Trip report: Madagascar, The Eighth Continent (Oct-Nov 2017) by Tropical Birding

Guided by Jay Packer. This was a set-departure tour.

Madagascar has been called the 8th continent because of its extreme isolation. As the southern supercontinent Gondwana broke up, Madagascar cleaved from Africa 135 million years ago. India followed some 45 million years later, racing towards its future collision with Asia. For 90 million years, Madagascar was been cutoff from the rest of the world, an island approximately the size of Texas, with nothing but time to evolve some of the most bizarre birds, mammals, and plants found on Earth today. And so it was to Madagascar that Tropical Birding and six adventurous clients headed, in search of the endemic species (approximately 110), endemic families (6), and even endemic orders (2) of birds. There are only 39 orders of birds in the world, and they include the major “types” of birds like ducks, hawks, perching birds, etc. Incredibly, Madagascar has 2 of these 39 orders, the mesites and the cuckoo-roller, all to itself. The trip was a resounding success. We tallied 170 species of birds, including all six endemic families – the mesites (we had all three), cuckoo-roller, groundrollers (we had all five), Malagasy warblers, asites, and vangas. Of course, no one goes to Madagascar for the birds alone. Across life’s spectrum, the island is filled with endemic groups of mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and so much more. We had 26 mammalian species (including 21 lemurs), 29 species of reptiles (including 11 chameleons), 7 amphibians, and no doubt an equally impressive number of insects, plants, fungi, and spiders most of which went unrecorded but were still appreciated none-the-less.

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