Another unexpected visitor to Bird Island

Bird Island is renowned for the number of non-resident birds that appear in its approximately 100 hectares of land. This might be because Bird is the northernmost island of Seychelles, and thus possibly the first land seen by birds arriving from the north. Additionally, smaller birds are probably more visible in Bird Island’s generally open habitats than on other more forested islands. Whatever the reason, despite its small size, Bird Island has a larger list of bird species that any other island in the group, along with several first or only records of some vagrant species.

The Bird Island Great Cormorant on 13 June 2018 (Photo: Chris Feare)
The Cormorant in “drying-wing” posture, clearly showing active moult in progress (Photo: Philip Lymbery)

And new species keep turning up. On 9 April 2018 Nic Savy and Jesse Leech discovered a cormorant on the island’s east coast. It was seen again by Laurence Norah (who spent most of his childhood on Bird Island) on 17 April. On 11 June British tourists Philip and Helen Lymbery went to the island’s east coast to photograph the sunrise and saw and photographed the bird sitting on a rock inside the reef at low tide. At breakfast they told Christine and me about their finding and showed us the photographs. These confirmed the identity as Great Cormorant, and we went to look for the bird. The tide was rising and by this time few rocks remained exposed. However, before long the bird flew past us very close by and settled on a small fishing boat moored inside the lagoon. There, it concentrated on preening itself and was far more concerned with this activity than interference from birdwatchers. As a result, it allowed close approach and posed for more photographs.

Christine taking advantage of the Cormorant’s lack of wariness (Photo: Chris Feare)

Although there have been a few records of smaller Reed Cormorants in Seychelles, mainly on the southern atoll of Aldabra, their larger cousin has previously been recorded only once in the archipelago, on Cousin Island. The Bird Island individual is moulting its wing and tail feathers and might be reluctant to attempt long-distance flight. It has already been here for two months. If its flight ability is impaired by moult Bird Island might have a longer term guest than the average tourist!

The record of this bird has been reported to the Seychelles Bird Records Committee (https://www.seychellesbirdrecordscommittee.com)


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