Seychelles fody (Foudia sechellarum)

Also known as: Tok-tok
  
French: Foudi des Seychelles
KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAves
OrderPasseriformes
FamilyPloceidae
GenusFoudia (1)
SizeLength: 13 cm (2)
Wingspan: 17 – 18 cm (2)

Classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List (1).

The Seychelles fody belongs to the weaver family of birds, a group known for their elaborate woven nests. The plumage is rather dull, being dark olive brown all over, with slightly darker back and wings. Breeding males have a lemon yellow wash on their crown, face and chin. There is also often a small white patch on the wing, and the bill is black. Females, non-breeding males and juveniles all lack any yellow feathers, and have brown bills and legs. When at the nesting site it can be heard making a tok-tok-tok noise, and its alarm calls include a tchrr sound (2).

Occurs on the Seychelles islands of Cousin, Cousine and Frégate. It has also been reintroduced to the island of Aride, and introduced to the coral islands of D’Arros and Denis islands (3).

Historically the Seychelles fody probably occurred in natural lowland forest, but today it has adapted to a range of man-made habitats, and can thrive in highly modified environments such as gardens and coconut plantations (3) (4).

The Seychelles fody is a social bird that is often seen foraging in groups of ten or more. It feeds primarily on invertebrates, which are picked from vegetation or tree trunks, or grabbed in short aerial pursuits (2), but its strong, broad bill can also tackle a wide range of food including seeds, invertebrates, fruit, nectar, reptile eggs and fish discarded by seabirds (4) (5). It also feeds on bird eggs, particularly those of the Fairy tern. When the adult tern is distracted the fody tips the tern egg from its branch onto the ground to smash it and then eat it (5). In human-altered habitats, they have adapted to exploit a wide range of food sources such as discarded food, garbage, and also forage in non-native vegetation (4).

Breeding occurs mainly between May and September, and starts with the courtship. This consists of males and females continuously calling to each other in turn, and then the male landing near the female, followed by short chases and a wing-beating display. The pair, which will mate for life, establish a territory in which to build the nest, and will defend an area of 30-50 meters in radius around the nest (2) (4) (5). The untidy nest is built out of twigs, Casuarina needles and palms, woven together in a bulky domed shaped structure, and then lined with a softer material, such as the silky fibre from the fruit of the kapok tree. These nests are situated in trees, attached near the end of the branch, or to the underside of a palm leaf. Generally, the male constructs the nest, which can take up to two weeks, whilst it is the female that will incubate the clutch of one or two eggs for 14 days. The parents feed the chick whilst in the nest by bringing them large insects or regurgitating small insects. Even after fledging, the parents can continue to care for the young for up to four months (2).

In the past, the Seychelles fody may have been more widespread on the Seychelles Islands, and it is thought that the decline in range was the result of deforestation for agriculture and introduced predators (4). The Seychelles fody has managed to establish itself on D’Arros island, after its introduction in 1965, despite introduced cats and rats being present, but any further accidental introductions of predators, such as the brown tree snake, could have a potentially severe impact (2) (4). Persecution by humans is no longer known to occur, but accidental poisoning by insecticides and rodenticides is a potential threat. It has been suggested that hybridization with the Madagascar fody, F. madagascariensis, is a threat to the Seychelles fody. At present there are only two reports of hybrids between these two species and it has not been observed in the majority of areas where the two species coexist (3) (4), although unusual coloured birds on D’Arros are suspected to be hybrids, resulting from the introduction of a small number of Seychelles fodies into a larger Madagascar fody population (6). Finally, like many other inhabitants of low lying islands, a rise in sea level as a result of global warming could be devastating for the Seychelles fody in its lowland forest habitat (4).

The Seychelles fody is protected under the Seychelles Wild Animals and Bird Protection Act, and is offered protection of some of its habitat (4). Cousin Island became the first internationally-owned reserve when it was purchased in 1968 by the Royal Society for Nature Conservation, and in 1974 it was designated a Special Reserve (7). In the 1960s, a small number of fodies were released on D’Arros, and in 2001 and 2004, fodies were successfully translocated to Aride Island and Denis Island respectively (4). With such conservation actions, the future of the Seychelles fody is looking up, and it was downlisted from Vulnerable in 2004 to Near-Threatened in 2006 (1).

For further information on the Seychelles fody and other birds of the Seychelles and their conservation see:

For more information on this and other bird species please see:

Authenticated (12/07/07) by Dr Justin Gerlach, Scientific Co-ordinator, The Nature Protection Trust of Seychelles.
http://islandbiodiversity.com

  1. IUCN Red List (January, 2007)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org
  2. Skerrett, A., Bullock, I. and Disley, T. (2001) Birds of the Seychelles. Christopher Helm Ltd, London.
  3. Birdlife International (May, 2007)
    http://www.birdlife.org
  4. Millett, J., Currie, D., Hill, M. and Shah, N.J. (2001) Species Conservation Assessment and Action Plan 2001-2006, Seychelles Fody. Birdlife Seychelles, Republic of Seychelles. Available at:
    http://www.natureseychelles.org/index.php?option=com_docman&task=cat_view&gid=66&Itemid=55
  5. Nature Seychelles (May, 2007)
    http://www.natureseychelles.org/index.php?option=content&task=view&id=50
  6. Gerlach, J. (2007) Pers. comm.
  7. Nature Seychelles (May, 2007)
    http://www.natureseychelles.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=25&Itemid=51