Reunion Grey White-eye Zosterops borbonicus ©Ross Wanless Website
Birding Réunion

Administratively, Réunion is one of the overseas departments of France. Like the other four overseas departments, it is also one of the 18 regions of France. Situated between the equator and the Tropic of Capricorn, the islands’ volcanic origins date back some 13 million years. Today, Reunion retains just one active volcano, the formidable Piton de-la-Fournaise. It also claims the highest peak in the Indian Ocean, the 3069m Piton des Neiges.

Although its lowland forests are all but gone, vast tracts of montane rainforest still remain intact on Reunion’s rugged slopes. In fact, Reunion retains more original forest than any other Indian Ocean island does. So its endemic birdlife has suffered a little less than is the case on the other Mascarenes. There are two places on the island where almost all the endemic land birds can be seen during a single morning walk: La Roches Ecrite in the mountains above the capital, St Denis, and the beautiful Bebour-Belouve Forest near the town La Plaine des Palmistes. There, you ought to see Reunion cuckoo-shrike, Reunion bulbul, Reunion stonechat, Reunion grey white-eye and Reunion olive white-eye quite easily. Only the cuckoo-shrike is rare. Also often spotted are Mascarene swiftlet and Mascarene paradise flycatcher, both of which are more plentiful here than on Mauritius. And keep a lookout for the attractive Reunion harrier, which is also present in Madagascar. It is the only raptor found in Reunion, where it is quite widespread.

Seeing Reunion’s sought-after resident seabirds, is somewhat more difficult. The endangered Reunion black petrel and Barau’s petrel, are known to breed in the inhospitable heights of Piton des Neiges, which they leave around dusk for nocturnal foraging jaunts far out at sea.

A third highly localised and uncommon seabird, the Mascarene shearwater, is also found around Reunion. (It is shared with the Comoros). Seeing the island’s national bird, the white-tailed tropicbird, is quite easily done along the rocky north-east and east coasts.

When to go: Any time except cyclone season which is late Jan – early Feb

Birding In all The Mascarene Islands (Reunion, Mauritius & Rodrigues)Together the islands of Reunion, Mauritius and Rodrigues form the Mascarene archipelago, which lies 700kms to the east of Madagascar.

Man arrived settled on these sublime tropical islands only about 400 years ago. But almost nowhere else on Earth, have Human activities had such a devastating effect on indigenous flora and fauna as has been the case on the Mascarenes. The wave of avian extinctions, which consequently occurred on these islands, is perhaps paralleled only by that which has took place on the Hawaiian archipelago.

There were very few native mammals on the Mascarene islands. Only bats, which were able to fly across, established themselves. Worth mention here, is the endangered Rodrigues fruit bat, recently saved from extinction by the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust. There were also not many indigenous herps (reptiles and frogs); although Mauritius and the small offshore islet known as Round Island, still hold an impressive reptile fauna including endemic skinks, geckos and snakes. But the birds of the Mascarenes, were absolutely remarkable, including such distinctive species as the extinct Dodo (dronte) of Mauritius and its compatriots on Reunion and Rodrigues, the equally bizarre Solitaires.

The early settlers found three islands largely clad in tropical hardwood forests. Quickly, these forests were felled. (Only on mountainous Reunion do large tracts of original forest still exist). What remains in Mauritius and Rodrigues, are mere token remnants in a severely degraded state. The extraordinary birds were considered little more than a readily available food supply. It did not take the settlers much time to wipe out a long list of unique species. Today, Mauritius retains 8 of the A third highly localised and uncommon seabird, the Mascarene endemic birds, Reunion 9 and Rodrigues 2. There are also a few species common to Reunion and Mauritius (2) and high on the lists of visiting birders, some very rare and localised seabirds. In the space of a week, it is fairly easy to see all the lifers one can tick off in the Mascarenes.

Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 91

    (As at September 2018)

    National Bird - White-tailed Tropicbird Phaethon lepturus

  • Number of endemics: 5

    Reunion Cuckooshrike Coracina newtoni, Reunion Stonechat Saxicola tectes, Reunion Bulbul Hypsipetes borbonicus, Réunion grey white-eye Zosterops borbonicus, Reunion Olive White-eye Zosterops olivaceus
  • iGoTerra Checklist

    iGoTerra Checklist
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Useful Reading

  • Birds of the Indian Ocean Islands: Madagascar, Mauritius, Réunion, Rodriges, Seychelles and the Comoros.

