Where to watch birds and wildlife in
A fabulous Raggiana Bird-of-paradise in its display tree at Varirata National Park by
PAPUA NEW GUINEA
- Birds-of-paradise - the most amazing birds in the world
- With bone china blue wings and a shimmering shield (Blue), long, silky white tail
streamers (Ribbon-tailed Astrapia), shivering thick red and yellow plumes (Raggiana, Greater and Lesser),
candyfloss-yellow plumes and tail-wires (Twelve-wired), and extraordinary long head-pennants (King-of-Saxony)
- As well as Black and Brown Sicklebills, Princess Stephanie's Astrapia, parotias,
Short-tailed Paradigalla, manucodes and Crested Satinbird (a former bird-of-paradise)
- Bowerbirds, including Flame Bowerbird, possibly the brightest bird on Earth, with bowers
and 'gardens' meticulously designed and tended by males, to impress females
- Endemic monotypic bird families (those with just one species); Blue-capped Ifrita, Wattled Ploughbill and Mottled
- And many of the island of New Guinea's other spectacular birds including Palm Cockatoo,
Southern Crowned Pigeon, Blyth's Hornbill and Rufous-bellied Kookaburra
- All along with some of the richest coral reefs in the world
A beautiful male Blue Bird-of-paradise in a 'garden' in the Tari Valley,
by Paul Macklam.
Best Birds and other wildlife in Papua New Guinea
38 of the 43 birds-of-paradise with over 20 possible on the standard circuit including Blue Bird-of-paradise,
Ribbon-tailed Astrapia, Raggiana, Greater, Lesser, King, Twelve-wired, King-of-Saxony, Magnificent and Superb Birds-of-paradise,
Black and Brown Sicklebills, Princess Stephanie's Astrapia, Carola's and Lawes's Parotias, Magnificent (and Eastern/Growling)
Riflebird(s), Short-tailed Paradigalla and manucodes. Over 75 species endemic to Papua New Guinea with many more endemic to mainland New Guinea and
the offshore islands. Other birds apart from birds-of-paradise include Lesser Melampitta, Crested and Loria's Satinbirds, bowerbirds including
Flame, Palm Cockatoo, Southern and Victoria Crowned Pigeons, Blue-capped Ifrita (the sole member of a monotypic family), Wattled Ploughbill
(the sole member of a monotypic family), Mottled Berryhunter (previously Mottled Whistler now considered to
be the sole member of a monotypic family, the Rhagologidae, by the IOC), Rufous-naped Whistler (now Rufous-naped Bellbird, in the
Australian-Papuan Bellbird family with Crested Pitohui which also occurs in Papua New Guinea and Crested Bellbird of Australia),
Blyth's Hornbill, Rufous-bellied Kookaburra, Painted Quail Thrush, Torrent Lark, Lesser Frigatebird and
White-bellied Sea Eagle, as well as Salvadori's Teal, Oriental Darter, Pied Heron, Brahminy Kite, New Guinea Eagle, Black-mantled
Goshawk, Masked Lapwing, Comb-crested Jacana, Australian Pratincole, cuckoo doves, fruit doves, imperial pigeons, Sulphur-crested
Cockatoo, lories, lorikeets, pygmy parrots, tiger parrots, Eclectus, Papuan King and Pesquet's Parrots, Channel-billed Cuckoo,
Australasian Grass Owl, Greater Sooty Owl, owlet nightjars, Marbled and Papuan Frogmouths, Moustached Treeswift, Blue-winged and
Shovel-billed Kookaburras, Yellow-billed Kingfisher, paradise kingfishers, Rainbow Bee-eater, Dollarbird, Hooded and
Red-bellied Pittas, fairywrens, honeyeaters, New Guinea Logrunner, Fan-tailed, Tit and Crested Berrypeckers,
Black-breasted and Yellow-breasted Boatbills, Great Woodswallow, Lowland and Mountain Peltops, butcherbirds, cuckoo shrikes
including Golden, Black Sittella, whistlers including Dwarf and Regent, pitohuis including Hooded, fantails, monarchs
including Frilled and Golden, robins including Garnet and Grey-headed (Ashy), Torrent Flycatcher,
Island Thrush, Golden and Yellow-faced Mynas, Blue-faced and Papuan Parrotfinches, and munias. Also a chance of
Buff-tailed Sicklebill, Greater Melampitta, Blue, Chestnut-backed and Spotted Jewel Babblers, Black-billed Brush Turkey,
Spotted Whistling Duck, Great-billed Heron, Chestnut and Forbes's Forest Rails, White-browed Crake, Dusky Woodcock,
Pheasant Pigeon, Mountain Kingfisher, Papuan Whipbird, and Spotted and White-eared Catbirds. Also present, off the
usual circuit, at Bensbach in the Trans-Fly region, are Brolga Crane, Black-necked Stork, Wedge-tailed Eagle,
Australasian Bustard and Spangled Kookaburra, while seabirds present around New Ireland include White-tailed
Tropicbird, White Tern and Red-footed Booby.
