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Republic of Mauritius

Echo Parakeet Psittacula eques ©Ross Wanless Website

Birding Mauritius

Mauritius (officially the Republic of Mauritius) is an island nation in the Indian Ocean about 2,000 kilometres (1,200 miles) off the southeast coast of the African continent. The country includes the islands of Mauritius and Rodrigues, 560 kilometres (350 miles) east of Mauritius, and the outer islands (Agaléga, St. Brandon and two disputed territories). The islands of Mauritius and Rodrigues form part of the Mascarene Islands along with nearby Réunion, a French overseas department. The area of the country is 2,040 km2 (790 square miles). The capital and largest city is Port Louis. The island is widely known as the only known home of the dodo, which, along with several other avian species, was made extinct by human activities relatively shortly after the island's settlement.

Some of the world's rarest birds are endemic to Mauritius. The Mauritius kestrel, once down to 4 individuals, is one of the great conservation success stories, which can be credited to the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, which has done incredible work in Mauritius. A similarly impressive achievement on the part of the DWCT has been saving the Pink Pigeon from extinction.

Today both these species are well represented in captive collections, as well as thriving wild populations which are breeding successfully. At present, the DWCT is involved in rescuing yet another critically endangered Mauritian endemic, the Echo parakeet, which too, was hovering on the brink. With a bit of luck, it is possible to see all three these 'megaticks' in their natural habitat at Black River Gorges National Park, south-east Mauritius. And while there, look for some other rare endemics - the Mauritius cuckoo-shrike, the Mauritius bulbul, the pretty Mauritius fody and Mauritius olive white-eye, are all to be seen in this park, which is their stronghold.

Unfortunately, all these passerines are becoming rarer due to introduced mammals (rats, mongooses, monkeys, cats) and are in desperate need of further protection. Oddly enough, one endemic, the Mauritius grey white-eye, has adapted exceedingly well to Man`s modification of its habitat and is very common, even in hotel gardens. Note however, that outside of Black River Gorges, most of the birds you are likely to see, will be introduced species, which have become abundant on the Mascarenes. These include rubbish like zebra dove, spotted-backed weaver, house sparrow and common waxbill.

The one seabird that all visiting birders wish to see, is the very localized, and rare, Round Island (Trinidad) Petrel, which as its name implies, breeds on the rather inhospitable Round Island off northern Mauritius. To do so it would be sensible to take a boat trip towards dusk.

Rodrigues

The remnants of forest left on Rodrigues, contain possibly more than 90% exotic flora. It is not hard to comprehend then, why 7 of its 42 endemic plants are down to less than 10 specimens each. These include some of the world`s rarest and most endangered plants, like the caffe marron (recently down to a single shrub) and the Rodrigues hibiscus, which mercifully is represented in some foreign collections.

As is the case on the other Mascarenes, introduced mammals and birds have also had a detrimental effect on the island`s ecosystems. And as on the other Mascarenes, many species of bird were exterminated by Man and his ghastly entourage of domestic and introduced animals. Today only two Rodriguan endemics remain. One, the Rodrigues brush warbler, is among the world`s rarest birds. Some 25 - 30 pairs remain. The other is the attractive yellow and orange Rodrigues fody, which belongs to the same genus as its other weaverbird congeners in Mauritius, Seychelles, Aldabra, Comoros and Madagascar. The population of the Rodrigues fody is estimated at about 200 pairs. Both species are not too difficult to locate in the wooded slopes of Citronelle, Solitude and Cascade Pigeons. At the latter you can also see the Rodrigues golden bats. One of the best places in which to search for the warbler and fody is near the research base at Solitude.

If you have a day to spare and wish to see some impressive seabirds, then take an excursion to the nearby islet of Ilot Cocos, a sanctuary for huge breeding colonies of common and lesser Noddys, bridled terns and a few pairs of fairy [white] terns. This can be arranged by your hotel.

Birding in the Mascarene Islands (Reunion, Mauritius & Rodrigues)

Together the islands of Reunion, Mauritius and Rodrigues form the Mascarene archipelago, which lies 700kms to the east of Madagascar. Situated between the equator and the Tropic of Capricorn, the islands' volcanic origins date back some 13 million years. Today, only Reunion retains an active volcano, the formidable Piton de-la-Fournaise. It also claims the highest peak in the Indian Ocean, the 3069m Piton des Neiges.

