The birds on Cousin don’t see humans as threats so pretty much ignore your presence, which makes great and unique viewing for it’s visitors!
Love them or hate them (I loved them) we shared our research house with the Fody’s. They are best described as the Seychelles equivalent of the British sparrow, and as are all the birds on Cousin Island, are ridiculously comfortable with human presence, as they have never seen us as a threat. So leave any food around for more the three seconds (inside or outside the house) at your peril, as they will have it! Even bread inside it’s packet, or biscuits or rice, if the fody’s don’t have it the skinks or cockroaches will!
White (fairy) terns
These are a fans favourite, and indeed my favourite bird on Cousin Island. They are bright perfect white, with a bright blue & black beak, they partner for life and spend their days grooming each other on the branch of a tree.
They incubate their eggs without making a nest, instead the eggs balance precariously on the branches of the trees, and when they hatch the cutest ball of fur appears, with big feet to help them balance!
These are very friendly and curious birds, much like the UK robins. In 1990 the population of these birds was down to 23, making it one of the most critically endangered species in the world. A recovery programme was put into place by Birdlife International, and now Cousin Island is the only island where the birds subsist entirely on their natural diet of leaf litter like cockroaches (other islands supplement feed them).
We spent many hours in the forest, looking and identifying them.
This involved a ‘whistle while you walk’ technique, then when they come close to investigate, you stir up the forest floor, or turn a rock to unearth a cockroach, and they come very close by. Then you have the opportunity to see the uniquely coloured rings on their leg, you make a note of which bird it is and which territory you are in.
This bird was the main reason Cousin Island became a nature reserve, in the 1960s the Seychelles warbler was close to extinction, so Birdlife International bought the island (which was then a coconut plantation) and made Cousin the last refuge for the bird, by restoring it back to it’s original habitat. Now the warblers have a healthy population of about 300 on Cousin, which is it’s breeding capacity.
Lesser & brown noddies
You can’t miss the noddies as there can be as many as 80,000 breeding pairs during the South-east monsoon season, which makes Cousin Island one of the largest breeding sites in the world! The lesser noddies are slightly smaller than the brown noddies and make up the majority of the numbers. They are called noddies because they nod to each other which looks very funny!
These tropicbirds breed all year round in a tree hole or sheltered area on the ground. Their chicks start as cute fluffy balls of fur and grow to quite a size, as they do not fledge until 70-80 days. They are easily recognised by their long white tail.