The Other Mauritius – Riot of colour

There were several trees around hosting colonies of weaver birds; their straw nests hanging down from the branches.  They would come and visit us in ones or twos only, and were the most shy.  While most of the others would be guzzling away at our feet, the weaver birds would watch from a nearby bush, then swoop down to catch a small piece as far from us as possible and take it off into the trees to consume.  Once in a while they would hang around in closer proximity to us, which gave me a great opportunity to observe their bodies and habits.  They had the shape similar to a British starling, matched by the intensity of the look they gave you from their sharp glistening eyes.  They are one of those birds that convince you that dinosaurs are alive and well and flying around the skies.

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One of our weavers

The mynahs were similar; but much more bold, than the weavers.  They would storm in to the centre of a squabbling bunch of birds and from their greater height launch in with their beak and steal the larger chunks of bread.  Few bothered to try and steal from them and they tended not to interfere with others of their own species.

The most colourful bird that came in to our garden was a small bright red sparrow like bird called a fody.  At first we thought it might be the endemically endangered Mauritian Fody, but on closer inspection its body was rounder, the beak shorter.  But it was still a wonderful creature; the Mascarene or Cardinal Fody.  Although its wings were sparrow marked and coloured, the body was an almost complete covering of orangey red, save for a black bandits mask on its face.  It was remarkably dextrous; it would regularly cling from a high look out post on the cord for one of the blinds in the car port area.  It would often be the first there in the morning and would whistle a high pitched alert call when I unlocked the security grill and stepped out.  Like a call to arms, the other birds would come flocking in at this sound.  The fody was a nervous creature however; he would often wait until the furore from the sparrows and pigeons had died down before hopping round the quieter corners to pick up the remaining bread. But he was quite ingenious.  We normally broke up the bread into small chunks before scattering it on the ground, but sometimes we would just chuck out a sizeable cylinder of baguette.  Many of the birds attacked it from the top and found slim pickings from the crust.  It was the fody that worked out it could make more progress from the white ends of the bread, and it may take a day or two but he and a couple of the cleverer sparrows would hollow out a tunnel inside the crust.

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