Man arrived settled on these sublime tropical island sonly about 400 years ago. But almost nowhere else on Earth, have Human activities had such a devastating effect on indigenous flora and fauna as has been the case on the Mascarenes. The wave of avian extinctions which consequently occurred on these islands, is perhaps paralleled only by that which took place on the Hawaiian archipelago.

There were very few native mammals on the Mascarene islands. Only bats, which were able to fly across, established themselves. Worth a mention here, is the endangered Rodrigues fruit bat, recently saved from extinction by the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust.

There were also not many indigenous herps (reptiles and frogs); although Mauritius and the small offshore islet known as Round Island, still hold an impressive reptile fauna including endemic skinks, geckos and snakes. But the birds of the Mascarenes, were absolutely remarkable, including such distinctive species as the extinct Dodo (dronte) of Mauritius and its compatriots on Reunion and Rodrigues, the equally bizarre Solitaires.

The early settlers found three islands largely clad in tropical hardwood forests. Quickly, these forests were felled. (Only on mountainous Reunion do large tracts of original forest still exist). What remains in Mauritius and Rodrigues, are mere token remnants in a severely degraded state. The extraordinary birds were considered little more than a readily available food supply. It did not take the settlers much time to wipe out a long list of unique species.

Today, Mauritius retains 8 endemic birds, Reunion 9 and Rodrigues 2. There are also a few species common only to Reunion and Mauritius and high on the lists of visiting birders, some very rare and localised seabirds. In the space of a week, it is fairly easy to see all the lifers one can tick off in the Mascarenes.

When to go:
Any time except cyclone season which is late Jan - early Feb

Contributor

Number of Species

Number of bird species: 119

(As at September 2018)

Endemics

Number of endemics: 10

Mauritius Kestrel Falco punctatus, Pink Pigeon Columba mayeri, Mauritius Parakeet Psittacula echo, Mauritius Cuckooshrike Coracina typica, Mauritius Bulbul Hypsipetes olivaceus, Rodrigues Warbler Acrocephalus rodericanus, Mauritius Olive White-eye Zosterops chloronothos, Mauritius grey white-eye Zosterops mauritianus, Mauritius Fody Foudia rubra, Rodrigues fody Foudia flavicans

Checklist

iGoTerra Checklist

iGoTerra Checklist

Fatbirder Associate iGoTerra offers the most comprehensive and up to date birds lists on the web

Useful Reading

Bird Song of Mauritius

By John Hammick | Mandarin Productions | 2004 | Audio CD |

ISBN: #145797

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Birds of Mauritius and Rodrigues

By Jacques de Spéville | Jacques de Spéville | 2014 | Hardback | 108 pages, 183 colour photos | Text French & English |

ISBN: 9789994938049

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Birds of Mauritius, Rodrigues & Islets

By B Narainsamy Ramen | Narainsamy Ramen | 2018 | Hardback | 160 pages, colour photos, colour illustrations, colour maps | Text in English & French |

ISBN: 9789994904129

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Birds of the Indian Ocean Islands: Madagascar, Mauritius, Réunion, Rodriges, Seychelles and the Comoros.

By Ian Sinclair, Olivier Langrand, Norman Arlott, Hilary Burn, Peter Hayman & Ian Lewington | New Holland Publishers | 2013 | Paperback | 264 pages, 71 plates with 1160 colour illustrations; colour distribution maps |

ISBN: 9781431700851

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Birds of the Mascarene Islands - Les Oiseaux des Mascareignes

(A Comprehensive Collection of Endemic, Oceanic, Migratory and Exotic Birds of Mauritius, Rodrigues and Reunion) | By B Narainsamy Ramen | Narainsamy Ramen | 2012 | Hardback | 360 pages, colour photos, 3 colour maps | Text French & English |

ISBN: 9789994900091

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Organisations

African Bird Club

Website

The Republic of Mauritius was once home to perhaps the world's best known bird species, the Dodo Raphus cucullatus, and is now home to some of the world's rarest species, the Mauritius Kestrel Falco punctatus (at one stage the world's rarest bird) and the Mauritius Parakeet Psittacula echo, another critically endangered species. It is no surprise that for a remote Indian Ocean island, Mauritius has relatively few bird species, however the island does boast one of the densest concentrations of endangered bird species in the world. Although the Dodo can now only be seen as a tourist motif…

Mauritius Wildlife Foundation

Information

The Mauritian Wildlife Foundation, formerly known as The Mauritian Wildlife Appeal Fund is the only non-governmental organisation in Mauritius to be exclusively concerned with the conservation of endemic species. The MWF works in close co-operation with the Government with whom a Memorandum of Agreement was signed in 1994.

