Skip to content

Subdesert Mesite

Monias benschi


The Subdesert Mesite is only found in a 200 km strip of dry, spiny forest in Madagascar called the Mikea forest, and it is only 30-40km wide.

This forest is unlike any in the world, consisting of many native plant species that are specially adapted to deal with drought, due to the erratic and low levels of rainfall. This species is the sole member of its genus, and this is part of a very small and distinctive family, the Mesitornthidae, which diverged from all other birds 16 million years ago during the Neogene period. This species’ is ground dwelling and they are very reluctant to fly, only doing so if threatened or to reach their nests or roosting sites. Other birds, such as flycatchers and drongos are known to follow mesites, picking off any insects they have flushed out. Unfortunately, there is high level of habitat loss here as clearance is occurring for maize and charcoal production and also local construction material. Predation from dogs and introduced rats is also a problem. The spiny forest of south-western Madagascar has been identified as a biogeographic region in the greatest need of additional reserves nationally. Potential conservation measures have recently been recommended for the area.

  • Order: Mesitornithiformes
  • Family: Mesitornithidae
  • Population: 65,000-110,000
  • Trend: decreasing
  • Size: 32cm

EDGE Score

EDGE Score: 5 (?)
ED Score: 36.01 (?)
GE / IUCN Red List (?)
Not Evaluated Data Deficient Least Concern Near Threatened Vulnerable Endangered Critically Endangered Extinct in the Wild Extinct


The species found in the Mikea Forest of southwest Madagascar.

Habitat and Ecology

This species is found in dry areas of spiny, deciduous forest. This area has erratic and low levels of rainfall. These birds construct nests from bark and intertwined twigs, which are placed in bushes a few metres above the ground. They breed all year round, but tend to nest between November and January. They forage for arthropods, fruits and seeds.

Find out more

This wordcloud illustrates the threats facing this species. The size of each word indicates the extent of a species range that is affected by that threat (larger size means a greater area is affected). The colour of the word indicates how much that threat impacts the species (darker shades of red mean the threat is more severe).

Habitat change Other weather Crops Hunting Logging Invasive species

Threat wordcloud key:

Small area affected
Large area affected
Least severe
Most severe
Severity unknown
Source: The IUCN List of Threatened Species. Version 2017.1.
Available at: