Seychelles magpie robin (Copsychus sechellarum)

French: Merle dyal des Seychelles
GenusCopsychus (1)
SizeLength: 18 - 25 cm (2)

Classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List 2007 (1).

This species is about the size of a European blackbird (3) and is black in colour with a blue sheen and white patches on the wing (4). Unusually for magpie robins, males and females are similar in appearance (3). Juveniles have ginger flecks in the wing patches and lack the blue sheen of the adults (4).

Endemic to the Seychelles and formerly widespread on at least six islands, the magpie robin was reduced to just 12 to 15 birds on Frégate Island in 1965 (2). Following a prolonged recovery programme birds can now be found on Frégate, Cousin, Cousine and Aride Islands (2).

This species historically occupied mature coastal forest but is now found in more central woodlands, as well as plantations and vegetable gardens (2).

The Seychelles magpie robin feeds on a variety of invertebrates such as earthworms, centipedes and small scorpions, although fruit and vegetables, or small vertebrates, may also be taken (2). They forage for prey along the ground and frequently trail after large animals such as pigs and giant tortoises (Geochelone gigantea), which disturb the ground (5).

Nests are found in the crowns of coconut trees or in holes in the trunks of large trees (2). A single egg is laid each year (3), and they are known to breed year round (2). Chicks are only capable of flying strongly a month after hatching, and until this time remain in thick, low vegetation calling loudly and insistently to their parents (5).

This bird has been affected by habitat loss and degradation following the colonisation of the Seychelles by humans (3). In addition, predation by introduced species such as cats and brown rats (Rattus norvegicus), and competition with the introduced common myna (Acridotheres tristis) may have also been responsible for the dramatic decline in the magpie robin (2). At present, the very low population size means that the species is extremely vulnerable both to chance events and to the problems associated with inbreeding.

Since 1990, Birdlife International has operated a Seychelles Magpie Robin Recovery Programme and the RSPB joined this effort in 1998 (6). Birds have been introduced to small, predator-free islands and a predator eradication programme is being initiated on Frégate Island (2). Breeding success has been boosted through a number of measures such as the creation of habitat and supplementary feeding, and a genetic study is currently underway to investigate inbreeding (2). Although the population remains Endangered, the Seychelles Magpie-robin Recovery Programme is still on course to achieve its goal of a population of 200 individuals, spread over 7 islands by the year 2006 (2).

For more information on this species see:

Authenticated by BirdLife International Secretariat.

  1. IUCN Red List (March, 2008)
  2. BirdLife International. (2000) Threatened Birds of the World. Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, Barcelona and Cambridge.
  3. UNEP-WCMC Species Sheets (March, 2008)
  4. Penny, M. (1974) The Birds of The Seychelles. William Collins Sons and Co, London.
  5. Collar, N.J. and Stuart, S.N. (1985) Threatened Birds of Africa and Related Islands: The ICBP/IUCN Red Data Book. I. ICBP, Cambridge.
  6. Millett, J. and Parr, S. (2001) Species Conservation and Action Plan 2001-2006 Seychelles Magpie Robin. Nature Seychelles, Seychelles.