Pollen’s vanga (Xenopirostris polleni)
|French:||Vanga de Pollen|
|Size||Length: 24 cm (2)|
Classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List (1).
Pollen’s vanga belongs to a family of fourteen Madagascan bird species, which have evolved a remarkably diverse array of beak sizes and shapes, rivalling that of the now famous finches of the Galápagos Islands (3). In the case of Pollen’s vanga, it has evolved a long, thick, hooked bill (2) (4), ideal for probing amongst bark and leaves and tearing off strips of dead wood to reveal insects (3) (5). This species has a conspicuous pale blue bill and striking plumage, with a jet black head and neck, separated from the whitish or pink breast and grey upperparts by a thin, white band around the neck (4) (6). The sexes are very similar, although the adult male possesses more extensive black colouration, extending to the throat and upper breast, and usually has a paler breast (6). The call of this species is a loud whistle, tseeang (4).
Pollen’s vanga is found throughout eastern Madagascar, but has a patchy distribution, with the largest populations occurring in the southern part of its range between Andohahela and Ranomafana (4).
Pollen’s vanga occupies mid and high-altitude rainforest, from sea-level to elevations of 1,950 metres (4).
Pollen’s vanga can generally be found in pairs or mixed-species flocks, foraging for insects such a caterpillars and crickets in the middle and upper levels of the rainforest (2) (4). This species’ long powerful beak enables it to probe amongst leaves and crevices in tree bark, and to tear off moss and dead wood from branches as it searches for prey (3) (4) (5).
Pollen’s vanga nests between September and December, with breeding pairs constructing a deep, cup-shaped nest from plant material, anchoring it to a tree branch with long plant fibres. A clutch of two eggs is usually laid, with both sexes participating in incubation and subsequently, the brooding and feeding of the chicks. During this time, the male actively defends the nest, chasing away other Pollen’s vangas that come near (6).
As with many other Madagascan endemics, the major threat to Pollen’s vanga is the ongoing loss of forest habitat caused by slash-and-burn subsistence farming and commercial logging. With its relatively small and fragmented population, Pollen’s vanga is expected to undergo a serious decline as its remaining habitat is degraded and destroyed (4).
There are currently no known conservation measures specifically targeting Pollen’s vanga. In order to develop an appropriate conservation strategy, improved knowledge of this species’ population and its trends must be gathered through regular surveys. In addition, preserving important areas of habitat through the establishment of protected areas is essential (4).
To learn more about conservation in Madagascar visit:
- Madagascar Wildlife Conservation:
- Conservation International:
For more information on this and other bird species please see:
- BirdLife International:
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- Endemics: species or taxonomic groups that are only found in one particular country or geographic area.
- Slash-and-burn: the cutting and burning of forests or woodlands to create space for agriculture or livestock.
IUCN Red List (March, 2009)
- Sinclair, I. and Langrand, O. (2004) Birds of the Indian Ocean Islands. Struik Publishers, Cape Town.
- Yamagishi, S. and Eguchi, K. (1996) Comparative foraging ecology of Madagascar vangids (Vangidae). Ibis, 138: 283 - 290.
BirdLife International (April, 2009)
- Garbutt, N., Bradt, H. and Schuurman, D. (2001) Madagascar wildlife: a visitor's guide. Bradt Travel Guides, Chalfont St. Peter.
- Putnam, M.S. (1996) Aspects of the Breeding Biology of Pollen's Vanga (Xenopirostris polleni) in Southeastern Madagascar. The Auk, 113: 233 - 236.