Some published reports of birds dating prior to 1992 (the date SBRC was founded) involve species which have never been recorded in Seychelles subsequently. An absence of verifiable data has made it impossible to confirm these reports with certainty. Some species have also been reported to SBRC but because a high standard of proof is required for a “first”, they have been classed as “not accepted”, or inconclusive. There are also some old museum records where the evidence that a particular specimen is actually from Seychellesat all is considered inconclusive.
In order to maintain the highest standards of assessment, SBRC has sometimes found it necessary to classify such records as “not proven”, which does not necessarily imply that the Committee believes a mistake has been made, but that the available evidence is inconclusive. SBRC have taken a cautious line, so that records with a minimum of detail (often no detail) fall into this category. This is because as we all know, the best observers can sometimes make a mistake. Also, our knowledge of bird identification in general and our knowledge of what species occur in Seychelles in particular have both evolved considerably since the original sightings were made. As a result, possible confusion species were not always taken into consideration by the observers.
Inconclusive records may be re-assessed in the light of new evidence. For example, the first record of Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus was a published record (from a member of SBRC), which was not accepted on first circulation but in the light of subsequent sightings of this species was later re-circulated and accepted.
Where a specimen exists, all known museum records have been double-checked either by a member of the committee or where this has not been possible (due to the location of the museum), by a person nominated by the committee. In general, this has confirmed the original identification but in two instances, museum specimens have been of surprising species, where it is believed it may be possible that a mistake has been made.
The following list, in taxonomic order, details all published and museum records of species whose occurrence in Seychelles is currently classified as inconclusive by SBRC.
British Storm-petrel Hydrobates pelagicus Illustrated in Penny (1974) and described in main text as “possible in Seychelles”. No records have been received by SBRC.
African Darter Anhinga rufa One around the Research Station and at West Channels, Aldabra 16 July-16 September 1972 (Frith 1974). There have been no subsequent records. Lesser Spotted Eagle Aquila pomarina Listed as recorded in Seychelles in “Table 5 Land bird migrants recorded on the island groups of the Seychelles” of Feare and Watson (1984) with a caveat that this was an immature bird that could not reliably be separated from Greater Spotted Eagle A. clanga. Neither species has been reported subsequently.
Tawny Eagle Aquila rapax A skull of this species at the Natural History Museum, Tring,UK is labelled as “caught off Seychelles”.The collector was J Batty. The bird was presented alive to London Zoo on 25 March 1901 by Lord Rothschild and died on 29 November 1903. The identification has been confirmed, but it was considered that the label details were too vague to confirm the record. In addition, the conventional wisdom is that species does not cross and may be unable to cross wide bodies of water. As such it is unlikely to reach Seychelles.
Slender-billed Curlew Numenius tenuirostris Two on Wizard Island (Grand Ile), Cosmoledo January 1989 (Gretton 1991). Four on Aldabra in 1967 (Penny 1971; Gretton 1991). Also listed for Aldabra in Penny (1974) and in “Table 3 “Shorebirds that have been recorded on the island groups of the Seychelles”in Feare and Watson (1984). There are no accepted records of this species.
Red-necked Stint Calidris ruficollis One at Victoria mudflats, 17 February 1973; one at the Sooty Tern colony, BirdIsland, 13-14 November 1972 (Feare and High 1977). Also listed as recorded in Seychelles in “Table 3 Shorebirds that have been recorded on the island groups of the Seychelles” in Feare and Watson 1984. Some bird groups visiting Seychelleshave also listed this species in trip reports but no further details of sightings have been obtained by SBRC. There are no accepted records, though three other stint species are known to occur.
Grey Phalarope Phalaropus fulicarius Listed in Penny (1974). The observer is no longer alive and no details can be traced. There have been no further reports of this species.
Damara Tern Sterna balaenarum Small terns on Bird Island were identified as this species by Mountfort (1971). This and other reports were described in Penny (1974) with sightings attributed to Cousin, African Banks and Bird and with possible breeding in the Amirantes. However, Feare and Bourne (1978) considered reports erroneous and probably referable to Little Tern S. albifrons or more likely Saunders’s Tern S. saundersi. No records of Damara Tern have ever been considered by SBRC, which accepts the analysis of Feare and Bourne (1978). Saunders’s Tern is treated as an annual species while Little Tern has been recorded as a vagrant. Neither species has ever been recorded as breeding in Seychelles.
