Birds of Madagascar

It is said …

That a big fire destroyed Madagascar and that God called on to the winged animals to eradicate the devastating flames. The parrots, toulou, crow, drongo failed, by losing their colors. Bats, only winged mammals, succeeded after a long day of efforts but rested before announcing the exploit that the drongo assigned to itself, being sworn by God «King of Animals “. Offended, bats sleep since then, upside down to offer only the view of them posterior to the Almighty.

The settlers came from Asia with rice growing. Streams were then modified and it seems that the whole of the Western watershed has undergone deep changes responsible for drier conditions in the southwest.
The study of fossils and especially sub-fossils showed that vast wet zones existed in the region of Tulear. On these lakes and swamps lived for example big groans today faded. Many other birds disappeared from Madagascar during the last millenniums: groans, lapwings, eagles, several species of couas of which Coua de Delande, who still existed on the Sainte Marie Island in the XIXth century and the famous flightless birds among whom Æpyornis.

Ratites also available in New Zealand and there were represented by Moa, slightly smaller than the Aepyornis maximus. The museum of the Academy in the enclosure of Tsimbazaza a mounted skeleton of this species will allow you to appreciate its size, you will judge the size of the tarsus (“fingers and tarsus” are used for what we mean by the commonly term “Paws ” for chicken) in comparison with those of the ostrich, the current largest bird whose skeleton is exposed alongside that of Aepyornis. Let us recall that the ostrich was introduced to Madagascar for breeding.

The drongo, little passerine with black plumage and forked tail actually deserves its reputation. He does not hesitate to attack larger ones, harass a fisherman and hunting eagle. It has a varied repertoire and mimics many animals. The two species of parrots of Madagascar have a dark and dull plumage but if you watch, you will notice their elegant flight. They are among the few fruit-eating birds of the island.

The vascular plants are represented by about 12 000 species (as much as the whole African Congolese pond), and thousands of trees produce fruits, however the community of the fruitarians is under represented, especially when compared with that of tropical Africa. Birds share a characteristic with lemurs, few species feed mainly on fruits. Blue and green pigeons make long journeys to find fruit trees and their observation in the nature is so unpredictable.

Different everywhere

Raptors are also quite diverse and beside the Bald Eagle or fish eagle who eats fish on the shores and rivers of the west coast, the other current raptors are smaller in size and are mainly forester.

In open areas, some different birds are encountered. Some are however interesting as the cardinal, locally called fody, the male has a red plumage by December. Some species are found in the wooded areas of the cities, as in the park of Tsimbazaza which also houses a heron.

Lakes and marshes have some interesting ducks and rails but it is inside forests and thickets that you will discover the avifauna typical of Madagascar.

To find them, listen

It is generally easier to locate birds when they sing, from August on the west coast and in September on the east coast. One of the early risers, before the forest is fully enlightened is the paradise flycatcher, with red plumage, dark blue head and eye surrounded by a turquoise circle.

In the thicket of thorny southwest, the land Roller long tail, diurnal, already sings during the last hours of the night at the same time as the nightjar. The concert before sunrise is then composed of notes of the nightjar recalling the sound of a ball that bounce, with those of terrestrial long tail Roller that emits “bou bou…” As its name suggests, it has a long tail and it is bordered by turquoise.

It moves on the ground or on low branches. It belongs to a family of endemic birds and shares its habitat with the Weevil Bensch, representing another unique family of Madagascar. In humid and sub-humid evergreen forests, we encounter four other species of terrestrial Rollers. They all have bright colors, mixing white, blue, red and green. We locate them more easily when they sing but they are discreet outside this period. Their backs are less brightly colored and they blend into the forest environment.

The couas met in all the forests of Madagascar. They represent the subfamily Couinés in the family Cuculidae (the cuckoos). All couas have a large area of ​​skin surrounding the eye. It is turquoise surrounded by a black line, which could remind a bit excessive makeup. Some couas are mostly terrestrial as the giant coua from thorny thicket in the south, and dry deciduous forests of west.

In certain times it can be seen easily, clocking his walk of its «Eouke» which earned him his name Malagasy. The crested Coua met in all the forests of Madagascar is tree-dwelling tree as blue Coua of the evergreen forests or Coua de Verreaux of the thorny thicket to the south. They are, however, poor sailboats, their wings are short and they seem to slide further hovering towards lower branches they really fly.

In certain times(periods) he can be easily observed, putting rhythm into his walking(step) of his “Eouke” which was worth to him(her) his(her) Malagasy name. Very rich (crested) Coua met in all the forests of Madagascar is tree-dwelling as blue Coua of the evergreen forests or Coua de Verreaux of the thorny undergrowth of the South. They do not however fly very well, their wings being short and they seem to slide gliding towards lower branches, rather that they fly.

Like the Tulu of the tale, which belongs to the family of cuckoos too. It is encountered everywhere in Madagascar, even in towns and villages and singing issued within the vegetation is often heard in the late afternoon. It consists of a series of “Tulu Tulu…” The villagers living around forests are generally familiar with birds and sometimes called them by their manners “that sleeps during the day” for the nightjar or “beating wings on the spot” for Madagascar Kestrel, but more often by their songs.

And indeed, knowing the song of birds is one of the major assets to find and observe, but it is sometimes difficult to distinguish between the cries of frogs, insects, lemurs and birds when we dive into a new forest environment. Some Vangidés have quite melodious registry, as swindler Vanga which owes its name to the Malagasy (vanga meaning magpie) translating its black and white plumage.

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