If you go down to the woods today, you might just spot the Mauritius fody. With its bright red plumage, the male of this endemic species is striking, while the female is a soft olive-brown colour. Once critically endangered, these lovely forest-dwelling songbirds have been reclassified as endangered as a result of a recovery program that was initiated by the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation in conjunction with the National Parks and Conservation Service, Chester Zoo and the Durrell Wildlife & Conservation Trust.
Mauritius Paradise Flycatcher
One of Mauritius’ many beautiful birds, the paradise flycatcher is endemic to the island. Weighing in at just 12 grams, they boast blue heads (dark blue for the males and a lighter blue for the females), with a light blue ring around their eyes, a light grey breast and reddish-brown tail and wings. Look out for these tiny guys in the Black River National Parks, Bras d’Eau and Ebony Forest.
Mauritius fruit bat
Visit Mauritius and you’re bound to see a fruit bat spreading its wings and flying overhead. Sometimes referred to as a flying fox, you’ll spot these creatures swooping from tree to tree, feasting on succulent fruits and sweet nectar. There are more than 50,000 of these mammals on the mainland, with their status shifting from endangered to vulnerable in 2014.
Found feeding on insects and bugs, the Rodrigues warbler is a medium-sized, yellowish-olive bird that is resident and endemic to Rodrigues. Although their conservation status is ‘near threatened’, the good news is that their population has been increasing! Largely thanks to habitat restoration work, there are now around 25,000 of these little guys flying around the island ‒ up from just 4,000 in 2010.
Skinks (different types)
There are five different types of skinks (lizard-like creatures) to be found in Mauritius and it takes a little bit of knowledge to spot the difference between them! Here’s a quick rundown:
The snake-eyed skink is small, slender and typically grey or brown with grey or black speckles
The slit-eared skink is golden-brown to greyish brown with dark brown stripes along its back
The macchabé skink is chocolate-brown with a few small dark brown to black speckles along its back
The orange-tail skink (as you might expect) has a dark brown head and back but with a deep orange tinge
The telfair’s skink is light greyish-brown to light brown and bronze with a bluish-green sheen
Round Island Petrel
As the name suggests, you can see these seabirds on Round Island ‒ a small volcanic island situated off the north coast of Mauritius. Up to 39cm in size, with a 88-102cm wingspan, the petrel has various colour morphs (meaning their plumage varies in shade). Book yourself on a Northern Islets seabirds tour on a deep-sea fishing boat for a chance to see them.
The largest of the tropical shearwaters, the wedge-tailed shearwater can usually be seen in feeding flocks with other seabirds. Much like the Round Island petrel, you can see them on a Northern Islets tour and their plumage can vary ‒ most birds are grey-brown above with a whiter plumage underneath while others are dark brown all over; but all have a large, wedge-shaped tail, for which they are named after. These birds mostly eat fish and, if you’re lucky, you’ll get to see them dive into the water in search of their supper!
Red and White-tailed Tropicbirds
The red-tailed tropicbird is a medium-sized, white seabird with a red beak and a fantastic, long, red tail. They’re larger and heavier than their counterpart, the white-tailed tropicbird, which has black marks on the wings, a yellow beak and (as you might have deduced!) a long white tail. Although their appearances may slightly differ, you’re bound to hear them if you’re near as both boast loud squawks!
Some of the most distinctive seabirds around, sooty terns have a distinctive look: all-black above, all-white below, with a white forehead and a black eyestripe. You’ll know if you’re near a colony of these birds due to their call ‒ a raucous cacophony!
The common noddy (sometimes referred to as the brown noddy and often confused with the lesser noddy) is dark with a white cap, with very little differentiation in plumage between males and females. You’ll find these large seabirds spending their days nesting in colonies and diving for fish and squid. In Mauritius, the common noddy breeds only on Serpent Island. And if you were wondering about the ‘nod’ in ‘noddy’ ‒ as part of the mating ritual, these birds nod at each other!
Fast, graceful and often found offshore, the lesser noddy is a slender bird with a grey-black appearance. Easily confused with the common noddy, the lesser has a very thin bill, with grey between the bill and eyes.
With their snowy white plumage, black flight feathers and a blackish “mask” of skin near the bill, these birds are some of the most striking around. Also known as a ‘masked gannett’, like many of Mauritius’ seabirds, these large birds nest in colonies and make spectacular plunges for their dinners of fish and squid.