The Merle Maurice

Pynonotus jacosis

 

The Bulbul Orpheus, well known as Merle Maurice, is a bird which is recognizable due to its black and white plumage, its black hoopoe and red cheeks which are of the same color of the underside of its tail.

It measures between 18 and 20 cm. Both sexes have the same plumage, but those of the younger ones are paler.

Native from the South East of Asia, it can be found in the region covering India to Nepal, passing through Bengladesh, Thailand, Northern Vietnam and Southern China. It was introduced in Mauritius in 1882 only because it was appreciated as a cage bird.

It is likely for the same reasons that it made its appearance on la Réunion in 1972. After escaping from the aviaries, it implanted itself firstly in Saint-Philippe then in the vicinity of Sainte-Marie from where it has spread all over La Réunion.

The Bulbul Orpheus species enjoy fields and areas that are only slightly forested or covered with bushes and shrubs. It is more common to hear it than to see it. However, it is not impossible to catch a sight of the Merle Maurice landing in all its splendor on some branch. It is in bushes that it nurtures its nests which classically comprise of two to three eggs.

This bird is a pest. It causes a lot of damage in the agricultural and urban areas. It attacks all the fruits species such as bananas, litchis, ‘bibasses’, strawberries, peaches and even floral species like Anthuriums, Orchids, ‘Pluies d’Or’. Worse, it behaves as a real parasite to other bird species as it colonizes theirs nests right after driving them out and destroying their eggs.

The Merle maurice has been classified as a pest par prefectoral decree. Its elimination is strictly regulated.