Greater Vasa Parrot (Coracopsis vasa)

The Greater Vasa Parrot (Coracopsis vasa) is one of two species of vasa parrot, the other being the lesser vasa parrot C. nigra. The greater vasa parrot can be found throughout Madagascar and the Comoros. In Madagascar it is more common in portions of the Madagascar dry deciduous forests, compared with the lesser vasa parrot which is more common in the humid forests of the east coast.

I took these photos in Ankarafantsika NP.

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This pair was clearly in a romantic mood!

IMG_5749 IMG_5752 IMG_5754 IMG_5756 IMG_5760They can be found in various places around Madagascar except in the interior.  Their population is decreasing so if you want to be sure of seeing them, head to Ankarafantsika where there is a good sized flock.

GHLB RangeLEARN MORE ABOUT GREATER VASA PARROTS

Wikipedia

World Parrot Trust

Birdlife

VIDEO

I can’t find many videos of them in the wild, at least not that I can embed here so head over to IBC for a brief clip.

And here’s a clip of a breeder describing the characteristics of a Greater Vasa Parrot.

 

The World’s Most Interesting Car Park – Ankarafantsika NP, Madagascar

How many people come to an eco-tourism blog and expect to have a car park recommended as a birding hotspot?  Now what if I told you that you could see not only several endemic species of birds but several species of lemur?  Yes please, drive on in to the Ankarafantsika NP’s car park!

Let’s start with the birds.  These photos were taken over two days, some in the morning, some around lunch time and some in the evening, just whenever we weren’t in the actual park.

White-headed Vanga

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Sickle-billed Vanga

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Broad-billed Rollers

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Crested Drongo

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Sickle-billed Vanga

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Malagasy Paradise Flycatcher

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Magpie-robin

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Malagasy Coucal

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Madagascar Turtle-dove

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Grey-headed Lovebirds

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A Madagascar Hoopoe checks out his appearance, maybe he has a hot date?

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Satisfied he is looking his best, he’s off and running.

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Broad-billed Rollers

 

 

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Meanwhile, has the Hoopoe been stood up?

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A Crested Drongo looks on

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A Magpie-robin on a post

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The Grey-headed Lovebirds are there throughout the day.

 

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Helmeted Guineafowl

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Across the street, an amorous and shameless pair of Vasa Parrots.

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Another Crested Drongo

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Finally the Hoopoe’s date shows up – fashionably late!

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The Sickle-billed Vanga can’t help but be a sticky beak!

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And the Hoopoe is alone again, but at least he looks great!

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In tomorrow’s post, we meet the lemurs!

Lesser Vasa Parrot AKA Black Parrot (Coracopsis nigra)

The Lesser Vasa Parrot or Black Parrot (Coracopsis nigra) is a black coloured parrot native to Comoros, Madagascar, Mayotte, and Seychelles.  The genus has recently been split into 3 similar species:

Black Parrot Coracopsis nigra is being split into C. nigra, C. barklyi and C.sibilans, following the application of criteria set out by Tobias et al. (2010), as well as consultation of genetic evidence and associated comments (Kundu et al. 2012, Joseph et al. 2012, N. Bunbury in litt. 2014).

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I got several sightings of Black Parrots at Ankarafantsika but not very good photos as they were pretty high up.  I also got a fleeting glimpse of one flying away at Andasibe and I didn’t get any photos at all.  Both these parks as well as Ranomafana are good if you want to try your luck.  Lesser Vasa Parrots have a wider range than Greater Vasa Parrots.

MFC rangeLEARN MORE ABOUT LESSER (BLACK) VASA PARROTS

Wikipedia

World Parrot Trust

Birdlife

VIDEO

I’m not having much luck finding videos of these birds in the wild.  There are a couple brief clips on IBC.

Here’s a YT clip of a Black Parrot in an aviary.

 And here is the recently split species – the Seychelles Parrot

Ankarafantsika – Coquereli Circuit

Since this is such an amazing place to go birding, I will be looking at each circuit offered in detail.  Let’s start with the Coquereli Circuit which is the best intro to Ankarafantsika NP.