Reserves

Abbreviations Key

NP Black River Gorges

Information

Satellite View

The Black River Gorges area has been proclaimed as the first National Park for Mauritius on the 15th June 1994, by the President Mr Cassam Uteem, under the Wildlife and National Parks Act 1993. This has been a major achievement for Mauritius in the view of nature conservation and protection of our national heritage…

NP Bras d'Eau

Information

Satellite View

After the original Mauritian forests were destroyed, most of the land was used for commercial plantations of alien trees such as Mahogany, Araucaria, Tecoma and Eucalyptus. The majority of the National Park's land still lies beneath these plantations. However patches of the original biodiversity remain.

NP Islets

Information

The park is made up of eight small islands, the largest being Ile D'Ambre. Mauritius is surrounded by a total of 49 islets, and aside from the National Park, seven others have been proclaimed as Nature Reserves

NR Grande Montagne - Rodrigues

Information

Satellite View

Grande Montagne Nature Reserve is a 20 ha nature reserve on the island of Rodrigues, preserving one of the last remnants of the island's endemic forest.

NR Ile Aux Aigrettes

Information

Satellite View

Ile aux Aigrettes is an islet off the south-east coast of Mauritius. It functions as a nature reserve and a scientific research station. Reptile species include the large, slow Telfairs Skink, several species of ornately coloured day gecko, and a population of non-indigenous Aldabra giant tortoise, brought to Île aux Aigrettes to take over the important ecological role of the extinct Mauritian tortoises. The large tortoises eat & spread the plant seeds and thereby help the forest to rejuvenate naturally.

Guides & Tour Operators

Click on WAND for tours, guides, lodges and more…

YaNature

Tour Operator

The passionate nature lovers at Yanature offers you the opportunity to discover these species in their natural habitat, on a bird-watching tour planned on a half day basis.

Trip Reports

Click on WAND for tours, guides, lodges and more…

CloudBirders

Trip Report Repository

CloudBirders was created by a group of Belgian world birding enthusiasts and went live on 21st of March 2013. They provide a large and growing database of birding trip reports, complemented with extensive search, voting and statistical features.

2008 [11 November] - Colin Smith

Report

These notes are intended to provide some ‘up-to-date’ assistance for birders who, like us, would hope to see all the endemics while enjoying a conventional beach holiday. We managed all the Mauritian and Mascarene endemics (except the Round Island Pterodroma species) but not without some hard work. Rather than detail the sightings of all birds seen these notes concentrate on the endemics and summarise the others. We assume that the reader will already have done some homework on the island and its birds….

2011 [10 October] - Mark Van heirs - Seychelles, Mauritius & Reunion

PDF Report

…Everyone knows the Dodo and maybe the Rodrigues Solitaire, but who has ever heard about Broad-billed Parrot, Mauritian Shelduck, Red Rail, Réunion Flightless Ibis or Réunion Owl? Even today, the Seychelles, Mauritius, Réunion and Rodrigues are home to an astounding number of endangered birds and luckily major conservation efforts are in place to save these….

2013 [12 December] - Phil Gregory & Jay Vandergaast - Madagascar, Mauritius & Reunion

Report

…Mauritius at long last gave us good calm and sunny weather for the first time in several trips, and this helped no end. We got great looks at Mauritius Fody and scored big with the rare Mauritius Olive White-eye and a very responsive Mauritius Cuckooshrike, whilst the Mauritius Bulbul also showed well and we lucked into a fine male Mauritius Paradise-Flycatcher, a proposed split too. Our site for the major non-passerine rarities came good for Pink Pigeon, in good light for once as well, and Jan luckily found us Mauritius Parakeet feeding by the entrance (we then learned the feeding program had stopped so seeing them was much harder). The Mauritius (Box) Kestrel was not at the customary nest boxes, but we were very lucky to get a female out hunting over the cane fields adjacent to the forest, and great to see one actually doing something…

2014 [09 September] - John Kirby

PDF Report

This report gives an update on sites visited to see the endemic species of Mauritius. I did not flog around the coast picking up shore birds as “list-fillers”. 30 species were seen in total. The only bird missed was Mauritius Bulbul. We visited each site once only....

