Brown mesite

This timid, dove-like bird is found only in the last remaining primary rainforests of Madagascar

Francesco Veronesi

An enigmatic bird species endemic to the rainforests of Madagascar. This inconspicuous bird leads a secretive life, foraging on the forest floor, where it blends almost perfectly with its surroundings. It’s a part of the mesite family, which includes only three species, all of which are unique to Madagascar’s diverse ecosystems.

Adapted to life in the shadows, brown mesites thrive in areas where leaf litter is dense, providing them with ample prey such as insects, snails, and spiders. Their beaks are fine-tuned instruments, adept at picking through leaves and underbrush to unearth these hidden delicacies. The cryptic coloration of the brown mesite, with its complex patterns of ochre, russet, and cream, provides excellent camouflage against the forest floor, rendering them virtually invisible when they remain still.

Brown mesites typically form small family units, which may be a strategy for more effective foraging and predator vigilance. The familial bonds also play a role in their survival, as these units move together through their territory, constantly communicating with soft calls and visual signals.

Though they possess wings, brown mesites are largely flightless, taking to the air only in moments of urgency, such as when fleeing from predators. Their flights are short and fluttery, suggesting that their wings are more a relic of their evolutionary past than a feature of their current lifestyle.

Their nesting habits are as humble as their appearance. The brown mesite builds rudimentary nests out of twigs and leaves, often placed in the lower branches of small trees. The birds reach these nests not by flight but by a laborious process of hopping and fluttering from branch to branch.

Despite their adaptability to the forest environment, brown mesites face significant challenges. Deforestation and habitat degradation in Madagascar threaten their existence. As forests are cleared for agriculture, logging, and human settlement, the brown mesite’s habitat shrinks, leading to a decline in their populations.


Population est.
Official estimate

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Terrestrial / Aquatic

Altricial / Precocial

Polygamous / Monogamous

Dimorphic / Monomorphic

Active: Diurnal / Nocturnal

Social behavior: Solitary / Pack / Herd / Flock

Diet: Carnivore / Herbivore / Omnivore / Piscivorous / Insectivore

Migratory: Yes / No

Domesticated: Yes / No

Dangerous: Yes / No