Madagascar is the fifth largest island in the world, is found on the Eastern Coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean, and has some of the most beautiful, rare exotic birds you can find on earth. Let’s take a look at a top 12 exotic birds of Madagascar!
Just like other large and isolated islands, Madagascar’s flora and fauna have evolved to be quite unique and in many unfortunate cases only found in the island nation.
The country has more than 300 species of birds with a third of those birds only occurring in Madagascar.
Just like in other parts of the world, pressure from habitat loss due to human activities, such as hunting, deforestation, trafficking, and climate change is leading to a critical decline in the numbers of several endemic bird species.
To naturalists, normal tourists and avid bird watchers, birds of Madagascar will offer a spectacle unlike any in Africa. Today, we will discuss 15 of the most exotic birds of this great unique island.
Exotic bird number 1. The CRESTED COUA
Often considered one of the most beautiful and rare exotic birds in the world, the Crested Coua is a medium-sized bird; 30-40cm ( 12-17in), native to Madagascar.
Just like other Coua species which have brightly coloured bare skin around the eyes, the Crested Coua is recognisable by the turquoise-coloured bare skin around the eyes and prominent grey head crest.
The birds usually have grey-green backs, white abdomens, red-brown chests, purple-white long tails with white tips, black beaks and brown eyes.
The crested Coua is a weak flyer and will often be seen hopping from branch to branch, and to aid in the gripping of branches, their third toe is reversible.
In flight, they are easily recognisable from their long tails with white tips and short round wings.
They are omnivorous, with their diet consisting of anything of size that they can find within their surroundings, from leaves, berries, chameleons, and insects to snails.
They are arboreal ( living in trees), and will mostly be found in deciduous and littoral forests, but they can also be found in mangrove and palm forests, brushlands and savannahs.
The bird is endemic to Madagascar and is widespread throughout the country, at altitudes of between 700-900 m (2300-2900ft) above sea level.
Exotic bird number 2. The BLUE COUA
Also known as the Blue Madagascar Coucal, this bird is part of the Coua family, and is recognisable from its dark blue plumage.
They have an overall dark blue plumage, black beak and blue-coloured bare skin around the eyes.
They are quite restless and inquisitive and prefer flopping or jumping from tree to tree, but on occasion will take long gliding flights.
They are omnivorous, with their diet consisting of small reptiles, fruits, seeds, and insects.
Unlike cuckoos, Blue Couas build their own nests on a platform nest of twigs and leaves.
Their habitats include tropical and subtropical dry forests, montane forests, mangrove forests and lowland forests.
They are considered a common Coua species, and their status is least concern.
They are mainly found In the forests in the northwestern and Eastern parts of Madagascar.
Exotic bird number 3. The CRESTED DRONGO
The Crested Drongo can only be found on the Island of Madagascar and is recognisable by its prominent crest of elongated forehead feathers.
The birds also have an entirely black plumage with a dash of blue-green sheen, and a forked tail.
The Crested Drongo is not a shy bird and its diet consists mainly of insects, but will not leave small frogs, lizards or fruits when the opportunity presents itself.
They are also known as tricksters usually tricking other birds and small mammals of their prey, by following behind them closely and imitating the natural predators of these animals, startling them and taking the food these animals drop as they flee.
It is a common bird throughout Madagascar and is considered: least concern.
Its habitat is usually below 1000 m in dry savannah, tropical and subtropical dry forest and lowland forests.
Exotic bird number 4. Madagascar Hoopoe
The Madagascar Hoopoe is endemic to Madagascar and is identifiable by its long and black tail, and cinnamon-coloured crest that has black tips, and that is usually raised when the bird feels threatened.
The bird’s plumage is mainly a cinnamon colour but the wing feathers are striped black and white.
The Madagascar Hoopoe is not a very good flier preferring to glide after a few beats of its broad and rounded wings.
They are solitary birds and will often be sighted foraging on the ground, with their diet mainly consisting of insects.
They are endemic to Madagascar, and will generally inhabit brushland, forest edges, pasture, savannahs and glades.
They are found in the North, South, West and Central parts of Madagascar.
Exotic bird number 5. Madagascar Magpie Robin
The Madagascar Magpie Robin is a small bird at 18cm (7in) long, that is endemic to the island of Madagascar.
Its plumage varies with the sex and subspecies, with there being 3 different subspecies in different locations on the island.
The nominate subspecies’ males have an all-black plumage broken by a white shoulder patch, while the other two subspecies have more white on the wings and abdomen.
