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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Say Hi to the Lesser Antillean Flycatcher (Myiarchus oberi sanctaeluciae) Pipirite Gros Tête

By: Nicole La Force (Forestry Department)

For the past weeks we have been writing about our endemic and sub-endemic birds. We hope that it has been an eye opener and that your appreciation for the beautiful birds found here is growing.

Birds serve many wonderful functions which enrich our ecosystems and our lives. Birds are great pollinators as well as seed dispersers ensuring the continuity of our plant species; not only locally but also regionally. Regional ecosystems develop diversity as this process continues. It can be seen as a mutual relationship, as well, because the migratory birds will help to build and maintain an area where they can feed and nest.

Birds also play a role in the predator/prey relationship in forest ecosystems. Though the majority of bird species eat only fruit, some eat insects and larger birds kill live prey to eat. These omnivorous and carnivorous species play an important role in maintaining healthy populations of small mammals and reptiles. In forest ecosystems that lack adequate bird populations, these smaller animals begin to overtake the area, causing disturbance in the food chain and overall ecosystem.

Today we are going to meet the Lesser Antillean Flycatcher or Pipirite Gros Tête as it is locally called. It is a beautiful bird which is a bit elusive. It grows to a length of 19–22cm (7.5–8.5 in) with mostly yellow underparts from the upper belly to the undertail coverts. The tail feathers have reddish inner webs. It has a loud voice with a mournful whistle peeu-wheeet and also a short whistles oo-ee, oo-ee, or e-oo-ee. Its head is relatively larger in proportion to its body hence the name Pipirite Gros Tête.

Locally it is found in the transition forest at medium elevation and in the rainforest in the interior of the Castries Water Works Reserve, Quilesse, Edmund Forest and Millet areas.

The breeding season is from March to July.  The nest is made of loose plant fibers, feathers and is built in a tree cavity, where the female lays 3 to 4 creamy buff eggs, heavily spotted and scrawled with purplish-brown and violet-grey. 
Flycatchers are agile fliers who catch their prey while flying. They feed extensively on true flies caterpillars, other winged insects and also beetles. These birds are premiere pest insect controllers.
So go out in nature and enjoy the beautiful birds and appreciate their wondrous song!!