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April 24, 2024

Exploring Mauritius: Endemic Birds of La Vallée de Ferney Revealed

Written by Sandrine Maingard

Mauritius, with its subtropical climate, boasts a rich biodiversity. Whether you’re an avid birdwatcher, a nature lover, or simply curious about the island’s natural wonders, this article is just for you! Nestled within the lush confines of La Vallée de Ferney are rare feathered inhabitants released as part of a dedicated conservation effort. From the iconic Mauritius Kestrel to the vibrant Echo Parakeet, you’ll have the opportunity to encounter an array of stunning endemic birds in their habitat. But before you go on this birding trip, why not explore some fascinating insights?

Endemic birds of Mauritius

Once home to the Dodo (an extinct flightless bird species that was endemic to the island), Mauritius now shelters nine endemic bird species, namely the Pink Pigeon; the Mauritius Kestrel; the Echo Parakeet; the Mauritius Fody; the Mauritius Olive White-Eye; the Mauritius Grey White-Eye; the Mauritius Cuckoo-Shrike; the Mauritius Black Bulbul; and the Mauritius Paradise Flycatcher. You won’t be able to find them all in one location, but if you’re lucky, you can spot some of them at La Vallée de Ferney. If not, don’t worry: there will certainly be other opportunities. As the flora and fauna continue to thrive in the valley, so too does its spirit of conservation.

Protecting Endemic Birds: Our Conservation efforts

La Vallée de Ferney stands as a carefully chosen sanctuary for the feathered treasures of Mauritius. In 2007, La Vallée de Ferney Conservation Trust was established; a public-private partnership dedicated to the preservation of the site’s flora and fauna, and the broader Bambou Mountain range, in the South East of Mauritius. Striving to restore the ecosystems and protect endangered species, the Trust manages a dedicated 103-hectare conservation zone while collaborating closely with the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation. This sanctuary serves, notably, as a launchpad for the endemic birds which are released in the valley. Each September, passionate biologists tread through the forests to locate nests. Through vigilant observation and banding, they ensure the growth of these rare gems. The banding or ringing helps them track the movements, behaviours, and population dynamics of birds over time. By attaching uniquely numbered bands to birds’ legs, they are able to gather valuable data on migration patterns, habitat use, longevity, and survival rates; an important step in preserving the biodiversity and maintaining the balance of ecosystems altogether.

Thanks to these meticulous conservation efforts and various habitat restoration projects, you can find quite a few happy birds nesting, chirping and flying freely at La Vallée de Ferney. In this authentic destination, endemic and notable species like the Pink Pigeon, the Mauritius Kestrel and the Echo Parakeet feel at home. They are very special to us and you will soon discover why.

The Pink Pigeon: A Symbol of Hope for Mauritius’ Endemic Birds

Pink Pigeon MauritiusDid you know? The Pink Pigeon is one of the rarest pigeons in the world. In the 1990, only 9 of these birds were known to exist. Over the past quarter-century, the diligent efforts of conservationists have been rewarded with the growth of the Pink Pigeon population. Today, over 500 Pink Pigeons soar high through the skies, a true symbol of hope for the endemic bird populations of Mauritius. Some of them found a safe haven in La Vallée de Ferney. Indeed, from December 2016 to February 2017, a total of 30 Pink Pigeons were released in the valley, resulting in successful breeding! By the end of June 2022, the valley echoed with the joyous chirping of about 54 Pink Pigeons.

Discovering the Mauritius Kestrel: A Success Story for Endangered Bird Conservation

Reminiscent of the majestic falcon with its stunning feather patterns, the Mauritius Kestrel was declared the national bird of Mauritius on the 12th of March 2022, as the country celebrated its 54th year of independence. It is recognised globally as an icon of conservation – and for good reason. Back in 1974, it was the rarest bird of prey in the world, with only 4 specimens. But thanks to the dedicated efforts of Durrell Conservation and its partners, reintroductions began in La Vallée de Ferney in 1987, marking a turning point. Since 2016, no less than 125 chicks have fledged in Ferney. 21 were ringed last year, representing about half of the species population on the island. While the Mauritius Kestrel is still an endangered species, the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation has been monitoring closing the kestrel population island-wide.

The Mauritius Parakeet: A Colourful Addition to La Vallée de Ferney’s Bird PopulationMauritius Echo Parakeet

Have you ever met the Echo Parakeet? Also known as the Mauritius Parakeet or Grosse Cateau Verte, the last endemic parrot of the Mascarenes sports vibrant emerald green plumage and can reach up to 36 cm in length. It sustains itself on a varied diet of flowers, leaves, and fruits from both native and non-native plants. Once teetering on the brink of extinction, the Echo Parakeet’s survival story is one of resilience. From facing habitat loss and degradation, it finally found sanctuary in the lush native forests of Mauritius. With dedicated conservation efforts, including releases at Ferney spanning across three years, the population has rebounded. Today, thanks to successful breeding, about 55 of these beautiful birds can be spotted in the valley, showcasing the power of conservation in action.

Birding Essentials: Tips for a Successful Birdwatching Experience in La Vallée de Ferney

  1. Let a passionate guide take you around: Luck does not always meet birding! A guide will lead you to the best viewing spots, will help you identify the different bird species and catch sight of the rare ones. Plus, you might get some unique insights!
  2. Bring the right gear: While a pair of binoculars will definitely enhance your experience, a camera or smartphone with a good telephoto lens can also be handy for capturing memorable moments. Don’t forget to wear comfortable clothing and footwear for walking along trails. Also, a mosquito repellent is a must-have!
  3. Respect nature: Practise responsible birdwatching by respecting the wildlife and their habitat. Keep noise to a minimum, stay on designated trails, and avoid disturbing nesting areas or sensitive ecosystems.

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There are so many life lessons to be learned by watching birds, but we leave those for you to discover. Happy birding!