The Mauritius fody is found only on the tiny island of Mauritius, off the east coast of Africa. The creation of the Macabe/Bel Ombre Nature Reserve in 1974 has helped to protect remaining fody habitat. A successful captive breeding program is also promising hope. Three captive pairs at the Gerald Durrell Endemic Wildlife Sanctuary have laid 31 eggs from multiple clutches. In late 2004, 24 juveniles were released on Ile aux Aigrettes, a mix of captive-bred birds and hand-reared fodies born in the wild. The next spring, all were still surviving and some went on the breed. The range of the main breeding population has increased as juveniles disperse and set up territories, but smaller outlying populations are still at great risk.
The island of Mauritius and its endangered bird species have been a training ground for our Canada’s New Noahs for over 20 years.
The male Mauritius fody boasts a vermilion red head, neck and breast, and dark feathering around its eyes. Its back and wings are dark brown, and its tail is streaked with buff. Female fodies have drabber olive-brown plumage. Adults are approximately 14 cm long. This solitary songbird prefers native scrub and forest habitat and feeds mainly on insects, supplemented by fruit and nectar.
Historically, fodies inhabited the upland areas of southwest Mauritius.
Distribution and Population Size
This critically endangered bird is now found in just three areas of the island: Bassin Blanc, Macchabee Forest Road, and Ile aux Aigrettes. A 1999-2001 survey revealed that the distribution of fodies has shrunk substantially. There are fewer than 70 pairs in the wild, compared to roughly 250 pairs in 1975.
Threats to Survival
Clearing of forest has been catastrophic to the fody, while introduced predators such as black rats and crab-eating macaque have caused almost total breeding failure in most areas. The native fodies may also face competition from the Madagascar fody, which has been introduced to Mauritius.
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