Here on the Island of Curieuse, the Black Paradise-flycatcher Terpsiphone corvina, have made their second home. Currently at around 250-300 individuals in the wild they’re considered the second rarest endemic species in the Seychelles. Their historical range included islands such as; Aride, Praslin, Felicite, Marianne and La Digue. Currently, the only known population that was left resided on La Digue, which made the species very susceptible to extinction. In a conservation attempt to increase the population, individuals were translocated from La Digue; their presence on the other islands preserves a hope that the species will thrive, despite being noted as critically endangered by the IUCN. With the help of the UK Governments Darwin Initiative’s funding, the SNP and Dr Rachel Bristol were able to carry out this project.
Flycatchers tend to forage amongst the mid canopy layer in the dense forest. Most common prey is insects, which they pluck from the surface of leaves. As the species tend to favour native broadleaved woodlands and wetlands, which has made it difficult to decide which islands for further translocations to take place. Due to the increase of human development, less and less suitable habitat has been found on potential islands. This could lead to reducing individual’s survival rate, restricting reproductive success and increasing the chances of alien predators such as, the brown or black rat. Furthermore, it was found by Currie et al (2003), that the limited reproductive success was mainly due to predation. On Curieuse, it is thought the main reason for the lack of success of reproduction is due to rats, which helped enforce the GVI team to begin one of their more current projects Rat Eradication.
Flycatchers have very distinctive colouring. Adult males are fully black, apart from blue rings around the eye area, plus a distinguished long tail. Females, however, have a black head, white underbelly and golden brown wings. Yet juveniles, take the same colouration that of the mother, however after a period of time males begin to take their fathers colouring. Flycatcher males are territorial, and were once thought to compete for females. It was found by Dr Bristol, that 70% of chicks in a male’s territory are not his offspring. This led her theory that females can choose a mate yet nest where necessary with the best resources, whereas males challenge each other for the best territories.
The species is very illusive, but on occasion, it can be easily spotted. During a day excursion with Dr Bristol herself, she revealed a quick and easy survey technique: recordings of the Flycatchers calls. It was a matter of minutes before we saw Flycatchers flittering over to see what the fuss was about. This was seen as an effective technique when I did a survey on the GVI base and witnessed a juvenile male and adult male displaying at one another over territory.
Regardless of being a critically endangered species, their numbers are increasing. As the translocation conservation programme is taking place across the Seychelles, their numbers will hopefully accelerate soon to a stable rate, enabling them to be here for many generations to come.