Living life on Cousin Island is often equivalent to living in an Attenborough documentary or a living laboratory. Whilst tourists are exposed to an excellent taster during their one and a half hour tour of Cousin Island Special Reserve, its only through living on the Island and total immersion in the wildlife that you get to see some truly interesting behavior.
This week Dailus Benoit, one of the Cousin Island Wardens has been back out with his trusty Nikon SLR and found some pretty interesting wildlife behavior to see for himself and take photos of. “I was walking home from work past a White Tern nest (often called fairy terns) when I noticed they had dropped the small fish they had caught to feed their chick,” says Dailus. “At first I ignored it as we often see small fish on the forest floor. But then I noticed an SMR (Seychelles Magpie Robin) investigating so I ran home to grab my camera just in case.”
Thankfully Dailus made it back in time and found, what he says is certainly a first for him, an SMR eating a dropped fish.
“I’ve been on Cousin for over two years and one of the best things about it is that the wildlife constantly shows you different aspects of their behavior. I have never actually seen a Magpie-Robin eating a dropped fish before.” Dailus says.
The normal diet of the SMR consists of bugs and grubs they find when foraging in the forest floor’s leaf litter. The Cousin birds are regularly found following the Giant Aldabra Tortoise that also reside on the island as the massive creatures scuff through the leaves when they move about the island stirring up munchies for the SMR. Although the magpie robin usually feeds on invertebrates from leaf litter, a dropped bird by a seabird or small reptile is always a welcome treat.
“I have been in the Seychelles for four years and I still see wildlife behavior that I have only read about in books or heard about,” says April Burt, Conservation Manager on Cousin. “It’s great to have people like Dailus who are keen to record things like this Magpie-Robin. I’ve certainly never personally seen one eating dropped fish.
The SMR, endemic to the Seychelles, was once one of the most endangered birds on the planet with perhaps as few as twenty individuals left on one island. Through years of conservation work by Nature Seychelles and BirdLife International including eradication of cats and translocations, this beautiful black and white bird, with an equally beautiful birdsong has had a dramatic turnaround in fortunes and now has five healthy populations over five Islands.
by Tom Hiney, Chief Warden,Cousin Island Special Reserve