ENCYCLOPÆDIA
Mauritiana

Mauritius Fodi
Foudi de Maurice, Fodie, Cardinal Mauricien
Kardinal / Zwazo banane
Foudia rubra

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 Mauritius Fodi
Mauritius Fodi male - Foudia rubra
Foudia rubra male at the Black River Aviaries of the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation.
Photos © Peter M.C. Werner 2-2004
Foudia rubra female

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Foudia rubra female . Photo © Peter M.C. Werner 2-2004
Mauritius Fodi male - Foudia rubra Madagascar Fodi - Foudia madagascarensis
Mauritius Fody - Photo © Peter M.C. Werner. Often mistaken : The Madagascar Fody (Foudia madagascarensis) is very common in Mauritius.
Photo © G. Gerra & S.Sommazzi

Details

Identification

14 cm. Medium-sized, brown forest weaver. Vermilion-red head, neck and breast with black loral area. Dark brown back, wings and tail streaked with buff. Reddish rump and uppertail-coverts.

The sexes are different, the female being rust-brown, the male basically grey.

Similar spp. Non-breeding male, female and juvenile separated from Madagascar Red Fody F. madagascariensis by darker, less streaked plumage, plumper body and relatively shorter tail.

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Voice

Various chip chip notes plus harsher calls.

Habitat

The preferred habitat includes native scrub vegetation with a few scattered taller trees, but the species also inhabits low native scrub and native forest.

Diet

Its diet is comprised primarily of insects, but also fruit and nectar.
Occasionally robs nests of other birds, such as the Pink Pigeon, sucking the eggs

Threats

Clearance of upland forest has catastrophically affected this species. Introduced predators, notably black rat Rattus rattus and crab-eating macaque Macaca fascicularis and mongoose, have caused almost total breeding failure in most areas. Introduced F. madagascariensis may compete and restrict its range.

It has unexpectedly disappeared from areas of apparently intact habitat, possibly regions of severe nest-predation, previously sustained by relatively predator-free areas which have now been degraded and can no longer supply new recruits.

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Range & Population

It was already becoming fairly rare at the turn of the twentieth century, although it was still not considered uncommon as late as the 1950s.

Between 1971 to 1974, the clearing of an upland forest at Les Mares on Plaine Champagne had a devastating effect on the species, decreasing its population by more than 50%. Since then, its habitat has been better protected, as remaining native forest habitat received almost complete protection with the creation of the Macabe/Bel Ombre Nature Reserve in 1974.

Foudia rubra has suffered rapid population declines since 1975, descending from 247-260 pairs to c.105-125 pairs in late 1999. From 1975 to 1993, a 55% decline in both population and area of occupancy occurred. However, since 1993, the decline rate has slowed, and an increase in range has been recorded in the main breeding subpopulation.

The tiny Mare aux Vacoas subpopulation has remained stable (four pairs), but numbers and range have continued to decline in the Bel Ombre subpopulation (seven pairs). Research indicates that there is no population fragmentation during winter.

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Reproduction

Two or three pale-green spotted eggs laid in a rough, cup-shaped nest of thin plant parts bound by cobwebs and placed high in trees. Both parents sit on the eggs. Nest predated by rats.

Conservation

On January 12, 1995, the Mauritius fody was designated as Endangered in the Entire Range. Within the area covered by this listing, this species is known to occur in: Mauritius. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (null) is the lead region for this entity.

An attempt was made to introduce the species to the island of Reunion, but it was unsuccessful it is uncertain whether further attempts will be made. The introduction and establishment of two species of nectar-producing shrubs on the high plateau has been suggested.

In 2003, the Mauritius Wildlife Fund started a program of captive breeding at the Black River Aviaries. 14 birds were released in the Île aux Aigrettes Nature Reserve. but in early 2004 only 9 survived. No trace was found of the other 5. For the next release, the implant of chips is planned to follow their movements.

The main goal should be to eliminate the introduced rats and mice that plague the species.

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In 1993, Roger Safford completed an intensive four-year PhD study on all of the Mauritian passerine species.

Since 1993 some work has been done on a volunteer basis since we have not yet been able to secure funding to help save our passerines. Volunteers and students have been conducting population surveys on all the critically endangered species to gain knowledge of the ecology of each species for future conservation.
Conservation efforts to help passerines will be more difficult than for the larger, more resilient birds MWF is working with.
Only one other research station in the world, Hawaii, is attempting to restore highly endangered passerine populations through captive breeding. Hawaiis passerine program is still in the preliminary stages and much remains to be learned to develop strategies that will best help conserve these tiny birds. Interestingly, the methods used by conservationists in Hawaii have been adapted from MWFs work on Pink Pigeons. The story will come full circle if we can learn from them on how to care for our passerine species.

In 1999, 21 new territories of Olive White-eyes, 8 new pairs of Paradise Flycatchers and 3 new pairs of Mauritius Fody were found near newest MWF field station at Combo. In addition to many hours of observation resulting in previously unknown nesting behaviour (male Olive White-eyes were seen to share in the care of eggs and nestlings), 3 nests of Olive White-eyes were found and monitored. Previous to this only 2 nests had ever been recorded for this species. Unfortunately, all 3 nests were predated by Ship

Remarks

Illustrated on a 10 cent stamp and a calendar published by the State Commercial Bank.

Mauritius Fody stamp SG 321 (1965) - Foudia rubra
Bird Stamps

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Description

Scientific Name

Foudia rubra

English Name

Mauritius Fody

Local English Name

 

French Name

Foudi de Maurice, Fodie

Local French Name

Cardinal Mauricien

Creole Name

Kardinal / Zwazo banane

Habitat

native scrub and forest

Geographic Range

Mauritius

Status

CITES I - PROTECTED

First Description

Gmelin, 1789


Classification

Kingdom

Animalia

Phylum

Chordata

Sub phylum

Vertebrata

Class

Aves

Order

Passeriformes

Family

Ploceidae

Genus

Foudia

Species

Foudia rubra


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Sites

Bassin Blanc

Macchabee Forest Road

Île aux Aigrettes


 

Links

Bright, Paul & Carter, Stephen
Exotic vegetation as a refuge from nest predation for endangered Mauritian birds

Vickery, Juliet
Tropical Forests and Islands
Conference Report 3-5 April 1998

Mauritian Wildlife Foundation

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service


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References

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Safford, RJ.
The annual cycle and breeding behaviour of the Mauritius Fody, Foudia rubra.
Ostrich, 68, 58-67.

Safford RJ.
Nesting success of the Mauritius Fody Foudia rubra in relation to its use of exotic trees as nest sites.
Ibis, 139, 555-559.

Safford, RJ.
The destruction of source and sink habitats in the decline of the Mauritius Fody, Foudia rubra, an island-endemic bird.
Biodiversity and Conservation, 6, 513-527.

Safford, RJ. A survey of the occurrence of native vegetation remnants on Mauritius in 1993.
Biological Conservation, 80,181-188 and 84, 197.

Safford, RJ. Distribution studies on the forest-living native passerines of Mauritius.
Biological Conservation, 80, 189-198.

Safford RJ and Jones CG.
Did organochlorine pesticide use cause declines in Mauritian forest birds?
Biodiversity and Conservation, 6, 1445-1451.


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Acknowledgements

My thanks go to Mr. Vikash Tatayah of the Mauritius Wildlife Foundation for letting me have access to the Conservation Area where I was able to take photographs of the endemic birds held at the Black River aviaries.

I thank particularly Mrs. Frédérique Koenig, Aviararies Manager, who was a helpful, friendly and competent guide.

Peter M.C. Werner
February 2004


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