This is not only a male Madagascar Paradise-flycatcher, but also a white morph. Rufous morphs coexist with the whites on the island off Africa’s east coast. Until 2002, biologists we’re sure if the plumage colors of individual birds changed from white to rufous or vice versa.
By Rex Graham
Three Australian scientists from the University of Melbourne (Australia) solved the riddle. They color-banded 119 males and simply recorded how their feather colors changed over nine years. They discovered that individual birds were genetically programed to be one morph or the other. Rufous is not a precursor to white, as previously thought.
The feathers of males change during the first years of life. By age 3, the white-morph males were definitely white. It takes longer, up to 6 years, for the rufous to fully acquire their reddish look.
The Madagascar Paradise-flycatcher is very common on the northwest part of the island where it entertains birders with its sometimes acrobatic aerial maneuvers.
Madagascar Paradise-flycatcher Foraging Styles
Both color morphs sit on a perch and fly into the air to nab flying insects. Sometimes they hover. They adopt a third tactic when they forage with a small warbler, the Common Newtonia.
When the two species are together, the paradise-flycatcher acts warbler-like: it gleans insects from leaves in the canopy, which significantly improves its efficiency.
The paradise-flycatcher is one of many birds endemic to Madagascar that visiting birders eagerly seek. Rockjumper Worldwide Birding Adventures has a few spaces available on its Oct. 26 to Nov. 6 Budget Madagascar birding tour.