Family Weavers (Ploceidae)

Least Concern

White-browed Sparrow-weaver (Plocepasser mahali)


French: Mahali à sourcils blancs German: Weißbrauenweber Spanish: Tejedor gorrión cejiblanco

Plocepasser mahali

A. Smith

, 1836,

Modder River, Thabanchu, South Africa


Proposed race propinquatus (described from Baardheere, on R Jubba, in S Somalia) is synonymized with melanorhynchus; terricolor (N Namibia) included in ansorgei; stridens (E Tanzania) included in pectoralis; and stentor (from Northern Cape, in W South Africa) is treated as a synonym of nominate. Four subspecies currently recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • P. m. melanorhynchus Rüppell, 1845 – SE South Sudan, C & S Ethiopia, SE Somalia, Uganda and Kenya.
  • P. m. ansorgei E. J. O. Hartert, 1907 – SW Angola and N Namibia.
  • P. m. pectoralis (W. K. H. Peters, 1868) – N, C & SE Tanzania, S & E Zambia, S Malawi, W Mozambique (W Zambezi Valley), N Zimbabwe and N Botswana.
  • P. m. mahali A. Smith, 1836 – S Namibia, S Botswana, SW Zimbabwe and N & C South Africa.
  • Descriptive notes

    17 cm; 31–59 g. Large sparrow-like weaver with broad white eye­stripe and white rump. Nominate race has forehead and crown chocolate-brown, broad white eyebrow,... read more


    Solo song of dominant male in group is highly individual, with complex chattering and squealing... read more


    Inhabits open mopane (Colophospermum mopane) and acacia (Acacia) savanna in areas... read more

    Food and feeding

    Diet insects and seeds, proportion of arthropod food varying both regionally and seasonally. In South Africa, up to 50% of diet insects, e.... read more


    Breeds throughout year in Kenya and South Africa, depending on local conditions in areas of irregular rainfall; mostly Mar–May in E... read more


    Mainly resident. Some local movements away from breeding sites; birds dispersing from natal group... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Generally common; abundant in many semi-arid areas, and population in Zambezi Valley, in WC Mozambique, estimated at more than 1,000,000 individuals... read more

    Recommended citation

    Craig, A. (2020). White-browed Sparrow-weaver (Plocepasser mahali). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 20 February 2020).