Mauritius: The Birds

Mauritius: The Birds ~ July 2016 ~ 

I recently went on holiday with my family to Mauritius. For those who don't know, Mauritius is a small island located about 2,000km off the southeast coast of Africa. It's not very big as it's only 65km long and 45km wide with a land area of 1,864.8km2. When we arrived, I was surprised at the amount of development and at the extensive monocultures of sugar cane, which take up almost every field and lined nearly all the roads we travelled along.

In this post I want to focus on the bird species that I saw during my visit and following posts will look at some of the other cool wildlife that I managed to see.

First off, one of the most common species that we saw, the Red-whiskered Bulbul. They are charismatic birds and their call was one that you could hear almost constantly throughout the day at our hotel.
Red-whiskered Bulbul (Pycnonotus jocosus)
Next up is another common species which roamed the hotel grounds in small flocks, pinging away. It is also an endemic species, which came as a surprise to me once I looked it up in my book! It is the Mauritius Grey White-eye.
Mauritius Grey White-eye (Zosterops mauritianus)
I didn't have any specific targets in mind since it wasn't a birding trip per se, however one group of birds that I have always wanted to see are Tropicbirds. It was much to my surprise that while relaxing at the hotel I had a few Red-tailed Tropicbirds go over very high up (so sadly my photos of them are pretty rubbish). But when my dad and I spent the morning at Black River Gorges National Park, we saw loads of White-tailed Tropicbirds in the gorges, with a few flying right over us in between rain showers.
White-tailed Tropicbird (Phaethon lepturus)
Red-tailed Tropicbird (Phaethon rubricauda)
A species that I am used to seeing in winter in the UK, and one that wasn't on my radar at all for the trip, was Whimbrel! It took me by complete surprise (though I'm not sure why) and was rather confiding at times.
Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus)
Along with the Whimbrel, the Green-backed Heron was a species that stayed amongst the rocks in order to catch its prey. It was also a new species for me so I was very pleased to get some nice views (and photos).
Green-backed Heron (Butorides virescens)
Another extremely common species was the Barred Ground Dove. These acted much like the House Sparrows and Starlings here in the UK and scoffed everything that people dropped.
Barred Ground Dove (Geopelia striata)
A really neat species that was fairly common around the hotel was the Village Weaver. These birds take strands of plants and use it to weave their intricate nests which you can see in the photo:
Village Weaver (Ploceus cucullatus)
Now onto some of the more unusual species that I saw. I was very lucky when I went to Black River Gorges National Park that, although it rained on and off all day, I managed to see a number of more difficult species, including some of the endemics. Sadly I missed Mauritius Kestrel, which I think was down to the weather being grim, but I did a lot better than I'd hoped, so overall it was a great morning!
Mauritius Cuckoo-shrike (Coracina typica)
Mauritius Paradise Flycatcher (Terpsiphone desolata)
Mauritius (Echo) Parakeet (Psittacula eques)
So those are the main species from Black River Gorges. We also saw the Tropicbirds that I mentioned earlier, some Common Waxbills (too quick for good photos) and plenty more Mauritius Grey White-eyes, which I also mentioned earlier.

Below are some of the other species that we saw during our holiday and I'll put a little description in the caption of each one.
Mascarene Swiftlet (Aerodramus francicus) - this bird had been teasing me
for a number of days by whizzing around our hotel so I was very
pleased to get a decent photo for ID purposes!
Scaly-breasted Munia (Lonchura punctulata) - I only saw this one individual
on our holiday despite my book saying they are common on Mauritius. It
was just in the hotel grounds very briefly so I was glad to get a photo!
Common Myna (Acridotheres tristis) - a common and noisy bird
that picked up scraps on the beach and around the restaurants.
Female Village Weaver (Ploceus cucullatus) - much more inconspicuous than the
males. This one popped up out of a bush right in front of me before flying off.
Masked Booby (Sula dactylatra) - taken from the boat we went scuba diving
from. At first I thought it was a Gannet but was ecstatic to review
my pictures and see my first species of booby!
Yellow-fronted Canary (Crithagra mozambica) - the males were very
noisy by the swimming pools but usually remained hidden in the vegetation,
except this individual which sat right out in the open for a little while. 
A colour ringed Mauritius Fody (Foudia rubra) being elusive. They
are colour ringed as part of a study on their breeding habits and success
and so that researchers no the island can tell bloodlines in the field.
A good species to end on - the iconic Pink Pigeon. Saved from extinction by the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust and Mauritian Wildlife Foundation.

Pink Pigeon (Nesoenas mayeri) - on our last full day in Mauritius we visited Ile aux Aigrettes,
a nature reserve run by the Mauritius Wildlife Foundation. We saw Giant Tortoises, Mauritius
Fruit Bats, Telfair's Skink, Mauritius Olive White-eye and Mauritius Fody, amongst other things!
Overall I had a great time and would definitely recommend Mauritius to any birders or naturalists who've never been there before! Keep an eye on my blog over the coming days/weeks for the next instalments of reptiles, butterflies and everything else I saw on my trip.

2 comments:

  1. Looks like you had a great trip, good photos. The kestrel is much easier in the Ferney Valley, very close to the airport. At the first estate you come to they do trips onto their land, where they have a resident pair nesting and they feed them, so great views can be had. We also saw a 3rd individual a little farther along the valley. (This is just in case you re visit). :-)

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