The female is more colourful with a brown-grey crown, tail and back, Rufous coloured rump and wings, and grey throat and breast, while the females of the other subspecies are much paler.
They prefer feeding on the ground with the males preferring locations that are higher up in the undergrowth, with their diet mainly consisting of insects, and occasionally berries.
They can be found throughout Madagascar up to 1800m (5700ft), from mangrove forests, humid rainforests, monsoon forests, scrubland as well as a number of agricultural lands.
Exotic bird number 6. Madagascar Paradise Flycatcher
Also known as the Malagasy Paradise Flycatcher, the Madagascar Paradise Flycatcher is an active and restless medium-sized bird found also in the islands of Mayotte and Comoros.
The females are more colourful than the males having, rufous coloured plumage, black nape, head and flight feathers, which also have rufous edges.
The males are either rufous coloured with white, or black plumage with white, and both sexes have a blue ring around the eyes.
Males also have long tail streamers that can add as much as 18cm (7.1in) to their overall length to about 36cm (14in).
Its diet consists mainly of insects, and will regularly join a mixed species flock as a follower, feeding on any insects that other Newtonian birds flush out.
The Madagascar Paradise Flycatcher can be found in all types of forest from sea level to an altitude of 1600m (5,200ft), except in Montane forests.
They can also be found to a lesser extent and a more rare exotic bird in secondary forests, wooded habitats, gardens and plantations.
Exotic bird number 7. Madagascar Fish Eagle
Also known as the Madagascar Sea Eagle, the Madagascar Fish Eagle is a large eagle that is closely related to the African Fish Eagle.
This bird is critically endangered with a population of 300 adult birds, and its decline has been due to a number of factors; overfishing, deforestation, land development, and water pollution, and it is hunted for superstitious reasons.
So it has become one of the rare exotic birds of Madagascar.
The bird has a pale brown head, a dark brown body and wing feathers, a dark grey beak and legs, and a white tail.
These eagles are primarily fish eaters, but are opportunistic hunters and will not turn down an easy meal. Other than fish, they will feed on other birds, crustaceans, and turtles.
They prefer locations that are near water with a good supply of fish. They will be found along the coast, in mangroves, rivers with adjacent riverine forests, and lakes.
As they hunt mainly by sight, they will generally prefer water bodies that are deep and clear, instead of shallow and murky.
In Madagascar, they are found on the coastal strip to the North-West of the country.
Exotic bird number 8. The Madagascar Serpent Eagle
The Madagascar Serpent Eagle is one of the rarest birds of prey in the world, and is currently classified as critically endangered, and was even thought of as extinct until wild sightings in 1977 and 1988.
From above, these birds are pale brown while from below they are white with dark brown barring, along the nape and crown, they have black barring.
Their legs are yellow, the flight feathers and tail are barred, the bill is short and the eyes range from red to yellow.
The birds are diurnal, hunting from high perches and swooping down on prey once spotted.
They are secretive and elusive and will stay motionless perched below the forest canopy, and will spend less time flying or gliding.
Its diet mainly consists of lizards and also frogs but will less often eat snakes (despite its name), insects and bats.
They make their homes in primary forests and their edges and will rarely venture out.
Even though recent research shows these birds are more common than once thought, the fact that they are very localized within a limited range of forests in the Northeastern part of the country means they are still under threat.
Exotic bird number 9. Madagascar Kingfisher
One of only two kingfisher species on the island, the other being the Madagascar Pygmy Kingfisher, the Madagascar Kingfisher is a close relative of the Malachite Kingfisher found on the mainland.
At only 13cm (5.1in), it is a relatively small and colourful bird with a rufous-coloured face and chest, ultramarine upper parts, and a crown of black and flecked pale green feathers.
Their legs are orange, their beaks black and they have white patches on the rear neck and throats.
They are fast fliers, skimming over the water, with their short rounded wings beating really fast.
Their diet consists of small fish, crustaceans, frogs and insects. They make their homes in wetlands, streams, ponds and in mangrove forests.
Exotic bird number 10. White-Throated Rail
The white Throated Rail, also known as the Cuvier’s Rail, is found within Madagascar, and there are other subspecies such as the Aldabra Rail which is believed to be the last flightless bird in the Indian Ocean.
These birds are colourful, having red underparts, olive-green backs and a distinctive white throat.
They are omnivorous but prefer insects. It can be part of tropical mangrove forests and moist lowland forests.
Exotic bird number 11. Sakalava Rail
The Sakalava Rail is a rare and quite smallest rail that can be hard to see unless you know what you are looking for.
The species displays gender dimorphism where the females are larger than the males.
The females have pale-pink shanks, and brown-green upper parts, while the males appear thinner, and have bright red shanks and rufous-coloured upper parts.
Their diet is made up mostly of spiders, but also insects, crustaceans and molluscs.
They prefer to live in open water with marshes, and dense reeds.
These marshes usually contain many types of floating plants such as invasive water hyacinths, water lilies, and native ferns.
Historically they have been recorded between the rivers Mangoky and Mahavavy and their population has been restricted due to their fragmented and low population.
They are considered endangered mainly due to habitat loss when the marshes they nest in are converted to rice fields, and the degradation of wetlands.
Exotic bird number 12. Madagascar Pochard
Thought to be extinct, it wasn’t until its rediscovery on a lake in Madagascar and successive breeding in captivity that has allowed the species to at least bounce back.
The Madagascar Porchad’s plumage is dependent on the age, gender and breeding season.
Young ducks have plumage that is chestnut, and pale brown with a darker stomach and brown irises, while the male adults are generally darker in colour and during its first winter, their irises turn white.
During the breeding stage, males have a dark chestnut neck, head, breast, throat, and chin, wings are a dark brown and the area from the stomach to the tail fades to white.
Their diet mainly consists of aquatic insects with the ducks having to dive for their food for an average of 24 seconds.
They can be found in areas that have shallow lakes and marshes with thick vegetation.
Their rediscovery though in 2006 was in a deep crater lake that had a light covering of aquatic plants, and was deep and cold, although it was remote and hidden by forests.
Currently, they can only be found in Lake Matsaborimena and lake Sofia, making them the rarest duck species in the world.
Exotic bird number 13. Meller’s Duck
Meller’s Duck is the largest endemic duck species in Madagascar and is currently on the verge of extinction due to habitat loss and competition from feral duck species that were brought into Madagascar.
Its plumage is mainly brown, with a larger-than-normal pale grey beak that has dark patches at the base, and white and green stripes on the lower part of the wing, while its feet are orange.
During the breeding season which in most instances is throughout the year except for the months of May and June, these birds are fiercely territorial.
They are to be found in freshwater wetlands, rivers, streams, and lakes that are usually adjacent to or in rainforests.
They are found in wetlands in the Eastern part of Madagascar.
Exotic bird number 14. Bernier’s Teal
Also known as the Madagascar Teal, Bernier’s Teal is a small duck endemic to the island of Madagascar and is classified as endangered and on the verge of extinction.
They are mainly brown with a pale red bill and legs and feet that are a dull orange-red.
Their diet mainly consists of insects, plant material and invertebrates, and they spend much of their days wading at the edge of shallow water bodies, feeding through mud filtration.
It can be found in mangrove forests where it prefers open, shallow and brackish lakes and ponds and rarely never leaves its habitat.
In Madagascar, they can be in the North-East and the whole Western coast.
Bernier’s Teal is struggling because most of its habitat; Mangrove groves are being destroyed to increase arable land, for timber and fuel, and also they are being hunted as a source of food.
Exotic bird number 15. Van Dam’s Vanga
Van Dam’s Vanga is a bird endemic to the island of Madagascar but one of the most rare exotic birds of the country.
Males have a black cap, white underparts and from above black wings and tail feathers, and the females have a black hood instead.
They can be found in dry deciduous forests and can be found in the Northwest and North of Madagascar in Ankarafantsika National park.
Are you thinking about buying binoculars to have a good look at all the magnificent birds of Africa?
FAQs on the rare exotic birds of Madagascar
To help you out further, I have included a FAQs section, so let’s go straight ahead!
What is Madagascar’s national bird?
I have mentioned the national bird of Madagascar, which is the number 7: the Madagascar Fish eagle, and it is sadly critically endangered!
What is the rarest bird in Madagascar?
The rarest bird of Madagascar is bird number 12, the Madagascar Pochard!
How many bird species are endemic to Madagascar?
There are over a 120 endemic bird species in Madagascar, so to write about all of them in one article would be impossible 😉
My Final Conclusion.
I hope that you enjoyed this blog post on the rare exotic birds of Madagascar, it is quite a read, isn’t it?
If you have any more questions, please feel free to leave them below in the comment section or join me on my social media pages or Facebook group for more pictures!
I wish you happy travels!
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