Seychelles Warbler: saved from extinction

In 1959, the endemic Seychelles warbler was one of the world’s rarest birds.  The establishment of coconut plantations on the Seychelles had resulted in massive levels of habitat destruction.  As a consequence the warbler had been wiped out from most of its original range.  Only one population of just 26 birds survived in a mangrove swamp on the tiny island of Cousin.

Seychelles Warbler © Will Meinderts
In 1968, the International Council for Bird Preservation (ICBP, now Birdlife International) purchased Cousin in an attempt to save the Seychelles warbler.  They managed the island as a nature reserve up until 1998 when they newly formed Birdlife Seychelles (now Nature Seychelles) took over.

The Seychelles warbler
The Seychelles Warbler is a charming little bird that compensates for its plain appearance with a beautiful song.  It can be seen flitting among the sunlit forest vegetation as it gleans its insect food from the undersides of leaves.  The territorial Seychelles warbler displays a co-operative breeding system.  Non-breeding birds live together with the adult breeding pairs.  These ‘helpers’ are usually chicks from previous years that remain in the territory and assist their parents in raising further offspring. The main breeding season of the Seychelles Warbler is during the southeast monsoon (July-August), although, given sufficient food availability, they will breed at anytime of year.

Conserving the species
Habitat management was seen as the key to conserving the Seychelles warbler.  Coconut trees were moved and the original forest was allowed to regenerate. Human disturbance was kept to a minimum. The population rapidly increased, reaching a total of 320 birds in 1982.  Since that time, the numbers remained stable, indicating that the carrying capacity of Cousin Island has been reached.

Establishing new populations on Aride and Cousine
Given the vulnerability of a single population on one small island, the establishment of new populations on other islands was necessary to insure the future survival of this species. In 1988, 29 birds were introduced to Aride (68 ha).  They flourished and now this population is estimated at 3000 birds and is still growing.  In 1990, a further 29 warblers were transferred to Cousine 926 ha), now this population reached a carrying capacity of around 200 birds.

Out of danger

The Seychelles warbler is now considered out of immediate danger of extinction but is still considered ‘vulnerable’. Further populations need to be established before this species will be totally ‘out of danger’.

Future of the Warbler
The Seychelles Warbler will continue to be carefully monitored and opportunities for the establishment of new populations will be assessed.  Nature Seychelles is working with Groningen University of the Netherlands and Anglia University of the United Kingdom to investigate aspects of the ecology and evolution of this endemic bird.

Our History

Since 1998.

Seychelles Nature, Green HealthClimate Change, Biodiversity Conservation & Sustainability Organisation

@CousinIsland Manager


Roche Caiman, Mahe


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Centre for Environment & Education

Roche Caiman,

P.O. Box 1310, Mahe, Seychelles

Tel:+ 248 2519090