Know your fauna: Birds

This post is also available in: Dutch, Papiamentu.

The ABC island have a rich diversity of flora and fauna and the number of people wanting to get to know this diversity is growing everyday. What was considered boring and unimportant in the past is now slowly but surely considered as the natural heritage of our countries which should be cherished and respected. To put a spotlight on the biodiversity of the islands, Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao, Caribbean Footprint Magazine will start focusing on the individual species of the islands.

Male Black Faced grassquit

Male Black Faced grassquit

An elusive seed-eater! (A+B+C)

The avifauna of the Leeward islands, the diversity of bird species on the islands, consists of several seed eaters, and the most inconspicuous and often overlooked species is the Black Faced grassquit or MOFI (Tiaris bicolor) as it is called In Papiamentu. The MOFI is not a colorful bird, the animal has no bright tropical colors as such. But those who take a better look at the animal will soon observe that its color pattern is not boring at all. The feathers of the MOFI have a greenish-brown color and vary by individual. It is one of the few species of birds on the islands in which males and females can be easily distinguished. Males have a dark head and are generally darker in color with olive colored hues, and differ from the females which are lighter grey in color.

 

Female Black Faced grassquit

Female Black Faced grassquit

In the past, MOFI were relatively widespread in Curacao and could be found regularly in urban environments where the birds searched for plant seeds including those of cacti.
Nowadays, the animals have become much rarer and the impression exists that it is mainly due to the introduction of the invasive Saffron Finch that the numbers of Mofi are declining. Saffron Finches not only eat the same food, but are also more aggressive in the search for food, which they often do in large groups consisting of several adult animals and a large number of youngsters. The Mofi live in smaller groups that are often not up to the invasion of the large groups of Saffron Finches.

Saffron finch, a possible competitor of the Mofi

Saffron finch, a possible competitor of the Mofi

It is not known what the status of the Mofi is on Curaçao and Bonaire, because their numbers have simply never been investigated and as such a decline can not be statistically proven. In Aruba, the first National Bird counting was organized in 2011. The data, collected by nature lovers and published by the Central Bureau of Statistics, put the Mofi in 5th place of the most counted birds in Aruba during the survey, with a total of 2,425 individuals.

 

Nesting

Mofi nest within opuntia

Mofi nest within opuntia

The rounded nests made by the Mofi are usually built out of grass. The nests can be found in Opuntia cacti or other spiny plants and can sometimes even be found on the ground. The clutch usually consist of 2 to 4 young.

Mirror conflict

Sometimes people come face to face with a Mofi when it looks as if the animal is dancing with its own reflection in the mirrors of cars. Especially the males often do this because they see a potential rival in the mirror that may constitute a danger to their territory, a rival who they want to chase away as quickly as possible.

Michelle da Costa Gomez

About Michelle da Costa Gomez