2014 [10 October] - Mark Van Beirs - Seychelles, Mauritius, Réunion & Rodrigues

PDF Report

The islands of the Seychelles, Mauritius, Réunion and Rodrigues in the western Indian Ocean are true paradise islands for western tourists and offer exotic holidays on palm-fringed beaches lapping turquoise seas. They are however also one of the world’s main centres for bird extinctions as at least 30 species of birds (and a whole range of reptiles) have gone extinct there since man first visited these wonderful islands just 350 years ago. Everyone knows about the Dodo and maybe the Rodrigues Solitaire, but who has ever heard of Reunion Kestrel, Reunion Swamphen, Broad-billed Parrot, Mauritian Shelduck, Mauritus Night...

2014 [12 December] - Phil Gregory - Madagascar, Mauritius & Reunion

Report

This was my fifth run-through for Field Guides of this comprehensive tour of Madagascar, which Field Guides has been running since 1986, this year in a reconfigured smaller group context that worked very nicely. We again had a great tour of this fascinating country, albeit with lots of traveling on slow roads and the worse than usual vagaries of Air Madagascar, which made significant late changes to 5 out of 6 flights, costing us an afternoon at Ifaty and our morning boat trip from Mahajunga as a result...

2015 [12 December] - Phil Gregory - Madagascar, Mauritius & Reunion (with Masoala Peninsula extension)

Report

This was my sixth Field Guides tour (and my seventh Madagascar tour overall), in what proved to be an odd year; due to the effects of the current, massive El Nino, it was unusually dry in some places but unusually wet in others. Madagascar Air also proved more than usually chaotic this year, canceling our flight to Maroantsetra and then canceling its replacement the next day. We improvised with a visit to Lac Alarobia in Tana, and saw one of our very few Madagascar Pond Herons, the tour's only Black Egrets, and two very unexpected Meller's Ducks, plus White-throated Rail-- and we timed our leaving very nicely, just as a storm came in...

2016 [11 November] - Phil Gregory - Madagascar, Mauritius & Reunion

PDF Report

...we did jam a very close Mauritius Olive White-eye, and a Mauritius Bulbul not far away was a valuable addition of a sometimes tough species. The short boat trip to Ile aux Aigrettes sanctuary went well, but for some reason the tour was somewhat rushed (I complained about this afterwards), but we did enjoy great looks at Mauritius Fody, more Mauritius Olive White-eyes and a wonderful 150-year-old adult male Aldabra Giant Tortoise that looked so much like a model it was accidentally kicked by one of us who thought it wasn't real (no worries, it's huge with a hard shell)!

2017 [10 October] - Hannu Jännes - Seychelles, Mauritius & Réunion

PDF Report

The islands of the Seychelles, Mauritius, Réunion and Rodrigues located in the western Indian Ocean are the true paradise islands of the imagination offering exotic holidays on palm-fringed beaches lapped by turquoise seas. They are also one of the world’s main centres of bird extinctions with at least 30 species of birds, plus a whole range of reptiles, having become extinct since man first visited the islands just 350 years ago...

2017 [10 October] - Michael Mills - Seychelles, Mauritius & Réunion

PDF Report

The remote oceanic islands of Seychelles, Mauritius, Rodrigues and Reunion are renowned for their palm-lined, white-sand beaches, and in the case of Reunion, it's active volcano. From the birder's perspective, these island are characterised by high degrees of endemism, spectacular seabird breeding colonies, heroic conservation efforts and, unfortunately, irreplaceable losses such as the extinct Dodo.

2017 [12 December] - Sander Bot - Réunion & Mauritius

PDF Report

After guiding a birding trip to Madagascar for BirdingBrekas.nl I decided to fly back to Europe via Reunion and Mauritius. Having only 1,5 days on each island meant I had to be efficient to see all endemics, but I succeeded. Preferably you take a day extra on every Island, but this report shows it can be done within one and a half day per island. These islands are great to do as a stopover to or from Madagascar. Alternatively, you could combine these islands with a visit to Rodrigues and the Seychelles, although that would be quite an expensive trip with many flights.

2018 [05 May] - Steve & Tessa Blaber - Seychelles, Reunion and Mauritius

PDF Report

This trip was designed primarily to see the endemics on each of the islands, together with other species missing from our list. Overall, the trip was extremely successful and enjoyable with almost all the endemics seen. On all the islands there is relatively little pristine habitat left and the sites for finding the endemics are well known.

Other Links

Birdman of Mauritius

Website

Whatever you do, don’t leave this page without having a sneak preview of my latest book below – “The Birds of the Mascarenes” –a lifetime of work; with 360 pages of information, capturing rare and intimate images of some of the world’s most extraordinary wildlife, unique to the Mascarene Islands…

Wildlife of Mauritius

Information

Also includes lists of preserved and protected areas.