Foudie Rouge

One of the most spectacular birds I observed during my recent trip to the Indian ocean island of Réunion was the Red fody (Foudia madagascariensis). Because of the bird’s striking red colouration I mistakenly assumed that it was a member of one of the parrot families, but later I had a chance to observe it more closely and I noticed that it lacked some of the characteristics that many small parrots share. Nevertheless, it was a great sight to witness this unusual species in the wild. They are plentiful in all parts of Réunion (even at altitudes of over 2,000 metres) and are especially common in built-in areas, including the capital city and the smaller towns along the island’s drier west coast. The French-speaking locals called it “foudie rouge” or “cardinal”.

Red Fody (Foudia madagascariensis)

As the latin name of the bird suggests, the Red fody is a species endemic to Madagascar. Because of its beautiful colouration, it has been introduced to other islands in the region, including Réunion, Comoros, Mauritius and Seychelles.

Red Fody (Foudia madagascariensis)

Perhaps the most unusual aspect of this species is the sharp contrast between the colours of the plumage of the two sexes. While the male’s feathers vary from orange to striking red (apparently the colours become more pronounced during the mating period), those of the female are rather dull, mostly greyish green. The mating season takes place from February to April when the male’s feathers are at the most spectacular. Afterwards the birds moult, with the males replacing their gorgeous red plumage with somewhat less vibrant orange one, although they still remain highly noticeable in the bushes and trees they frequent.

Red Fody (Foudia madagascariensis)

The Red fody has a mixed diet. It feeds mainly on seeds and insects, as well as caterpillars and spiders, and it also consumes nectar of certain flowers.

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