Rodrigues fody (Foudia flavicans)

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Male Rodrigues fody
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Rodrigues fody fact file

Rodrigues fody description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAves
OrderPasseriformes
FamilyPloceidae
GenusFoudia (1)

The breeding male of this small, forest-dwelling species is a particularly attractive bird, with a bright yellow head and breast and a vivid orange face (3) (4). The underparts are pale yellow, while the plumage on the upperparts is brown washed with olive-green (3). Non-breeding males lack the vibrant orange and simply have a yellow face (4). Females have brown plumage, which becomes paler on the sides and is washed with olive on the head. A faint yellow can be seen on the underparts and cheeks (3). A particularly vocal bird, the bold, distinctive warbling of the Rodrigues fody is one of the dominant bird sounds on the island it inhabits. It calls with a vigorous ‘chip’ or sings a tune of variable whistles, trills and notes (5)

French
Foudi de Rodrigues.
Size
Length: 12 – 13 cm (2)
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Rodrigues fody biology

The inquisitive Rodrigues fody, often seen in pairs or conspicuous, vocal flocks (5) (6), is a largely insectivorous bird that searches for insect prey from ground level up to heights of ten metres off the ground (5). It moves along branches, carefully inspecting the bark for insects (4), extracting prey from crevices or the undersides of leaves and branches, and sometimes hanging upside down as it reaches for its food (5). As well as this insect diet, the Rodrigues fody feeds on spiders, seeds, some fruit, and also nectar (2), which its brush-tipped tongue is highly developed for (7).

Nests of the Rodrigues fody have been found situated high up in trees and are large, domed structures composed of fine grasses and palm fibres, and speckled with cotton pieces and feathers (3) (5). The eggs of this species are pale blue (3).

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Rodrigues fody range

Formerly widely distributed on the island of Rodrigues, Mauritius, the Rodrigues fody is now confined to an area of about ten square kilometres, centred on Cascade Pigeon valley in the north of the island (2) (6).

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Rodrigues fody habitat

The Rodrigues fody inhabits dense forest, showing a distinct preference for areas of mature forest, with tall trees, a closed canopy and a high diversity of tree species (6).

It is often found near areas of introduced Araucaria species (evergreen coniferous trees) (5), showing an ability to adapt to some exotic vegetation (2).

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Rodrigues fody status

Classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List 2007 (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Vulnerable

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Rodrigues fody threats

The once abundant Rodrigues fody was reduced to just five or six pairs in 1968 as a result of habitat loss, cyclones, severe drought, and competition with the introduced Madagascar fody (Foudia madagascariensis) (2) (5). Thankfully, tragedy was averted with the recovery, expansion and protection of native and exotic woodland, and the fody population recovered to around 1,000 birds by 1999 (6). Today, forest loss and degradation is no longer considered a major threat, but this does not leave the Rodrigues fody entirely in the clear. Feral cats are potential predators of the fody and competition with the Madagascar fody for food may still exert some level of pressure on the population, particularly when food is in short supply, such as in times of drought or cyclones. It is thought that it is this competition that restricts the Rodrigues fody to forest habitat (2). In addition, future cyclones and droughts pose a continual potential threat (8).

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Rodrigues fody conservation

The recovery of the Rodrigues fody, pulled back from the brink of extinction, is a spectacular success story. Protection of the island’s watersheds allowed the surrounding forests to mature and recover and since the 1980s, the use of bottled gas for cooking became widespread, lessening the demand for firewood (6). Nature has also played a role in this species’ recovery, with a recent absence of catastrophic cyclones allowing populations to increase (2). While much of the reforestation has involved exotic trees, native species are being replanted in some areas, including two Conservation Management Areas where grazing animals and woodcutters are kept out and exotic plants are removed. The development of further Conservation Management Areas has been recommended, in addition to further forest management and expansion (2). Such measures will not only be beneficial for the Rodrigues fody, but may help lessen the island’s reputation as one of the world’s most degraded tropical islands (9).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
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Find out more

For further information on the Rodrigues fody see:

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Authentication

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

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References

  1. IUCN Red List (July, 2007)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org
  2. BirdLife International (April, 2008)
    http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/species/index.html?action=SpcHTMDetails.asp&sid=8578&m=0
  3. Sharpe, R.B. (1879) Birds: an account of the petrological, botanical, and zoological collections made in Kerguelen's Land and Rodriguez during the transit of Venus expeditions. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, 168: 459 - 469.
  4. Sinclair, I. and Langrand, O. (2004) Birds of the Indian Ocean Islands. Struik Publishers, Cape Town.
  5. Gill, F.B. (1966) Birds of Rodriguez Island (Indian Ocean). Ibis, 109(3): 383 - 390.
  6. Impey, A.J., Côté, I.M. and Jones, C.G. (2002) Population recovery of the threatened endemic Rodrigues fody (Foudia flavicans) (Aves, Ploceidae) following reforestation. Biological Conservation, 107: 299 - 305.
  7. Melville, D.S. (1979) Madagascar fodies Foudia madagascariensis feeding on nectar of Lantana camara. Ibis, 121: 361 - 362.
  8. Butchart, S.H.M., Stattersfield, A.J. and Collar, N.J. (2006) How many bird extinctions have we prevented?. Oryx, 40(3): 266 - 278.
  9. Maunder, M., Culham, A. and Hankermer, C. (1997) Picking up the pieces: Botanical conservation of degraded oceanic islands. In: Fiedler, P.L. and Kareiva, P.M. (Eds) Conservation Biology. Chapman and Hall, London.
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Image credit

Male Rodrigues fody  
Male Rodrigues fody

© Sarah Caceres and Jean-Noël Jasmin

Sarah Caceres
sarahcaceres@yahoo.fr

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