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Mauritius Ornithology

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Bird Watchinng in Mauritius

In late 1950's species such as Mauritius kestrel, Pink pigeon and Echo parakeet were in immediate danger of extinction, and although numbers have grown they have not yet won the war of survival. In 1974 only four Mauritius kestrels existed making it the rarest bird on earth. Today there are more than 350 birds in the wild. Thanks to an intensive program of captive breeding, although the bird is still on the endangered species list.


Birdlife

Mauritius has several endemic species of birds - birds which are found nowhere else in the world. Many ornithologists or keen birders wishing to add unique species to their lists will find the long journey to this island paradise well worthwhile.

The Pic Pic is the only one of the nine known remaining endemic species on the island commonly seen. The pink pigeon is thought to be the rarest pigeon in the world. The Mauritius Kestrel is one of the rarest birds in the world, only four were known to exist in 1974. Other endemic species include the flycatcher, parakeet, Mauritius fody, olive white eye, the Merle and the Cuckoo shrine. About 45 species in total are found on the island.

Of particular interest are the Mauritius grey white-eye, Mascarene swiftlet, Mascarene paradise flycatcher, Mascarene martin and the seabirds Roungd Island petrel (which is only found here at Round Island and in Trinidad), and Mascarene shearwater.

Endangered Species

The best known representative of Mauritius birdlife was the dodo - a large, plump, flightless dove which found its docility rewarded with extinction in the late 17th century. Although the dodo has since become a stereotype for extinction, few people realise that Mauritius still posesses several incredibly rare bird species in minute numbers which are as doomed as the dodo if the present efforts at conservation cannot be sustained.

The Mauritius Kestrel suffered a massive decline in numbers as a result of habitat destruction, pesticide poisoning and hunting. The Mauritius Kestrel conservation programme started in 1973, has used captive breeding followed by release and management of the birds in the wild to produce an amazing recovery.

The pink pigeon, the largest of all the pigeons and doves found on Mauritius is another highly endangered species. Impediments to progress include poor nesting results due to predation from monkeys and rats.

For four of the five other small endemic passerines (perching birds), things do not look good at present. The Mauritius cuckoo-shrike, Mauritius bulbul, Mauritius olive white-eye and Mauritius fody have all suffered heavy losses, caused by introduced vermin (rats, mongooses, cats and monkeys) raiding their nests. All are classified as 'uncommon' in the definitive field guide Birds of the Indian Ocean Islands.

Kinds of Birds

The pink pigeon was once found all over Mauritius but now its habitat is restricted to the wet upland forests of the southwest. Feral cats, monkeys and rats brought about the demise of this tame and vulnerable bird. The wild population of the pink pigeon is currently greater than 250.

By 1974, the fabulous pink pigeon (Nesoenas niayeri) was down to some 24 individuals. Following intensive captive-breeding efforts by among others, legendary ornithologist/conservationist Carl Jones and the JWPT, this gorgeous pigeon is now more plentiful, numbering several hundred birds. A substantial population is held in various captive-breeding centres and fair numbers of captive-bred birds have been introduced into the wild. A very successful rat eradication programme, carried out in one piece of woodland where wild pink pigeons prefer nesting, helped things tremendously. What was once the world's rarest pigeon can now be seen quite easily in its natural habitat at Black River Gorges National Park.

Pink Pigeon

Echo Parakeets

The Echo Parakeet is the world's rarest parakeet. Since 1985, MWAF has been running a project to help wild parakeet's boost their numbers through captive breeding. In the early 1990s there were only about 20 to 25 echo parakeets in Mauritius. Today that figure has risen to about 40 but there needs to be 500 before it can be considered safe from extinction.

Other species such as Black Mauritius cuckoo shrike, Mauritius black bulbul, Mascarene paradise flycatcher and Mauritius Olive white eye are also threatened. Many of these species are already down to a couple of hundred birds.

The predominant species include many introduced songbirds, such as the little red Madagascar fody, the Indian Mynah with yellow beak and feet which make it look like it's just stepped out of a cartoon, the village weaver and the most common bird on Mauritius - the Red whiskered bulbul

Bird Parks

This bird park, between Tamarin and the turn off down to Flic en Flac, is well landscaped and has good views across the Riviere du Rempart valley. As well as parrot, pheasant and rare pink pigeon, there are leopard, tiger, lemur, monkey and deer. One of the giant tortoises is 150 years old. The park is open every day from 9am to 5pm.

Casela Bird Park

Domaine du Chasseur

This is a south East Coast large estate covering 900 hectares of forested slopes. Visitors have a choice of activities, including hiking, birdwatching and accompanied mini safaris.

The forest contains many different species of tree, such as ebony, cinnamon, eucalyptus and traveller's palm. Various types of wildlife include Javanese deer, boar, monkey, and many endemic species of bird, including a pair of Mauritius Kestrels - one of the world's rarest birds of prey. You can watch kestrels being fed white mice daily at around 3pm. Although only eight endemic species still remain, they include some of the world's rarest birds.

Last Updated on Thursday 26th November 2009

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