Mauritius fody (Foudia rubra)

French: Cardinal de Maurice, Foudi de l'Ile Maurice
KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAves
OrderPasseriformes
FamilyPloceidae
GenusFoudia (1)
SizeLength: 14 cm (2)

The Mauritius fody is classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List (1).

Breeding males of this medium-sized forest weaver bird are highly distinctive, with a bright red head, neck and breast, and dark olive-brown back, wings and tail streaked with pale brown (2) (3). The rump is also reddish (2), and two white bars pattern the wings (3). In the non-breeding season, males lose their vivid red colouration and resemble females. The slightly hooked beak of males is black, while that of females and juveniles is horn-coloured (3).

The Mauritius fody has suffered a constant and severe decline in range and numbers since 1975, and is now found only in southwest Mauritius (2), and on the small, offshore island of Ile aux Aigrettes, where captive-bred fodies were released in 2003 (3).

Inhabits all types of forest, even degraded forest invaded by introduced plant species (2). On the mainland, the highest densities of this bird are found in small plantations of exotic trees surrounded by degraded native forest. On Ile aux Aigrettes, the Mauritius fody inhabits lowland ebony forest and coastal scrub (3).

Unusually for weaver birds, species of Foudia are often monogamous. The Mauritius fody generally holds territories of over one hectare exclusively with just one mate (4), although some male Mauritius fodies have been observed with more than one female (3). Breeding between late June and early April (3) (4), both sexes help to build the nest, which is then lined by the female only. Between two and four eggs are laid and incubated by the female, with the male helping to feed the chicks after hatching for two weeks, before they fledge and leave the nest to disperse. At the end of the breeding season, the adults undergo a complete moult. Pairs defend the territory all year, and do not make seasonal migrations (4).

The diet of the Mauritius fody is comprised primarily of invertebrates, but nectar, fruit, seeds and the eggs of birds and geckos are also consumed (5). Some females have even been seen feeding on the eggs of other Mauritius fodies (3).

Although threatened by the clearance of upland forest, the Mauritius fody has also been suddenly lost from areas of intact habitat (2). It is thought that these regions have been affected by particularly high levels of egg predation by both the black rat (Rattus rattus) and the crab-eating macaque (Macaca fascicularis) (6).

At present, it would be impossible to eliminate all rats and macaques from the whole of Mauritius, and therefore conservation efforts have focussed on establishing populations on offshore, predator-free islands (3). The release of captive-bred individuals onto the predator–free island of Ile aux Aigrettes in 2003 has proved successful, with the population, which is provided with supplementary food, increasing to 151 individuals by July 2008 (3). Other conservation measures in place to help protect the Mauritius fody include restoring native forests and establishing plantations of non-invasive, exotic trees such as Japanese red cedar (Cryptomeria japonica) which mammalian predators appear to avoid (7).

For further information on the Mauritius fody see:

 

Authenticated (18/08/08) by Andrew Cristinacce, Mauritian Wildlife Foundation,
http://www.mauritian-wildlife.org

  1. IUCN Red List (May, 2009)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org
  2. BirdLife International (May, 2009)
    http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/species/index.html?action=SpcHTMDetails.asp&sid=8576&m=0
  3. Cristinacce, A. (2008) Pers. comm.
  4. Safford, R.J. (1997) The annual cycle and breeding behaviour of the Mauritius Fody Foudia rubra. Ostrich, 68(2): 58 - 67.
  5. Garrett, L.J.H., Jones, C.G., Cristinacce, A. and Bell, D.J. (2007) Competition or co-existence of reintroduced, critically endangered Mauritius fodies and invasive Madagascar fodies in lowland Mauritius?. Biological Conservation, 140: 19 - 28.
  6. Safford, R.J. (1997) Nesting success of the Mauritius Fody Foudia rubra in relation to its use of exotic trees as nest sites. Ibis, 139(3): 555 - 559.
  7. Safford, R.J. and Jones, C.G. (1998) Strategies for land-bird conservation on Mauritius. Conservation Biology, 12: 169 - 176.