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St Helena’s birds reveal the island’s history

Did you know you can almost map the entire history of St Helena through its birds? In fact, the only exception to the rule is the island’s endemic Wirebird (also known as the small long-legged plover). Not only the inspiration behind this blog but even making its way onto St Helena’s coat of arms. Let’s ignore such a famous exception though! It’s true, land birds have all been introduced at various time periods through the island’s history.

The St Helena Wirebird

The St Helena Wirebird

Let’s begin with the Chukar Partridge, Ring-necked Pheasant and the Pigeon. First introduced to the island in the 16th Century by the Portuguese as a source of food; the same century that St Helena is widely accepted to have been discovered by the Portuguese. The island was used as a rendezvous point for ships travelling from Asia to Europe.It wasn’t long before they started dining out on our beloved Wirebirds!

Java Sparrows

Java Sparrows

We then move onto the Peaceful Dove, Madagascar Fody, Java Sparrow, Common Waxbill and Yellow Canary. All introduced in the 18th Century which was the same time that the East India Company ran operations on St Helena. Interestingly, all of these birds would make perfectly good cage or aviary birds – deducing them to perhaps, have originally, been pets.

Indian Mynah

Indian Mynah

Finally, we have the Indian Mynah, brought to the island in 1885 to remove ticks from cattle. Unfortunately it wasn’t long before this bird became a pest, nest-robbing and driving other birds away.

We’ve already established before that St Helena is a small island with a big history, but understanding the island’s birds is just as fascinating. If you want to hear more about St Helena’s birds then we have a date to add to your calendar:

On the 16th – 18th August 2013, St Helena will exhibit at Birdfair 2013 for the first time alongside The South Atlantic Islands of Ascension and Tristan da Cunha. All of these islands are remarkable natural wonders and act as ‘the final frontier’ for every seasoned birder. Birdfair2013, is based in the UK at Rutland Water Nature Reserve. It’s the biggest birding event ever and it looks like St Helena will be the furthest travelled destination to the show.

It’s not too late to get your tickets and visit us at Marquee 3, Stand 19.We’ll be report back from the show on this blog on Thursday 22nd August.

Do let us know if you will be attending!

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