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 became a flourishing spot for its wide variety of birds.
Along with its 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 colours 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 Bird of Paradise species. Here are some notable birds to watch out for in Papua New Guinea:
Black honey buzzard
The black honey buzzard is a bird of prey and inhabits tropical or subtropical lowland forests and mountains. They are recognised by their entirely black plumage with visible white bands on their tail feathers and wings.
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
The Raggiana bird of paradise is the national bird of Papua New Guinea and is 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 a pale blue bill and light brown feet. Male Raggiana birds of paradise appear more majestic than females and display spectacular courtship rituals.
Found in the hills and mountainous rainforests of Papua New Guinea, these parrots are large birds. They have black plumage, a 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 them much more noticeable than other elusive birds in the country.
Ribbon tailed astrapia
One of the most striking of all the species of birds of paradise is the 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 the colourful males, the females have dull plumage and short tails. One of the distinct features of a male ribbon-tailed astrapia is that it is adorned with an ornamental ball plume above its bill. A male ribbon-tailed astrapia also has the longest tail feather, over three times the length of its body.
This species of bird is newly discovered in the Birds of Paradise classification.
What are the top 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 of this region.
Sepik is the longest river in Papua New Guinea, stretching 1200 km. This river offers impressive wetland birding opportunities, mostly accessible by zodiac or motorised canoes.
Following channels and tributaries, the middle Sepik River also exhibits crocodile-worshipping 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 breathtaking population of birds of paradise.
For starters, the Southern Highlands boast myriad species of parrots, cassowaries, and 13 local species of birds of paradise. Some of them include the King of Saxony’s 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 that is located northeast of the mainland. Here, the absence of birds of paradise is made up of 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 localised endemic owl, the New Britain boobook.
Kiunga and Tabulil
The western province of Papua New Guinea accounts for at least 50% of total bird life. 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 open up the chance to see around 300 bird species.
The most prominent ones 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 offer 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 colourful avifauna but also offers an unforgettable experience.
If you loved reading this story, then subscribe to our blog here (it will ask to verify your email) to get inspiring travel stories and trivia delivered to your email. Stories about wildlife trivia, cultural experiences, curated luxury hotel lists, underrated places to travel, polar journeys and much more.
The content team at Wild Voyager. We are passionate to bring you travel stories and unique experiences from around the world. Spread the love and feel free to share these stories.