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( Originally Published 1894 )
The Weaver birds which are included in this division, are a very interesting species. They belong to Africa, where they hang their nests upon trees, those of the sociable weaver birds giving the trees the appearance of partially thatched wall-less structures. Le Vaillant thus describes his experience of the sociable weaver bird: he says:-" I observed, on the way, a tree with an enormous nest of these birds, to which I have given the appellation of republicans; and as soon as I arrived at my camp, I dispatched a few men with a wagon to bring it to me, that I might open the hive and examine its structure in its minutest! parts. When it arrived, I cut it to pieces with a hatchet and saw that the chief portion of the structure consisted of a mass of Buckmans grass, without any mixture, but so compactly and firmly basketed together, as to be impenetrable to the rain. This is the commencement of the structure; and each bird builds its particular nest under this canopy, the upper surface remaining void without, however, being useless; for, as it has a projecting rim and is a little inclined, it serves to let the rain water run off and preserve each little dwelling from the rain. Figure to yourself a huge, irregular, sloping roof, all the eaves of which are completely covered with nests crowded one against another, and you will have a tolerably accurate idea of these singular edifices. Each individual nest is three or four inches in diameter, which is sufficient for the bird. But as they are all in contact with one another around the eaves, they appear to the eye to form one building and are distinguishable from each other only by a little external aperture which serves as an entrance to the nest; and even this is sometimes common to three different nests, one of which is situated at the bottom and the other two at the sides." One of these structures examined by Patterson contained three hundred and twenty inhabited cells.