Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Seychelles Paradise Flycatcher

          The Seychelles Paradise-flycatcher (Terpsiphone corvina) is a rare bird from the genus of paradise-flycatchers. This elegant flycatcher is known in Creole as 'Vev' from the French for 'widow' owing to its all black plumage. The critically endangered Seychelles Paradise Flycatcher was once found on at least five islands in the Seychelles. Today, all of the remaining birds live on one island of La Digue, putting the species at an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild. The length of the males is about 20 cm. In addition there are two long black central tail feathers which can reach a length of 30 cm. The females can reach a length between 16 and 18 cm (including the tail). The males are entirely glossy black with a deep blue sheen. The upperparts of the females including wings and tail are reddish brown. The underparts are pale cream white. Facial skin, bill, and legs are blue. It preys on insects in flight or from a perch. It also feeds on larvae and spiders. The oval bowl-shaped nest is built on branches and consists of twigs, palm fibre, and spider webs.

Population: There are approximately 300 individuals and is endemic to Seychelles, An Archipelago in Western Indian Ocean.

Status: Critically Endangered by IUCN

Threats: Alarming rates of habitat loss and fragmentation, due to tourism and private housing developments, may be the greatest threats on La Digue. Plants such as water lettuce Pistia stratiotes, introduced to La Digue's marshes, may possibly have reduced favoured invertebrate prey. Alien mammals and also some endemic bird species have recently been shown to be nest predators. The level of nest predation is highest at the forest edge, compounding the already negative impact of habitat fragmentation. Adult birds appear to have lower survival rates in areas with more alien species.

Conservation Underway:  A 0.1 km2 area of mature woodland was established as a nature reserve on La Digue in 1991. Few pools have been established to increase standing water, an education centre constructed, and public awareness programmes initiated. This population was surveyed in 2010 and productivity is routinely monitored. A further 13 ha of marshland was purchased in 2002 increasing the reserve to 21 ha. Pollution monitoring has been going for some time - a sluice gate was built to protect water quality in the wetland and the groundwater supply was protected when a new landfill site was established.

The introduced Pistia  stratiotes (Water Plant) is routinely removed from marshland. A programme was completed to assess the best islands to which future translocations could be considered. Habitat restoration is going on the now predator-free Denis Island, and this has been accompanied by a 'social marketing campaign to raise awareness on La Digue. 23 individuals were translocated to Denis Island from La Digue in November 2008, and the first chick successfully fledged in 2009. All these efforts will be coordinated by a new three-year project funded by the Darwin Initiative and implemented by a partnership of NGOs and the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources titled Investing in island biodiversity: restoring the Seychelles Paradise Flycatcher.


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