Lessons from a Weaver Bird
When I was young, my family moved to South Africa from Colorado. My canine companion, Smoky, and I spent freedom-drenched afternoons exploring our new, wild environs. A meandering brown river on the high veld was our new playground. Large, flat rocks mid-river provided the perfect perch from where we watched the weaver birds sorting out their mating dramas in the thickets fringing the banks.
Weaver birds build the most elaborate nests in the world. The male’s fashion fine homes using strands of leaf fibers they painstakingly weave together. Their bright plumage and ability to construct nests shaped like upside-down bottles are what attracts the prospective female mate. These nests sway collectively in the wind, like a myriad of wind chimes.
One male, resplendent in his yellow plumage, was robust and confident, proud to be building his elaborate nest with great panache. His ladylove was a coquette, exacting and demanding. She would callously find a minuscule detail that was sub-par with each of his proud presentations. With every rejection, he lost some of his jaunty demeanor, some of his golden gilt, some of his soul.
I watched this saga unfold with increasing alarm. After the fourth nest had been rejected, our vibrant male had become gaunt and grim. His magnificent plumage was dull, his song non-existent and his manner increasingly maddened.
I watched his fifth attempt at nest building with bated breath. Our worn and tattered bird made his bedraggled nest in a crazed manner and the haphazard protrusions of grasses and sticks wafted to the ground in the breeze. He was coming undone, but he finished with sheer will and instinctual determination. Before the female could inspect, he went berserk. He demolished his own nest with whirling wings and throaty distress calls.