COQUERELI CIRCUIT

Duration : 2 – 3hours
Distance : 2 – 3 km

Guide Fees:
Ar 15,000 for 1 to 5 persons/day
Ar 21,000 for more than 7 persons / day

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Beginning of the trail

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A Giant Coua led the way, maybe he was worried we would get lost?

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Blue Vangas in a nest

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And our friendly Giant Coua still leads the way!

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Some bird is hiding in there!

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Greater Vasa Parrot

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Not sure, he’s hidden, anyone know what this is?

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Malagasy Paradise Flycatcher

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Blue Vanga

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Rufous Malagasy Paradise Flycatcher

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Broad-billed Rollers

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Madagascar Magpie-Robin male and female

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A different Giant Coua to help us find the way out

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Another Lesser Vasa Parrot

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Visiting Ankarafantsika National Park, Madagascar

Ankarafantsika (also known as Ampijoroa) was hands down my favourite birding site in Madagascar.  The birding started even before entering the park as Grey-headed Lovebirds and various lemurs could be seen in the car park!  If you are keeping a life list, this is a great place to come to see many Madagascan species!

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This is the main building with a few exhibits and an observation deck upstairs.

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The parking lot has several logs like this to sit on and watch birds even before you enter the park.  There are also BBQ/picnic areas.

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This is the office where you will buy your tickets and be assigned a guide if you are not in a pre-arranged tour group.  There are a few informational boards outside to help you plan your trip.

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The park also has very nice bungalows for rent.  They do tend to be booked up with birding tour groups so you should try to organize one in advance.  This is the only accommodation in/near the park.  The place we stayed, Blue Vanga Lodge was about 5km down the road in the village.

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The fees to enter the park are very straightforward.  We are “etranger” category so the fees range from 25,000 – 50,000 depending on how many days you need.

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In addition to the entry fees, you must also hire a guide and do one of the circuits as pictured below.  Most people start with the Circuit Coquereli as an excellent introduction to the park.  We saw lots of birds and lemurs on this trek.  In this and all circuits, the price of the guide is determined by how many people you have.  1-4 people pay 25,000 Ariary for the guide, if there are 5-6 people the cost is 35,000 Ariary.

I really like this system.  Guides are mandatory which is a good idea as it is very important to supply local people with jobs and an incentive to protect their wildlife.  You can design your own program, just choose your circuits and pay in the office for both the park fees and the guide so everything is above board.  Make sure you ask for a guide who knows birds well, although in this location which attracts mostly birders I think all the guides know birds well.

For the two full days we were here, we did the Circuit Coquereli in the first morning and the Circuit Bateau – Lac Ravelobe in the afternoon.  The 2nd day, we did Circuit Retendrika in the morning and since I ran out of cash had to be content with birding the car park and roadside in the afternoon.  I will be blogging more in detail about each circuit.

Only cash is accepted here, no credit cards in either the ticket office or restaurant so be prepared!

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Here we have the prices of the bungalows and gites.  The gites are very primitive, have shared bathrooms and only recommended for experienced backpackers but the bungalows are very nice, the high-priced birding tours stay here.

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The restaurant is very nice and serves generous portions of food at very reasonable prices as you can see by the menu photos.  You can choose a set-price meal or order ala carte.  Cash only, no credit cards!

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The tables have nice views over the forest and are a pleasant place to while away an afternoon while waiting for the next birding walk.

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Just down the road is a small market with locals selling honey and a small shop with a few snacks.

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There is more information on their website.

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My Top Thirty Bird Sightings Of 2014

Most other years this would be a top ten, but with 3 major birding trips this year I am struggling to make it a top thirty!  If you want to see last year’s birds click here.   There is no way I could single out one top bird with so many to choose from so they are being presented in chronological order.  I haven’t finished blogging the Queensland road trip or the African Adventure so I have to cheat a bit with the photos.  They are my photos but just pasted in.

1.  Carnaby’s Cockatoo – seen at several places in Western Australia, Feb 2014.

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2.  Western Rosella – seen at Dryandra and Stirling Range in Western Australia, Feb 2014

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3.  Purple-crowned Lorikeet – seen near Fitzgerald National Park, Western Australia, Feb 2014