Mauritius cuckoo-shrike (Coracina typica)
|French:||Echenilleur de l'Ile Maurice|
|Size||Length: 22 cm (2)|
|Weight||43 g (2)|
Classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List 2007 (1).
Since 1975, populations of this secretive bird have increased due to successful conservation actions (2) (3). One of the six surviving endemic passerines in Mauritius (5), the Mauritius cuckoo-shrike shows obvious differences in colour between males and females (2). The male’s upperparts are grey, with white underparts. The upperparts of the female are brownish with rufous underparts (3). The bill and legs are black in both sexes. Like the female, juveniles have brown upperparts, with additional buff and blackish markings and a pinkish-white breast with dark streaks (2). This species can be located by listening for its melodic trill which tends to be a series of short whistles followed by sharper, faster notes (2). The call can also be a harsh ‘tschrek’ note, and when scolding, it calls with a ‘kek’ sound followed by an aggressive squeak (2).
Endemic to Mauritius, this cuckoo-shrike has a small range, estimated to be 120 square kilometres, in the south of the island (2) (3). It occurs in four areas (2); Macchabé, Brise Fer, Black River Peak and from Bel Ombre to Combo (3).
The Mauritius cuckoo-shrike inhabits the canopy of moist tropical evergreen forests, and adjacent areas of degraded or altered habitat. It is generally found at altitudes above 460 metres (3), but can range from 200 to 800 metres (2).
The territorial Mauritius cuckoo-shrike feeds mainly on large arthropods such as mantids, stick insects and spiders (2) (3). These make up 81 to 90 percent of its diet, with larger items such as geckos making up the remaining 10 percent (4). Jumping or flying between perches, the Mauritius cuckoo-shrike captures prey by plucking it from trunks, branches, twigs and leaves, and occasionally ‘leap-snatching’ its prey (2). Larger items are often beaten against branches, and sometimes prey is captured in the air by hovering or in direct flight (2). The Mauritius cuckoo-shrike’s restricted distribution and habitat selection has been linked to its food availability and foraging methods (2) (4).
This sedentary, monogamous bird breeds from September through to March, producing a clutch of two to three eggs (2) (4). The nest is a shallow cup found attached to horizontal forks of tree branches, made from materials such as fine twigs, lichens and spider webs (2). Both parents build the nest, incubate and feed the chicks (2) (4). Mauritius cuckoo-shrike chicks fledge after around seven weeks, and typical of the Campephagidae family, they are dependant on their parents for a further three months (4).
Since human colonisation in the 17th century, deforestation and the introduction of exotic species have caused a long term population decline of the Mauritius cuckoo-shrike (2) (5). The nests are at risk from both introduced predators and occasionally cyclones. Introduced species, such as the common mynah (Acridotheres tristis), eat similar food and may compete with the cuckoo-shrike (2).
Due to conservation measures already underway, the population, range and density of the Mauritius cuckoo-shrike have increased since 1975 (2). These measures focused on Conservation Management Areas in the Black River National Park, where rehabilitation of the native ecosystems and the exclusion of introduced species, both animals and plants, took place (3).
The Mauritian Wildlife Foundation has implemented an intensive restoration programme to conserve the Mauritian endemic passerines. It is currently focusing on the safeguard of nests, the rescue of chicks and eggs, re-introduction, research and habitat restoration for the Mauritius fody (Foudia rubra) and the Mauritius olive white-eye (Zosterops chlolnothos). Once these are under way, the programme will be initiated for the remaining three endangered passerines, including the Mauritius cuckoo-shrike (5).
Conservationists intend to eventually introduce Mauritius cuckoo-shrike pairs to new areas on Mauritius and adjacent islets after the rehabilitation of ecosystems. This will include trial translocations of captive-reared birds (3). It is hoped that these efforts will increase the population by 50 to 70 percent in order to down list its status to Near Threatened (2) (3).
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- Arthropods: a very diverse phylum (a major grouping of animals) that includes crustaceans, insects and arachnids. All arthropods have paired jointed limbs and a hard external skeleton (exoskeleton).
- Endemic: a species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
- Monogamous: having only one mate during a breeding season, or throughout the breeding life of a pair.
- Passerines: a group of more than 5000 species of small to medium-sized birds which have widely varied plumage and shape. They all have three toes pointing forward and one directed backward which assists with perching, and are sometimes known as perching birds or song birds.
- Sedentary: remaining or living in one area, not migratory.
- Territorial: an animal, a pair of animals or a colony that occupies and defends an area.
- Translocations: the movement of species, by people, from one area to another.
IUCN Red List (July, 2014)