Small Birds Definitive
The Falkland Islands is an archipelago of some 750 islands located in the South Atlantic. Landscapes roll from expansive beaches to lowland heath and acid grasslands, up into craggy windswept hills. This naturally treeless Falklands landscape still supports a variety of habitats for many resident birds.
Threats and Conservation
Like many island ecosystems, avifauna in the Falkland Islands evolved almost entirely in the absence of mammalian predators. Cats Felis catus, brown rats Rattus norvegicus, black rats Rattus rattus and house mice Mus musculus all arrived with the early seafarers. Foxes were also introduced to a number of islands for their fur. Over half of the islands in the archipelago, including the two main islands, are known to have suffered from introduced mammalian predators which take the eggs and young of ground- and burrow-nesting birds, and in some instances compete for food resources.
Both the endemics Cobb’s Wren Troglodytes cobbi and Tussacbird Cinclodes antarcticus are exceptionally vulnerable to predation and cannot survive where rats are present. Falklands Conservation have undertaken a number of rodent eradications on offshore islands to reduce the impacts of invasive species on the native bird populations and their habitats.
In addition to the endemic Cobb’s Wren and Tussacbird (species found only in the Falkland Islands), another six of the featured birds are significantly different from their South American conspecifics and are described as Falklands subspecies. These are the Dark-faced Ground Tyrant Muscisaxicola maclovianus maclovianus, Falkland Pipit Anthus correndera grayi, Falkland Grass Wren Cistothorus platensis falklandicus, Falkland Thrush Turdus falcklandii falcklandii, White-bridled Finch Melanodera melanodera melanodera and the Long-tailed Meadowlark Sturnella loyca falklandica.
The overall dark brown plumage, slightly curved pointed black bill and black legs have gained this inquisitive endemic species the local name of ‘black bird’. The endemic Tussacbird is most abundant on offshore islands at the Falklands, especially those with no rodents, and habitats that have not been modified by human activities. This has led the species to be unusually tame and inquisitive, often approaching boats and people on the rocky beaches backed by tussac-grass where they are commonly found. These birds feed on a wide variety of food, from marine invertebrates on beaches, spiders and crickets amongst grasses, spilt fish at seabird colonies, and household scraps at rural settlements. They lay 1-3 white eggs, sometimes spotted with red, in grass nests hidden in holes in banks or underneath loose rocks.
2p Long-tailed Meadowlark
This striking, red-breasted lark with a heavy pointed bill is known locally as 'robin' or 'military starling' and is particularly evident in raucous noisy groups in the late summer to winter. Its larger bill, general body size and whiter tail feathers separate it as a distinct race from the South American population. It is widespread throughout the islands and associated with many habitats including grassland, heath and settlements. Larks feed on a range of invertebrates including worms and insects, but also take flowers or seedlings in settlement gardens. It may lay two broods of 2-4 blue white eggs blotched and streaked with purple and black in a simple grass nest on the ground.
5p Black-chinned Siskin
A pretty, bright-yellow coloured bird in which the males have a black crown and chin. The females are duller, but share the curving yellow band from the eye to the throat. The presence of this species is often noticed by the constant excited twittering of flocks. This species also occurs in Patagonia; however, numbers here may be declining. In the Falklands it is widespread, frequenting introduced trees and gorse shrubs in and around settlements. Preferred nesting is in scrub and prior to the introduction of shrubs around settlements and for livestock shelter belts the distribution of this species could have been more limited to the native boxwood habitat, which has suffered huge declines due to its vulnerability to livestock grazing. Nests are simply grass lined with hair in which are laid 3-5 pink-white eggs spotted with brown.
10p Falkland Pipit
An inconspicuous small bird in buff with darker streaked upper parts and flanks. Its cryptic marking make it difficult to see amongst grassland habitat except during song-flight when it rises high above the ground in constant song before dropping to the cover of grass once more. A behaviour that may have earned it the local name of ‘skylark’. This endemic subspecies is relatively common and widespread throughout the Falkland Islands wherever whitegrass habitat is found and is somewhat larger than its nearest continental relative which occurs in Patagonia. A ground nesting species, Falklands Pipit is undoubtedly impacted by widespread feral cats and rats. Feeding mostly on invertebrates, it is capable of raising at least two broods of 2-4 spotted and blotched creamy-grey to dirty-white eggs.
20p Cobb’s Wren
This stocky, dark-brown wren with a blackish, decurved bill was first named as a species from a specimen collected by Arthur Cobb at Carcass Island in 1908. It is found only in the Falkland Islands. Today Cobb’s Wren is restricted to approximately 102 offshore islands that are all free from mammalian predators, with an estimated breeding population of 6,000 pairs. Visits by naturalists in the 19th century made no mention of this bird and it is possible that it had already been extirpated from the mainland with the prior arrival of rats, mice and loss of tussac-grass Poa flabellata due to grazing livestock. The optimal habitat for the species is boulder beaches fringed with tussac-grass – the denser the tussac-grass, the denser the territories. Wrens feed mainly on marine invertebrates along the shoreline, furtively searching in amongst boulders and beach debris. They nest in vegetation or rock crevices to the rear of beaches in a small ball-like nest created from grasses.