    | By Ian Sinclair, Olivier Langrand, Norman Arlott, Hilary Burn, Peter Hayman & Ian Lewington | New Holland Publishers | 2013 | Paperback | 264 pages, 71 plates with 1160 colour illustrations; colour distribution maps | ISBN: 9781431700851 Buy this book from NHBS.com
  • Birds of the Mascarene Islands - Les Oiseaux des Mascareignes

    | (A Comprehensive Collection of Endemic, Oceanic, Migratory and Exotic Birds of Mauritius, Rodrigues and Reunion) | By B Narainsamy Ramen | Narainsamy Ramen | 2012 | Hardback | 360 pages, colour photos, 3 colour maps | Text French & English | ISBN: 9789994900091 Buy this book from NHBS.com
  • African Bird Club

    La R
  • La Société d’Etudes Ornithologiques de La Réunion

    La Société d’Etudes Ornithologiques de La Réunion est une association de type Loi 1901, créée en 1997. Elle compte plus de 240 adhérents, nombre en augmentation chaque année depuis sa création. Les mots-clés de l’association sont «Etudes », « Actions d’intérêt collectif» et «Bénévolat».

Abbreviations Key

  • NP Réunion

    InformationSatellite View
    The core of the island has been listed as a national park since 2007. The extraordinary value of the landscapes and nature in the Les Hauts area of the island has thus been given the key to conservation, discovery and development it previously lacked, as well as the international recognition it deserved. The core of the park is marked by excellence, where the priority is on protecting the environments, animal and plant species, landscapes and cultural heritage. It is subject to a specific set of regulations
  • NR Etang Saint-Paul

    WebpageSatellite View
    Located near the ocean on the west coast of Reunion Island, the lakes of Saint-Paul is a unique wetland, the largest and best preserved on the island and the Mascarene archipelago...
  • NR Réserve Naturelle Marine de La Réunion

    WebpageSatellite View
    ...the Marine nature reserve which spans 40km of the coast (including 20km of coral reef) from Cap La Houssaye to Saint-Paul, and Roche aux Oiseaux to Étang Salé. Its 35km² surface area is divided between the overall perimeter, the enhanced conservation zones (45% of the surface area) and the integral conservation zones...
Guides & Tour Operators
  • Rainbow Tours

    Tour Operator
    The luxuriant mountain forest of Bebour-Belouve will attract any nature enthusiast and birders may tick off most of Reunion's endemic birds in the course of a single walk…
  • Rockjumper

    Tour Operator
    The French governed island of Réunion is a rugged volcanic island, rich in land endemics and well-endowed with a range of special sea birds. We will search the tropical waters here for Barau’s and Mascarene Petrel and, whilst ambling forest trails in the footprints of pirates, search for Reunion Cuckooshrike, 2 endemic white-eyes and Reunion Bulbul.
Trip Reports
  • 2012 [11 November] - Hans Matheve, Toon Spanhove & Jurgen Dewolf

    …Pink Pigeon (several birds both at the Macchabee Trail and the Savanne Trail in Pigeon Wood, most of them were color ringed by the breeding program), Mauritius Kestrel (a pair spotted at the Machabee viewpoint -20.393393, 57.440379), Mauritius Parakeet (several birds seen all along the Macchabee Trail, listen for their calls), Mauritius Cuckooshrike (several birds seen or heard along the Macchabee Trail, easily taped in), Mauritius White-eye (we found 2-3 birds near the Bassin Blanc two days on the same spot -20.453437, 57.477479), Mauritius Fody (small numbers were seen, the best site being -20.42913, 57.47534), Mascarene White-eye (common), Mascarene Paradise-Flycatcher (2 birds at Bassin Blanc, same spot as the Mauritius White-eye)..
  • 2012 [12 December] - Phil Gregory & Jesse Fagan

    …We lost a night due to flight complications, and we had quite a bumpy and damp sea crossing, but the Masoala extension also included Collared Nightjar, Short-legged Ground-Roller, Red-breasted Coua, Red Ruffed Lemur, White-fronted Brown Lemur, and Weasel (Sportive) Lemur, all from a rustic but perfectly adequate lodge set right by the forest. Sure hope to run this again next time, it is really worth the effort with some of the most charismatic species of the tour…
  • 2013 [12 December] - Phil Gregory & Jay Vandergaast - Madagascar, Mauritius & Reunion

    …For the third time in recent years we offered an extension to the Masoala Peninsula in quest of some of the most charismatic Madagascar species….
  • 2014 [12 December] - Phil Gregory - Madagascar, Mauritius & Reunion

