As far as birding destinations go, nothing comes close to the thriving bird population in Papua New Guinea. Acclaimed as a birdwatcher’s paradise, the country has alluring and intriguing bird species.
Nature lovers were particularly inspired by the beautiful documentary by Sir David Attenborough that showcased the birds of paradise in Papua New Guinea. After its release, the country soon rose to a flourishing spot for its a wide variety of birds.
Along with diverse cultures, Papua New Guinea is an incredible destination to observe its avifauna. Due to the lack of predatory animals, birds are spread all across the country’s lush forests, fertile highlands, and tropical islands.
There are several reasons for the growing population of birds in the country. One factor that contributes is the large area of pristine forests which are deemed crucial for the survival of many birds. Additionally, the high mountain ranges act as a safe haven for birds. Ecosystems at such higher elevations look after their food needs as well as keep the hunters at bay.
Due to varied habitats, the country is home to more than 800 species of birds including around 400 endemics. Moreover, approximately 43 species of birds of paradise are found in Papua New Guinea.
Painted in rich colors and exhibiting gorgeous features, birds in this country are bound to offer a tour full of sensory overload.
Find out how you can enjoy an excellent birding tour in beautiful Papua New Guinea.
What species of birds live in Papua New Guinea?
Papua New Guinea has a plethora of unique birds including the birds of paradise species. Here are some notable birds to watch out for in Papua New Guinea:
Black honey buzzard
Black honey buzzard is a bird of prey and inhabits the tropical or subtropical lowland forest and mountains. They are recognized by their entirely black plumage with visible white bands on their tail feathers and flight.
Due to habitat loss, they are regarded as vulnerable but are easily spotted while flying due to their white band.
Victoria crowned pigeon
Out of the 40 species of pigeons found in Papua New Guinea, the dazzling Victoria crowned pigeon is the most popular.
It is a ground-dwelling bird with distinguishable blue and white crests as well as red irises. They are generally found in swamp forests or sea-level lowlands.
Raggiana bird of paradise
Raggiana bird of paradise is the national bird of Papua New Guinea, even included on the country’s national flag. Raggiana is widely distributed in the tropical forests of the north and northeast regions.
The bird’s plumage ranges from shades of maroon to brown with pale blue bill and light brown feet. Male Raggiana bird of paradise appear more majestic than females and display spectacular courtships rituals.
Found in the hills and mountainous rainforests of Papua New Guinea, these parrots are large birds. They have black plumage, red belly, and grey scalloped feathers. Due to their long and hooked bill, they are sometimes referred to as vulturine parrots.
As a result of overhunting and habitat loss, they are considered to be vulnerable. Pesquet’s parrots are generally spotted in pairs of up to twenty birds. This makes make them much more noticeable than other elusive birds in the country.
Ribbon tailed astrapia
One of the most striking out of all the species of birds of paradise is Ribbon-tailed astrapia. Also known as Shawn Mayer’s astrapia, it is distributed and endemic to the central highlands and subalpine forests of Papua New Guinea.
Unlike colorful males, the females have a dull plumage and short tail. One of the distinct features of a male ribbon-tailed astrapia is that they are adorned with an ornamental ball plume above its bill. A male ribbon-tailed astrapia also has the longest tail feather, over thrice the length of its body.
This species of bird is newly discovered in the birds of paradise classification.
What are the tops spots to see birds in Papua New Guinea?
The capital Port Moresby alone is home to 400 species of various birds. One of the main spots in the port is the Sogeri plateau in Varirata national park. Here you can find the Dwarf Cassowary, Eastern Riflebird, Wallace’s Fairy-wren, and more.
Moreover, the Raggiana birds of paradise can be spotted in the upland forests in this region.
Sepik is the longest river in Papua New Guinea, stretching at 1200 km. This river offers impressive wetland birding opportunities, mostly accessible by zodiac or motorized canoes.
Following channels and tributaries, the middle Sepik River also exhibits the crocodile worshiping communities. As for birds, herons, egrets, and kites along with exotic birds like hornbills can be seen. Across the river, you can catch sight of an array of parrots, pigeons, doves, cockatoos, and lorikeets.
The surrounding lowland forests in the Sepik region give access to the amazing Twelve-Wired bird of paradise.
The fertile highland region is covered by dense forests and is hard to reach. However, it has the most breath-taking population of birds of paradise.
For starters, Southern highlands boasts myriad species of parrots, cassowaries, and 13 local species of birds of paradise. Some of them include the King of Saxony bird of paradise and the Blue bird of paradise.
Mount Hagen is an entryway to the wild western highlands and another destination for exceptional birding. Notable species spotted here are Loire’s Satin bird, Crested berrypeckers, and Brehm’s tiger parrot.
New Britain is a huge island province and is located northeast of the mainland. Here, the absence of birds of paradise is made up by a staggering population of other vibrant species. Exotic kingfishers, pigeons, purple-bellied lorries, and Brahminy kites are commonly spotted.
The rainforests around Kimbe, a particular hotspot on the island, are home to the highly localized endemic owl, the New Britain boobook.
Kiunga and Tabulil
The western province of Papua New Guinea amounts to at least 50% of total birdlife. Kiunga is a lowland rainforest and is situated west of the country while Tabulil is an area in the foothills of the Star Mountains. Both spots are the main access points for adventurous journeys leading into the dense lowland forests.
Although remote, boat trips in Kiunga and Tabulil on the Fly River opens up the chances to see around 300 bird species.
The prominent are the King bird of paradise, blue jewel blabber, flame bower head, common paradise kingfisher, and Palm Cockatoo.
When is the best time to go bird watching in Papua New Guinea
The birds in Papua New Guinea are not migratory and thus, can be seen at any time of the year. But if you are seeking comfortable conditions and a drier environment, April to October offers the best visibility.
Since Papua New Guinea is not a mainstream destination, birding here is almost impossible to do alone. To keep this in mind, several cultural and birding trips run from late July to September. Meanwhile, small ship cruises start in October, at the end of the dry season.
With a vast population of birds found in Papua New Guinea, it is one of the top places to observe and appreciate the unique birds. A birding tour in this country not only exposes its colorful avifauna but offers an unforgettable experience altogether.
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