- History and Culture
The Mauritius cuckoo-shrike, Lalage typica, is a small passerine bird endemic to Mauritius which inhabits the forests of Macchabée-Brise Fer, Black River Peak and Gorges and the southern slope from Bel Ombre to Combo. The bird can measure up to 22 centimeters and is described as an unobtrusive and secretive arboreal bird. Colours vary greatly between males and females: males have a grey back and white underparts while females have a brownish back with rich reddish-brown underparts. The population was estimated to be 260 pairs, increasing to approximately 300 to 350 pairs today, with the highest densities observed on the Macchabée ridge and gradually increasing in the lowland areas.
The Mauritius cuckoo-shrike enjoys the forest canopy in native, moist, upland evergreen forest above 460 meters and in adjacent areas of degraded or altered forest. It is a non-migratory species and is believed to be strictly territorial throughout the year. The species feeds on large arboreal arthropods and geckos. It breeds between September and late February in monogamous pairs, laying 2-3 eggs per nest. The cuckoo-shrikes can be observed dwelling in their territories individually or in pairs.
This species is classified as ‘Vulnerable’ under the IUCN Red List since it has a very small range and population. Increasing population numbers and range in the future may allow the species to be down listed to ‘Near Threatened’.
Habitat loss through deforestation and degradation caused by the invasion of exotic plants and poor regeneration of native plants has caused a significant decline of the species population since human colonisation. This threat has been compounded by the effects of organochlorine pesticide use in the 1950s and the 1960s. Other major threats include cyclones and introduced predators which prey on eggs and fledglings in addition to potential competition from the Common Mynah, Acridotheres tristis for food.
As the major part of the range of the species is found within the Black River Gorges National Park, the species benefits from the protection of its native habitat as well as the rehabilitation of native forests in Conservation Management Areas and measures to exclude exotic animals. Recommendations for future survival of the species include translocating pairs to other areas of Mauritius such as the Bambous mountains and the islets following trials.
This species can be located by listening for its melodic trill which tends to be a series of short whistles followed by sharper, faster notes or a harsh ‘tschrek’ note. When scolding, it calls with a ‘kek’ sound followed by an aggressive squeak.
BirdLife International. 2016. Lalage typica. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T22706564A94077003. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-3.RLTS.T22706564A94077003.en.
Wildscreen. 2008. Mauritius cuckoo-shrike. Accessed May 2018. http://www.arkive.org/mauritius-cuckoo-shrike/coracina-typica/.