Justification of Red List Category
This species is classified as Endangered because it has an extremely small population. The population has been stable since the early 1990s but then increased following an island translocation, and if it remains stable or increasing with over 250 mature individuals it may warrant downlisting to Vulnerable in the future.
The mainland population was estimated at 216-244 individuals in 2002, with a minimum of 108 breeding pairs, and the population was estimated to have remained at 108 pairs in 2012 (V. Tatayah in litt. 2012). This is roughly equivalent to 140-170 mature individuals. The latest population estimate for the mainland population in 2011-2014 is 240-330 individuals (V. Tatayah, C. Jones and N. Zuel in litt. 2015), equivalent to 160-220 mature individuals. It has since increased following the release of birds on Ile aux Aigrettes in 2006 with a total of 110 adults there in 2012 and an estimated 180-200 individuals in 2011-2014 (V. Tatayah, C. Jones and N. Zuel in litt. 2015). The pre-release population estimate will be retained until the population is confirmed to have sustained itself above 250 mature individuals for five years.
The population declined rapidly until the early 1990s since which time it has been stable or possibly increasing on the mainland (Cristinacce 2007, V. Tatayah in litt. 2011). Following translocations to Ile aux Aigrettes it increased but has since dropped and then stabilised; translocations to Round Island have so far been unsuccessful.
This species, restricted to south-west Mauritius, suffered rapid population declines since 1975, descending from 247-260 pairs to c.108-122 pairs in late 2001 (Nichols 2002); no doubt following long-term historic population declines owing to heavy predation by invasive mammals. Between 1975 and 1993, a 55% decline in both population size and area of occupancy occurred (Safford 1997c), and the number of locations fell from six in 1975 to three (R. Nichols in litt. 2003), with the main population covering a range of just 15 km2 in 1993. However, since 1993, the population has been stable (Cristinacce 2007), and an increase in range has been recorded in the main breeding subpopulation (C. Jones in litt. 2000, R. Nichols per C. Jones in litt. 2000) which probably represents dispersing juveniles setting up new territories (Nichols 2002). The tiny Mare aux Vacoas subpopulation has remained stable (four pairs), but numbers and range have continued to decline in the Bel Ombre subpopulation (five pairs) (Nichols 2002). The long term viability of these small subpopulations is in doubt (R. Nichols in litt. 2003).
In 2005, 45 hand reared chicks were released onto Ile aux Aigrettes (where the species apparently occurred historically, V. Tatayah in litt. 2010), where two pairs from previous releases have raised chicks (Anon. 2005). Following that success, in 2006, c.40 young fledged on Ile aux Aigrettes and the total population on the island stood at 140 individuals in 2008 (L. Garrett in litt. 2007, Cristinacce et al. 2009a), 217 in September 2011 (V. Tatayah in litt. 2011) and 165-170 birds in early 2012 (V. Tatayah in litt. 2012). The most recent population estimate is 180-200 individuals in 2011-2014 (V. Tatayah, C. Jones and N. Zuel in litt. 2015). It is hoped that the population will increase further in the coming years as it expands on Ile aux Aigrettes. A second translocation to Round Island began in 2010 (V. Tatayah in litt. 2009); however of 32 birds released here between October 2010 and January 2011 all had died by early 2012, most or all having been predated by Round Island boas (V. Tatayah in litt. 2011, 2012).
It holds territories in all types of native forest, including degraded forest, and it shows an increasing reliance on non-native plantations that afford some protection from nest predators (C. Jones in litt. 2000, Cristinacce et al. 2009b); its use of exotic vegetation (pine and Cryptomeria) increased markedly during the recent increase in range between 1994 and 2003 (Cristinacce et al. 2009b). Its diet is comprised primarily of insects, but also fruit and nectar (Cheke 1987b). Breeding on Ile aux Aigrettes takes place between July-February (Cristinacce et al. 2010), c.2 months earlier than the mainland population (Safford, 2013). Breeding may be terminated if there is a prolonged period of rain (>1 month), but dry conditions will not cause an interruption (Safford, 2013)
Historically, clearance of upland forest, particularly for plantations in the 1970s, catastrophically affected this species. Introduced predators, notably Black Rat Rattus rattus and Crab-eating Macaque Macaca fascicularis, have caused almost total breeding failure in most areas (Safford 1997d, 1997e) and nest predation is regarded as the major cause of present-day decline in this species (R. Switzer in litt. 2003). Introduced Madagascar Red Fody Foudia madagascariensis may restrict its range (Cheke 1987c), but different ecological requirements may allow the two to coexist (Garrett et al. 2007). It has unexpectedly disappeared from areas of apparently intact habitat, possibly 'sink' regions of severe nest-predation, previously sustained by relatively predator-free 'source' areas which have now been degraded and can no longer supply new recruits (Safford 1997b, 1997c). The species also suffers from the general degradation of native habitats on Mauritius caused by introduced animals and plants (Nichols 2002). Released birds on Round Island in 2010 suffered predation by Round Island boas, with none surviving by early 2012 (V. Tatayah in litt. 2012).
Conservation and Research Actions Underway
Rats and macaques were controlled as part of a programme to rehabilitate plots of native vegetation (Safford and Jones 1998), however macaque control has since dropped to nearly nil (V. Tatayah in litt. 2012). A captive-rearing programme implemented by the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation, the Gerald Durrell Endemic Wildlife Santuary and the National Parks and Conservation Service is proving highly effective and in 2005 produced 47 individuals from captive parents (25) and hand reared wild born chicks (22) (Anon. 2005). Protocols for captive husbandry and artificial propagation were developed to facilitate the translocation objectives (R. Switzer in litt. 2003), and supplementary feeding and control of nest parasites were used to aid establishment (Cristinacce et al. 2010). The Black River National Park partly covers its range, and the habitat around Bassin Blanc, not originally included within the boundary, is a priority for compulsory government purchase in the future (Jones and Hartley 1995, R. Safford in litt. 1999), but this had not happened by 2012. Research into the species's ecology is ongoing, and prospective surveys to assess the suitability of Round Island for translocation were conducted; initial releases on the island began in 2010 (L. Garrett in litt. 2007, C. Jones in litt. 2010) but proved unsuccessful due to predation.
Conservation and Research Actions Proposed
Study fecundity differences between pine plantations, Cryptomeria and native forest. Develop a Conservation Management Area at Combo, stocked with favoured nectar-producing plants and with predator controls. Increase breeding productivity by supplemental feeding, double clutching and captive-rearing of harvested wild clutches (C. Jones in litt. 2000). Identify possible native habitat refuges on both the mainland and offshore islands (Safford 2013). Continue releases on offshore islands, including Flat Island when management allows, and monitor the population on Ile aux Aigrettes. Advocate for the compulsory purchase of land separating Bassin Blanc from the Black River National Park and ensure that the national park boundary is extended and appropriate management activities implemented.
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. 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. Voice Various chip chip notes plus harsher calls. Hints Solitary and arboreal, foraging from the canopy to ground level.
Text account compilers
Bird, J., Ekstrom, J., Pilgrim, J., Shutes, S., Symes, A., Warren, B. & Ashpole, J
Cristinacce, A., Garrett, L., Jones, C., Nichols, R., Safford, R., Switzer, R., Tatayah, V. & Zuel, N.
BirdLife International (2020) Species factsheet: Foudia rubra. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 04/07/2020. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2020) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 04/07/2020.