• Myzomela chermesina

The Rotuman myzomela is a small bird; its body size, from the tip of its beak to the tip of its tail measuring only 9cm.
Also known as: Rotuman myzomela
Local Names: Armea

Description

The Rotuman myzomela is a small bird; its body size, from the tip of its beak to the tip of its tail measuring only 9cm. It has red feathers lightly speckled with black that is restricted to the throat, breast, sides, middle of the back and rump; all other parts of the bird are black. Females look similar to males, but the red colour is reduced in size and intensity; and around the belly, sides and under-tail, the red colour coverts with strongly sooty brown. Immature individuals look similar to adults but are duller in colour with blackish parts looking more brownish and red parts more a rusty dull reddish colour.

Distribution

The endemic Rotuman myzomela is found only on the islands of Rotuma and its offshore island, Uea.

Habitat Ecology and Behaviour

The Rotuman myzomela is a common bird in all habitats in Rotuma. They are strongly insectivorous for an otherwise nectarivorous.

Breeding behaviour in this species has not been recorded, and is probably similar to the related Cardinal myzomela which is found in Samoa, but this remains unconfirmed.

In flight, they are fast and purposeful, and fly well clear of forest cover. On Rotuma it is the most conspicuous bird of a small avifauna, being abundant in all habitats, ever energetic and very aggressive.  It is clear that in the absence of other small passerines, the Rotuman Myzomela has been able to expand its niche considerably. Little else is known of this species.

Threats

The main threat to the Rotuman myzomela is a devastating cyclone or the chance introduction of a disease or pathogen ‚Äď either of these could cause the extinction of the small populations involved. The introduction of birds such as the Mynahs (Acridotheres spp.) or the Red-vented bulbul (Pycnonotus cafer) may be harmful as they could out-compete this endemic bird. Colonisation of Rotuma by introduced mammalian predators such as the small Indian mongoose (Herpestes javanicus) is also a threat. It is important therefore that Rotuma has effective quarantine management in place to prevent the chance introduction of these and other harmful exotic invasives.  

Conservation Status

The Rotuman myzomela is categorised as a ‚ÄėVulnerable‚Äô species because of its small population size, restricted range and isolation, and therefore its high chance of becoming extinct. While the current conservation status of this Rotuman endemic bird is secure, the island of Rotuma has been identified as an Important Bird Area (IBA) by Birdlife International because of this species and the nationally significant sea bird colonies on the islets around the main island of Rotuma. Other than general observations on the Rotuman myzomela, no detailed studies have been conducted on this species.

Remarks and Cultural Significance

The Rotuman myzomela is categorised as a ‚ÄėVulnerable‚Äô species because of its small population size, restricted range and isolation, and therefore its high chance of becoming extinct. While the current conservation status of this Rotuman endemic bird is secure, the island of Rotuma has been identified as an Important Bird Area (IBA) by Birdlife International because of this species and the nationally significant sea bird colonies on the islets around the main island of Rotuma. Other than general observations on the Rotuman myzomela, no detailed studies have been conducted on this species.

References

Watling (2004);
Clunie (1985)

Front Page Photo: Baravi Thaman
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