Brown-headed Gull Larus brunnicephalus Listed as recorded in Seychelles in“Table 1 Seabirds that have been recorded as migrants in the Seychelles” of Feare and Watson 1984. There have been a number of other reports of this species, but none received by SBRC have ruled out confusion species, notably Black-headed Gull L. ridibundus and Grey-headed Gull L. cirrocephalus. The only small gull recorded with certainty is Black-headed Gull. However, some reports to SBRC have failed to rule out other possibilities and in 1997, SBRC created a new category of record, "Black-headed/Brown-headed/Grey-headed Gull," to classify such reports pending a clearer picture emerging.
Grey-headed Gull Larus cirrocephalus Listed as recorded at Farquhar Atoll at an unknown date in “Table 1 Seabirds that have been recorded as migrants in the Seychelles” of Feare and Watson (1984). The report was published second hand and the original observer is unknown. There have been no subsequent reports of this species, but see comments under Brown-headed Gull, above.
Horsfield’s Bronze-cuckoo Chrysococcyx basalis A specimen of this species is held at the Hancock Museum,Newcastle upon Tyne, UK, labelled “from the Seychelles”and the collector given as Galbraith. The identification has been confirmed, but details were considered too vague to confirm that it had actually been collected in Seychelles, well outside the normal world range for this species.
Pallid Swift Apuspallidus Listed as recorded in Seychelles in “Table 5 Land bird migrants recorded on the island groups of the Seychelles” of Feare and Watson (1984) with a caveat that this sighting did not rule out a pale Common Swift A.a.pekinensis. There have been no subsequent reports of this species.
Mottled Spinetail Telacanthura ussheri Two at the Old Settlement, Aldabra 7-8 December 1972 and one 3January 1973 (Frith 1974). There have been no subsequent reports of this species. The identity of these birds was questioned by Feare (1979), who reported a sighting of Little Swift Apus affinis, a possible confusion species (a sighting accepted by SBRC).
Red-capped Lark Clandrella cinerea Listed in the Addendum of Feare and Watson (1984) as a record contributed second hand. The original observer of this second hand report could not be traced. This African species is not migratory and is considered very unlikely to reach Seychelles.
Yellow-throated Longclaw Macronyx aurantiigula Listed as recorded in the Amirantes in “Table 5 Land bird migrants recorded on the island groups of the Seychelles”of Feare and Watson (1984) and in Penny (1974). The original observer of this second hand report could not be traced. This African species is not migratory and is considered very unlikely to reach Seychelles.
In addition to the above published records, reports of the following species have been considered by SBRC but details proved inconclusive and to date no records have been accepted: Leach’s Storm-petrel Oceanodroma leucorhoa Western Reef Heron Egretta gularis Humblot’s Heron Ardea humbloti Grey Teal Anas gibberifrons Bat Hawk Macheiramphus alcinus White-rumped Sandpiper Calidris fuscicollis Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus Asiatic Dowitcher Limnodromus semipalmatus Dunlin Calidris alpina Kelp Gull Larus dominicanus Great Black-headed Gull Larus ichthyaetus Olivaceous Warbler Hippolais pallida Olive-backed Pipit Anthus cervinus Spotted Munia Lonchura punctulata
References: Feare, C.J. 1979. The identity of white-rumped swifts in Seychelles. Feare, C.J. and Bourne, W.R.P. 1978. The occurrence of‘Portlandica’ Little Terns and absence of Damara Terns and British Storm Petrels in the Indian Ocean. Ostrich 40: 64-66. Feare, C.J. and High, J. 1977. Migrant shorebirds in the Seychelles. Ibis 119: 323-338. Feare, C.J. and Watson, J. 1984. Occurrence of migrant birds in the Seychelles. In Stoddart (ed.) Biogeography and ecology of the Seychelles Islands: 469-486. The Hague: Dr W. Junk Publishers. Frith, C.B. 1974 New observations of migrants and vagrants for Aldabra, Farquhar and Astove Atolls, Indian Ocean.Bull B.O.C. 94:12-19. Gretton, A. 1991. The ecology and conservation of the Slender-billed Curlew (Numenius tenuirostris). Cambridge: ICBP Monograph 6. Mountfort 1971. Wildlife treasures of the Indian Ocean. Animals 13: 619-623. Penny, M.J. 1971. Migrant waders at Aldabra, September 1967-March 1968. Phil Trans. Roy. Soc. Lond. B 260:549-559. Penny, M.J. 1974. The birds of Seychelles and the outlying islands.London: Collins. Phillips, N.J. 1984. Migrant species new to Seychelles. Bull B.O.C. 104: