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Monday, June 27, 2011

St.Lucia Black Finch (Melanospiza richardsoni)

Jeannette Victor

Did you know that apart from being the only home for the St. Lucia Parrot and the St.Lucia Oriole, St.Lucia is also only home to the St. Lucia Black Finch, thus making it another endemic species to our beautiful island?  St. Lucia is home to at least five birds that are found nowhere else in the world and they all contribute to our rich biodiversity.

Melanospiza richardsoni locally known as the St.Lucia Black Finch or Moisson Pied-blanc is often mistaken for the Lesser Antillean Bullfinch. Though it is small like the bullfinch if looked upon carefully the difference is quite visible.  The male Moisson Pied-blanc is all black with pale pink legs unlike the bullfinch which has a red patch to the throat area.  The head of the female Black Finch is grey; however the top of the bullfinch head is brown. When the Black Finch perches they bob their tails in a vertical motion, not twitching left to right.

This bird is seen in pairs and prefers thick understory where they feed on insects and a variety of fruits and berries.  They breed between November and June with the female usually laying two white eggs with evenly spaced brownish-red spots. Their nests are constructed loosely with twigs, ferns and leaves with an oval side entrance close to the ground.

The Black Finch faces many threats particularly as a result of loss of habitat which has occurred from the conversion of forested lands to agricultural land and touristic development. Another serious threat is from the alien invasive species, the Asian mongoose, Herpestes javanicus.  The Black Finch is also vulnerable to Mongoose predation because they nest close to the ground.

The Black Finch is critically endangered and its survival is dependent on securing the management and restoration of forested areas by the government of Saint Lucia, controlling the introduction and spread of the Asian mongoose, conducting research on habitat restoration and alien predator control and strengthening the local understanding and support for the conservation of the black finch and its habitat.

What part can you play as a St. Lucian to secure the survival of our critically endangered, St Lucia Black Finch?