103
Rodrigues

Country/Territory Mauritius
Area 110 km2
Altitude 0 - 300m
Priority critical
Habitat loss severe
Knowledge incomplete

General characteristics

Rodrigues, the smallest and most ecologically devastated of the Mascarene Islands, is politically part of Mauritius (EBA 102, see also EBA 101). The terrain is hilly, mostly gently so, with a central ridge rising to 390 m. Originally the island was covered with rather open evergreen forest but this has been almost totally destroyed. Some parts are planted with Casuarina or gums Eucalyptus, but these woodlands are devoid of native birds.

Restricted-range species

Both extant restricted-range birds have shown some adaptation to the habitat changes, and survive in some non-native vegetation, especially introduced evergreen trees. The population of Acrocephalus rodericanus is concentrated mainly in Cascade Pigeon valley. Foudia flavicans shares a similar distribution with records largely from the adjacent Cascade Pigeon, Solitude and Sygangue valleys (Cheke 1987d).

The Rodrigues Solitaire Pezophaps solitaria, a close relative of the Dodo Raphus cucullatus from Mauritius, died out in the 1760s, and another native parrot Necropsittacus rodericanus (known only from contemporary accounts and from subfossil bones) is believed to have existed until that time too. A further six endemic species are known from subfossils (including a night-heron, rail, pigeon, owl, babbler and bulbul) (Cowles 1987). These species have not been included in this study, which deals only with restricted-range species extant post-1800.


Species IUCN Category
Rodrigues Parakeet (Psittacula exsul) EX
Rodrigues Warbler (Acrocephalus rodericanus) NT
Rodrigues Starling (Necropsar rodericanus) EX
Rodrigues Fody (Foudia flavicans) NT

Important Bird Areas (IBAs)
IBA Code Site Name Country
MU014 Rodrigues mainland Mauritius

Threat and conservation

The cumulative effects of feral livestock and shifting cultivation have, since the beginning of permanent settlement in the early 1790s, reduced the vegetation on much of Rodrigues to a savanna with scattered trees. It is likely that both Psittacula exsul and Necropsar rodericanus became extinct because they were unable to withstand predation pressure and the effects of cyclones, having already been reduced in numbers through the loss of native habitat and hunting (Cheke 1987b). Today, remnants of native vegetation only exist on the tops of hills and in a few ravines, altogether accounting for less than 1% of the land area; however, even some of these patches are declining due to grazing and illegal woodcutting (WWF/IUCN 1994).

Both endemic species are considered threatened because of their tiny ranges and populations. Foudia flavicans was reduced to fewer than 10 pairs in 1968 through habitat loss, competition from an introduced congener (Madagascar Fody F. madagascariensis) and cyclone impact, but had recovered to 350-400 birds in 1991. Acrocephalus rodericanus has also declined steadily with the clearance and disturbance of its dense thicket habitat, and was judged to be reduced to eight pairs and one unpaired bird after a cyclone in 1979, recovering to 45-65 birds in 1991 (MWAF 1992). Habitat conservation and habitat creation have helped to mitigate some of the impact of recent cyclones, but predation by introduced black rats Rattus rattus is probably detrimental to both the endemics (Collar and Stuart 1985, Cheke 1987d).

There are three small nature reserves (covering just 58 ha) which include the only surviving remnants of native vegetation, and larger areas have been protected by fencing (WWF/IUCN 1994). Offshore island reserves of Ile aux Cocos (15 ha) and Ile aux Sables (84 ha) may be restored so as to support populations of the endemic birds (R. J. Safford in litt. 1993).


Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2019) Endemic Bird Areas factsheet: Rodrigues. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 24/07/2019.