    This was my fifth run-through for Field Guides of this comprehensive tour of Madagascar, which Field Guides has been running since 1986, this year in a reconfigured smaller group context that worked very nicely. We again had a great tour of this fascinating country, albeit with lots of traveling on slow roads and the worse than usual vagaries of Air Madagascar, which made significant late changes to 5 out of 6 flights, costing us an afternoon at Ifaty and our morning boat trip from Mahajunga as a result...
  • 2015 [12 December] - Phil Gregory - Madagascar, Mauritius & Reunion (with Masoala Peninsula extension)

    ...Reunion was not too rushed this year, so we did a scenic tour of the island and saw the drolly named Cascade Niagara, the quite extensive lava flows, and two very nice pairs of Reunion Harrier, then went to the Etang du Gol to see the Barau's Petrels readying themselves to fly in to their montane nest sites. The next day at La Roche Ecrite was a good finale too, with a fine start and the rain only coming in as we left, though the trail there was the wettest and most slippery I have ever seen it due to heavy rain the day before. Happily we were well-trained for it, and saw all of the remaining endemics very well, with the Reunion Paradise-Flycatcher and Reunion Cuckooshrike showing very nicely -- the latter my first sighting since 2010, and an excellent finale to the tour....
  • 2016 [11 November] - Phil Gregory - Madagascar, Mauritius & Reunion

    We got into Reunion late afternoon and dashed straight down to a site near St Denis to get great looks at Barau's Petrel, (which you can actually see off the seawall right by our hotel as I saw 131 there on Dec 1 as well as an odd dark petrel). The walk up at La Roche Ecrite gets into beautiful native forest, and we quickly saw Reunion Stonechat, Reunion Bulbul, Mascarene (Reunion) Paradise Flycatcher and the two endemic white-eyes...
  • 2017 [10 October] - Michael Mills - Seychelles, Mauritius & Réunion

    PDF Report
    The remote oceanic islands of Seychelles, Mauritius, Rodrigues andReunion are renowned for their palm-lined, white-sand beaches, and inthe case of Reunion, it's active volcano. From the birder's perspective,these island are characterised by high degrees of endemism, spectacularseabird breeding colonies, heroic conservation efforts and, unfortunately,irreplaceable losses such as the extinct Dodo.
  • 2017 [12 December] - Sander Bot - Réunion & Mauritius

    PDF Report
    After guiding a birding trip to Madagascar for BirdingBrekas.nl I decided to fly back to Europe via Reunion and Mauritius. Having only 1,5 days on each island meant I had to be efficient to see all endemics, but I succeeded. Preferably you take a day extra on every Island, but this report shows it can be done within one and a half day per island. These islands are great to do as a stopover to or from Madagascar. Alternatively, you could combine these islands with a visit to Rodrigues and the Seychelles, although that would be quite an expensive trip with many flights.
  • 2018 [03 March] - Budget Birders - Comoros, Reunion, Seychelles

    So before I jump right into our "Reunion on Reunion" let it be known that I left Ross and went home for three weeks in the middle of our 6-month trip. It took nearly 2 days of travel on either end to get from one side of the world to the other, and I realize...
  • 2018 [05 May] - Steve & Tessa Blaber - Seychelles, Reunion and Mauritius

    PDF Report
    This trip was designed primarily to see the endemics on each of the islands, togetherwith other species missing from our list. Overall, the trip was extremely successfuland enjoyable with almost all the endemics seen. On all the islands there is relativelylittle pristine habitat left and the sites for finding the endemics are well known.
  • 2018 [11 November] - Phil Gregory - Madagascar with Mauritius & Reunion

    This was my ninth Field Guides Madagascar tour (eleventh overall), and was again a terrific trip with a very congenial fit group who were also very good at spotting. I have gradually fine-tuned this tour to eliminate as many Madagascar Air flights as possible, and we enjoyed close to an ideal itinerary this year. Very dry conditions at Ranomafana certainly depressed some small bird activity, but we had a very good range of species overall and great views of some very special mammals like sifakas, Indri, mouse-lemurs, bamboo-lemurs and woolly lemurs, not to forget non-venomous snakes, day-geckoes, skinks and chameleons as well
  • 2019 [02 February] - Hans-Åke Gustavsson - Réunion & Mauritius

    PDF Report
    This report contains the observations from a two-week holiday trip to Réunion and Mauritius together with my non-birding wife. A good part of the time was spent relaxing and sight-seeing but the intention was also to see as many of the endemic bird species as possible.
  • 2019 [07 July] - Martijn Hammers

    PDF Report
    I visited Réunion for a biology conference and had a brief stopover on Mauritius. I had only one afternoon on Mauritius and went birding for one day on Réunion but was still able to see the majority of the endemic landbirds on Mauritius and all endemic landbirds on Réunion. Having only one full day on each island could be sufficient to see most or all species, but having a bit more birding time would be nice, especially on Mauritius.

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