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Cousin Island Special Reserve, Seychelles
Diary of a Seychelles magpie robin

The Seychelles Magpie Robin is one the most popular and charismatic birds found on Cousin Island. It also heralds another of the Seychelles great conservation success stories.

Once down to as few as 19 individuals, found only on Fregate Island, the Seychelles Magpie Robin has rebounded in magnificent form. With intensive habitat restoration and invasive animal/invasive predator removal the global population of this bird now stands at a far more healthy 260-280 individuals spread over five islands.

The population of Magpie Robins found on Cousin Island Special Reserve is monitored on a daily basis, with every member of staff covering a couple of known territories over the course of a week.

One of the Cousin Wardens, Dailus Benoit particularly enjoys this aspect of his varied job on Cousin. “I really love the SMR (Seychelles Magpie Robin), not only have they bounced back from the verge of extinction but they are funny to watch and each individual on Cousin has their own personality”.

Dailus should certainly know about their individuality, when he’s not monitoring them, or working he is most often found behind the lens of his trusty Nikon SLR watching and photographing the Magpie Robins. It was during one of these occasions that he stumbled upon a newly hatched chick.

“I was monitoring my SMR territories when I noticed a pair bringing lots of nest building materials to a nest box, I kept my eye on it for a few days then one day when both parents were away I checked inside the box and saw a newly hatched chick, I thought this would be a great photography project to monitor and watch its growth.”

Cousin Island has around 20 nest-boxes around the island to provide extra nesting space to give the Magpie-Robins a helping hand. To monitor them, the staff and volunteers use a mirror attached to a long pole so they can lift the lid and peer down inside without having to carry a ladder or climb the trees.

So monitor the chick he did, and over the course of six weeks Dailus took a photo every few days up until the day it fledged, was rung and left the nest.

Before people get too concerned, by rung we mean the coloured rings and identity ring that each SMR wear on their legs (as shown) this way we can monitor the birds from afar by looking for their colour combination.

The red ring on its right leg means it a Cousin Island bird, whilst its metal ring contains its unique identification number. On its left leg are two small coloured plastic rings giving it a unique colour combination on Cousin Island.