The island of Madagascar is one of the most ecologically important places on the planet. It has incredible beauty, but more importantly, some truly unique fauna and fauna species that occur no one else on earth. From an avian perspective, the island has over 100 endemic species, including the Vangidae family of vangas.
The Sickle-billed Vanga (Falculea palliata) is a member of this family and a beauty of a bird! It is the largest of the vangas (32cm/13 in), with a white head, neck, throat and underparts. This is strikingly contrasted with black upperparts with a blue sheen. The strongly decurved bluish-grey bill that the bird is named for can reach up to 77mm (3 in) long, and is tipped ivory white. The inside of the mouth also has a unique, intense black colour.
The Sickle-billed Vanga prefers dry deciduous forest and tropical dry shrubland as well as wooded areas around villages, mostly in western Madagascar, from sea level up to 900 metres (3,000 ft) above.
The bird’s most characteristic call is a loud “wa-aah”, almost like a crying baby, but it can also utter loud screeching and chortling sounds, especially when going to roost.
The diet of the Sickle-billed Vanga consists of invertebrates, including spiders, cockroaches, crickets, grasshoppers, worms and beetles. It also sometimes eats geckos and chameleons. It uses that long hooked bill to probe into holes and crevices in trunks of trees, levering off the bark and taking the insects off surfaces.
They are gregarious, often forming flocks of up to 30 individuals, and often mixing with other birds in feeding parties. Their breeding behaviour is interesting in that it is a bit reversed from the usual, with the female doing the displaying when looking for a mate. She then copulates with several males. The entire group feeds the young ones and all the makes defend the territory while the female performs the nesting duties.
The Sickle-billed Vanga is not globally threatened and good numbers exist in several protected areas in Madagascar, including Ankarafantsika, Kirindy and Berenty.
For a chance to see this unique endemic bird and some other incredible ones too, join us on a small-group, expert-guided trip to the “eighth continent” of Madagascar!
For more information, browse to our Madagascar Birding Tour on the website or enquire at firstname.lastname@example.org We still have limited space available on our September 2020 tour; see you in Madagascar!