50p White-bridled Finch
The attractive male finch of this species has a blue-grey head with a black eye patch and bib surrounded by a white band which gives rise to its recognised, but locally less-used common name of white-bridled finch. The more commonly referred to as the ‘black-throated finch’ or ‘canary-winged finch’ which makes reference to its yellow wings and breast which can be vibrant in the males; however, the female is a much less flamboyant streaked brown. This race is larger than its South American equivalent. Common and widely distributed across a range of habitats, this species may tolerate the presence of introduced mammalian predators, but previous study suggests that populations on predator free islands were about three times higher. The finches feed on flowers, seeds and berries, sometimes feeding in large flocks in late summer through winter. It lays 3-4 blue-grey or green-grey eggs marked with purple-brown, probably breeding twice a year.
76p Falkland Thrush
A large thrush with distinctive orange beak, orange legs and dark brown eyes. Both sexes have a blackish head with olive-brown upperparts and buffy-brown underparts. It is a resident endemic subspecies and fairly common occupying a range of habitats from tussac grass, rocky outcrops and open heath with ferns and diddle-dee. Often seen in settlement gardens keeping a watchful eye on gardeners for feeding opportunities. They mainly search for prey on the ground including worms and other invertebrates, and can forage along seashores. Breeding season runs from August to December with 2-3 blue-green eggs closely marked with brown laid in a clutch. Sometimes three, or even occasionally, four broods can be produced in a season.
£1 Two-banded Plover
The two-banded plover is named for its two dark bands across chest and neck, which break up the white plumage covering the underside of the bird from face to tail. The top of the bird dulls from a bright reddish brown head to dark brown tail. This bird is widely distributed across the Islands, common in coastal areas comprising of sandy beaches, coastal greens and muddy creeks. It lays 2-3 dusky green eggs spotted with dark brown, protected by the female, who will attempt to lure predators away from her nest by performing an injury-feigning distraction display. The two-banded plover mostly feeds on small invertebrates found on the exposed shoreline at low tide, or on short grass.
1.20 Falkland Grass Wren
One of two wrens that occur at the Falklands, it is the smallest of the passerines with streaked buff and black upperparts, creamy-buff underparts and a barred tail. As an endemic subspecies the Grass Wren is fairly widespread. It favours tall grassland, reed beds and tussac grass habitats making it fairly inconspicuous but often detected from its clear calls. Grass wrens feed amongst vegetation on a wide range of insects. Nests are made above ground in dense vegetation giving it some protection against mice and rat predators, although abundance of numbers is often higher on predator-free islands. Between 5 and 7 eggs are laid during October or November.
£2 Dark-faced Ground Tyrant
This alert little bird is pale grey-brown above and grey-white below with blackish head, a black tail with narrow white edges and slender black legs. It can also be identified by its characteristic upright stance and twitching tail feathers. The ground tyrant is a widespread endemic subspecies, occurring throughout the Falklands from mountain crags to lowland cliffs and beaches. Its nests are lined with grass fibres from late October to late December in stone runs and rock crevices, laying 2-3 white eggs with red-brown spots. Very agile in flight when feeding on flies and moths, but still susceptible to predation of introduced mammals, such as cats. A Falkland Islander’s favourite for its friendly nature and affectionately referred to as the ‘news bird’.
£3.50 Rufous-chested Dotterel
A smart-looking plover, when in breeding plumage, with chestnut breast bordered by a black crescent beneath and white belly below. It also has a notable white band across the forehead which runs back over the eyes. Non-breeding plumage is a more subtle brown head, neck and breast. Dotterel occur throughout a range of habitats including coastal areas, but also inland lowlands on heath and grasslands, as a result they are widely distributed throughout the Islands. They are a common sight during the breeding season when travelling off-road, rising and then gliding short distances across the heath. The species nests in a shallow scrape, with overhanging vegetation laying two usually olive-brown heavily-blotched eggs.
£5 Magellanic Snipe
Perhaps considered as the ‘odd one out’ of the featured species, this small shorebird has a long pale bill and legs, a sandy-buff body with generous dark brown markings. Its head is striped in dark brown and buff set off by a large dark eye lending the bird an elegant appearance. The Magellanic snipe favours a widespread variety of habitats including wetland, whitegrass and sloping heath, as well as open coastal areas. Its colouring is well-suited for blending into these surroundings, often resulting in the snipe being heard before it is seen. The iconic chipper- chipper-chipper sound made from the ground at nesting time is a welcome sound in the Falklands on calm evenings at dusk, as it traditionally signifies spring is on the way. The species has a large breeding period ranging from July to February, but most frequently occurring September to January, laying 2-3 pear-shaped olive green eggs spotted with black, in a nest low on the ground tucked amongst rushes, whitegrass or heath.
Designer: Andrew Robinson
Printer: Cartor Security Printing
Perforation: 13 x 13 ¼ per 2cm
Stamp size: 30.6 x 38mm
Sheet Layout: 20
Booklet stamp: (Local Rate) 31.75 x 31.75mm
Release date: 14 August, 2017
Production Co-ordination: Creative Direction (Worldwide) Ltd
We acknowledge with thanks the text and assistance provided by Falklands Conservation.
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