Rotuma myzomela (Myzomela chermesina)
The Rotuma myzomela is classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1).
With its bright scarlet belly, the Rotuma myzomela (Myzomela chermesina) is a striking bird despite its diminutive size. The male and female Rotuma myzomela differ in appearance, with the male being the more colourful sex (3). The male has mostly black plumage, with vivid red on the throat, breast, rump and flanks, and on the middle of the back (2) (3).
The adult female Rotuma myzomela is similar in size to the male but has somewhat duller plumage. The upperparts are blackish-grey, blending to brownish-grey on the underparts, with a faint red wash (2).
Both the male and female Rotuma myzomela have brown irises, black-grey legs and a slightly curved black beak (2).
The Rotuma myzomela is endemic to the tiny Fijian island of Rotuma and the surrounding islets, including the uninhabited islet of Uea (2). Rotuma is a tiny island, covering just 43 square kilometres (4).
The preferred habitat of the Rotuma myzomela is moist subtropical secondary forest at sea level (2) (3). However, this species can also be found on other habitats on Rotuma, including urban areas, rural gardens and plantations (3).
Known to be an aggressive and energetic bird, the Rotuma myzomela is rather conspicuous when in flight (2) (5). Like all honeyeaters, the Rotuma myzomela feeds primarily on nectar, but will also take flying insects (2). All honeyeaters (species belonging to the Meliphagidae family) have a brush-like tip to the tongue, which enables nectar to be easily lapped up. As they often act as pollinators for the plants on which they feed, honeyeaters play an important role in their habitats (6).
Little is known about the breeding biology of the Rotuma myzomela, but fledglings have been observed at the beginning of May (2). Like other honeyeaters, it is likely that the Rotuma myzomela builds a cup-shaped nest into which it lays two or three eggs, which are incubated for 12 to 16 days (6).
Habitat loss is potentially a significant threat to the Rotuam myzomela, as virtually all primary forest in Rotuma has been cleared for agriculture (2). Fortunately, there is extensive secondary forest which the Rotuma myzomela is able to inhabit (3).
Severe weather, such as cyclones or flooding, also poses a threat to the Rotuma myzomela. Considering its extremely small range, such natural events could have a disastrous effect on the species (3).
As with many species restricted to islands, introduced predators are a constant threat. The Pacific rat (Rattus exulans) is already an invasive species on the island, but its effects on the Rotuma myzomela have yet to be investigated. The introduction of the black rat (Rattus rattus) or domestic cat could have a devastating impact not only on the Rotuma myzomela, but also on Rotuma’s other wildlife (3).
Although protected under Fijian law, further work must be done to ensure the survival of the Rotuma myzomela. Controls to prevent the invasion of predators are a priority, as is habitat conservation to ensure that forest is maintained and not all land is converted to agriculture. As the Rotuma myzomela is one of the few endemic species in Rotuma, promoting it as a flagship species for conservation would be an effective way of raising public awareness of this eye-catching bird (3).
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- Endemic: a species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
- Incubated: kept warm so that development is possible.
- Pollinators: animals that in the act of visiting a plant’s flowers transfer pollen grains from the stamen (male part of a flower) to the stigma (female part of a flower) of a flowering plant. This usually leads to fertilisation, the development of seeds and, eventually, a new plant.
- Primary forest: forest that has remained undisturbed for a long time and has reached a mature condition.
- Secondary forest: forest that has re-grown after a major disturbance, such as fire or timber harvest, but has not yet reached the mature state of primary forest.
IUCN Red List (November, 2010)
- del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Christie, D. (2008) Handbook of the Birds of the World: Volume 13: Penduline-tits to Shrikes. Lynx Edicions. Barcelona.
BirdLife International (November, 2010)
Rotuma (November, 2010)
- Clunie, F. (1985) Notes on the bats and birds of Rotuma. Domodomo Fiji Museum Quarterly, 3(4): 153-160.
- Burton, M. and Burton, R. (2002) International Wildlife Encyclopedia. Marshall Cavendish Corporation, New York.