughout Mozambique (Parker 2001), where slash-and-burn agriculture is rapidly transforming woodland into farmland (Parker 2001), and its woodland sites in Malawi face the same pressures for land and fuel (Nuttall 1998), despite legal protection (F. Dowsett-Lemaire and R. J. Dowsett in litt. 1997, 2000). Since similar threats are likely to be affecting its habitat in Tanzania and Zambia, and intensifying, there is a risk that it may suffer a rapid decline in the future.

Conservation Actions Underway
This species occurs in at least 10 protected areas (F. Dowsett-Lemaire and R. J. Dowsett in litt. 1997, 2000, Dowsett et al. 1999a). Conservation Actions Proposed
Conduct surveys to obtain an estimate of the total population size. Monitor population trends through regular surveys. Monitor rates of habitat loss and degradation across its range. Effectively protect habitat at all sites where it is known to breed.

Britton, P. L. 1980. Birds of East Africa. East Africa Natural History Society, Nairobi.

Clancey, P. A. 1996. The birds of southern Mozambique. African Bird Book Publishing, Westville, Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa.

Dowsett, R. J.; Aspinwall, D. R.; Leonard, P. M. 1999. Further additions to the avifauna of Zambia. Bulletin of the British Ornithologists' Club 119: 94-103.

Fry, C. H.; Keith, S. 2004. The birds of Africa vol. VII. Christopher Helm, London.

IUCN. 2015. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015-4. Available at: (Accessed: 19 November 2015).

Nuttall, D. 1998. Olive-headed Weaver - in search of the living nest. Africa - Birds & Birding 3(1): 37-42.

Parker, V. 2001. Mozambique. In: Fishpool, L.D.C.; Evans, M.I. (ed.), Important Bird Areas in Africa and associated islands: Priority sites for conservation, pp. 627-638. Pisces Publications and BirdLife International (BirdLife Conservation Series No.11), Newbury and Cambridge, UK.

Further web sources of information
Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

Search for photos and videos, and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

Text account compilers
Evans, M., O'Brien, A., Shutes, S., Symes, A. & Taylor, J.

Dowsett, R., Dowsett-Lemaire, F., Leonard, P. & Oatley, T.

IUCN Red List evaluators
Taylor, J. & Butchart, S.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Ploceus olivaceiceps. Downloaded from on 21/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 21/10/2016.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Near Threatened
Family Ploceidae (Weavers and allies)
Species name author (Reichenow, 1899)
Population size mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 231,000 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species
- Projected distributions under climate change