99% of the country covered by sea , 1 % land, 1200 corals islands … The small size and isolation of Maldives means that its avifauna (birds fauna) is extremely limited
Despite the fact that a full study on the ornithology of the Maldives does not exist, some information on the distribution and importance of certain species has been compiled by foreign and local scientists.
SEABIRDS & SHOREBIRDS
Between 160–180 different species of seabirds, shorebirds and land birds have been recorded in Maldives. Due to the smallness of the islands and sandbanks, seabirds are the most common occupant birds in the country and the extent of terrestrial birds is minimal compared to other tropical islands. Like the human tourists, the rest of the species are migratory visitors from Europe, vagrants or imported species.
LEARN MORE : TOP 5 LOCAL ISLANDS & ATOLLS IN MALDIVES
As of today only five subspecies of birds have been identified as endemic to the Maldives :
Maldivian White breasted Water Hen
( Amouronis phoenicurus maldivus )
Maldivian Pond Heron
(Ardeola graii phillipsi )
Maldivian Little Heron
(Butorides striatus albidulus)
Central Maldivian Little Heron
(Butorides striatus didii phillipsii)
(Eudybamys scolopacea scolpacea
More than 80 different species of shore birds have been observed and more than 50 kind of seabirds have been recorded in Maldivian waters.
The most commonly seen sea birds are herons, cranes and seagulls. There are more than 12 species of herons, the most common being the grey heron (Ardea Cinerea Rectirostris) or Maakana in Dhivehi. You can very easily spot grey heron walking around the islands or standing motionless in shallow water hunting for small fishes.
The white breasted Maldivian water Hen, a water/land bird, is a symbol of Maldives and is considered as the national bird of the country. You can spot this bird on the beaches scuttling in and out of overhanging bushes.
Another bird easy to encounter is the Asian koel with its remarkable scream. The Asian Koel is a brood parasite that lays its eggs in the nests of crows and other hosts.
Other birds are more difficult to spot, as they spend all the day among or over the trees/bushes and are very fearful of human presence.
Only 13 to 15 pelagic birds species are known to nest and breed in Maldives .
Two frigate birds breed in the Maldives, as do two noddies, the Audubon’s shearwater and the glorious white-tailed tropicbird . Addu atoll in the deep south of the country has the beautiful fairy tern.
70 species of birds, including the 5 endemic to the Maldives and those found to be visitors, have been protected by Maldivian Environment Protection & Preservation Act (Law no. 4/93)
BIRDS AND LOCAL COMMUNITY
“In the Maldives, to be called ‘bird’ (dhooni) is a sweet word showing love and affection to your partner “
Seabirds are extremely important to islanders and more especially to fishermen. Seabirds flocks are an important indicator to the presence of tuna schools. Tuna hunt and pursue small fishes that are also preyed upon by seabirds. An important presence of seabirds usually reveals the existence of large tuna schools under. Nowadays fishermen still rely on this technique for great tuna catch.
LEARN MORE : GUIDE FOR FISHING HOLIDAYS IN THE MALDIVES
A problem for ornithologists in the Maldives is the bad habit of some Maldivians and resort owners’ of importing and keeping exotic birds as pets. Many of these imported birds such as parakeets (red lory , budgerigar…) subsequently escape and might pose a threat to local ecosystem.
The habit of catching birds and keeping them as pets is also common in the Maldives, and has been for generations. This has definitely contributed to the decline of many bird species in the Maldives.
Other factors such as : resorts & local airports construction, mangroves destruction, land reclamation, local islands development, population growth and increase in tourists’ arrivals have undoubtedly contributed to the disturbance of roosting and nesting.
LEARN MORE : MANGROVES IN MALDIVES, A FORGOTTEN NATURAL BEAUTY
Birds terrestrial habitats are endangered and terrestrial and marine protected areas must be created in order to protect Maldives avifauna.
Compared to the abundant underwater life , the land based animals are represented by only a few species.
LEARN MORE : MALDIVES UNDERWATER WORLD : FUN & AMAZING FACTS
If you really want to witness an incredible world of fascinating creatures, just pick up a snorkel and swim to the reef where you will encounter abundance of marine species.
But if you a real nature-lover who walks around with open eyes (or binoculars) , the dry land will surely provide some small hidden treasures!