Speckled Dasyure and Agile Wallaby. Also a chance of Silky Cuscus, Striped Possum,
Coppery Ringtail and Long-fingered Triok.
Reptiles, Amphibians and Fish
Some of the richest coral reefs on Earth, with 900 fish
species around Walindi Dive Resort in Kimbe Bay, New Britain, for example.
Hundreds of butterflies and moths including Hercules Moth, one of the
largest moths in the world, and Queen Alexandra's Birdwing, the largest butterfly in the world, which, unfortunately,
rarely casts shadows over the Popondetta Plain in northern Papua New Guinea, off the usual, well worn, circuits.
Best Sites for Birds and other wildlife in Papua New Guinea
- Port Moresby Area
- Port Moresby Area Pied Heron, Comb-crested Jacana, Torresian Imperial-Pigeon, Papuan
Frogmouth, Blue-winged Kookaburra and Black-backed Butcherbird. Also a chance of Spotted Whistling Duck and
- Brown River A chance of Black-billed Brush Turkey, Greater Black Coucal, Cinnamon Ground
Dove, Buff-faced Pygmy Parrot, Common Paradise Kingfisher, Blue Jewel Babbler, Emperor Fairywren and King Bird-of-paradise.
- Varirata NP Raggiana Bird-of-paradise (display site), Magnificent Riflebird,
Rufous-bellied Kookaburra, Painted Quail Thrush, Barred Owlet Nightjar, Marbled Frogmouth, Yellow-billed Kingfisher,
Brown-headed Paradise Kingfisher, Red-bellied Pitta, Yellow-breasted Boatbill and Frilled Monarch. Also a chance of
Crinkle-collared Manucode, Black-billed Brush Turkey, Pheasant Pigeon, Chestnut-backed Jewel Babbler, Dwarf Whistler,
White-eared Catbird and Wallace's Fairywren.
- Kiunga-Tabubil Area
- KM 27 out of Kiunga Greater and Raggiana Birds-of-paradise (both at display site),
Trumpet Manucode and Rufous-bellied Kookaburra. Also a chance of Blue Jewel Babbler.
- Boystown Road near Kiunga Flame Bowerbird and Palm Cockatoo. Also a chance of Blue
- Fly and Elevala Rivers out of Kiunga King and Twelve-wired Birds-of-paradise (both at
display sites), Glossy-mantled Manucode, Palm Cockatoo, Southern Crowned Pigeon, Blyth's Hornbill, Rufous-bellied
Kookaburra, White-bellied Sea Eagle, Channel-billed Cuckoo, Common and Little Paradise Kingfishers, and Hooded and
Red-bellied Pittas. Also a chance of Flame Bowerbird (at bowers), Forest Bittern, Black-billed Brush Turkey,
Great-billed Heron, Pesquet's Parrot, Spangled/Starry (Kwatu) and Wallace's (Kwatu) Owlet Nightjars, Blue Jewel
Babbler, Spotted Catbird and Emperor Fairywren.
- Dablin Creek, Tabubil Magnificent Bird-of-paradise, Carola's Parotia, Dwarf Whistler
and Obscure Berrypecker. Also a chance of Torrent Lark.
- Ok Ma Road, Tabubil Magnificent Riflebird, Crinkle-collared Manucode, Palm Cockatoo
and Shovel-billed Kookaburra. Also a chance of Greater Melampitta and Chestnut-backed Jewel Babbler.
- Ok Menga, Tabubil Salvadori's Teal and Torrent Flycatcher. Also a chance of Torrent
A fantastic male Ribbon-tailed Astrapia in the Tari Valley above Ambua Lodge by
Mark Harper. There are still, relatively,
quite a lot of Ribbon-tailed Astrapias in the Tari Valley but adult males with full tails like this are few and far
- Central Highlands
- Kumul Lodge and Area The lodge's legendary bird table attracts several otherwise shy and
skulking birds difficult to see in the forest including Ribbon-tailed Astrapia and Brown Sicklebill (usually females
but sometimes the rarely seen male), while in the grounds and nearby it is also possible to see Blue Bird-of-paradise
(at Tonga, 30 minutes away by road), King-of-Saxony Bird-of-paradise, Lesser Bird-of-paradise (display site at Kama,
Minamba Valley, 1.5 hours away by road), Superb Bird-of-paradise, Ribbon-tailed Astrapia, Brown Sicklebill, Crested
Satinbird (there is usually a male in or near the grounds), Loria's Satinbird, Lesser Melampitta, Sanford's and
Yellow-breasted (Minamba Valley) Bowerbirds, Wattled Ploughbill, Blue-capped Ifrita, Torrent Lark (Lai River near
Lesser Bird-of-paradise site), Brehm's Tiger Parrot, Mountain Owlet Nightjar, Crested and Fan-tailed Berrypeckers,
Black-breasted Boatbill, Regent Whistler, Torrent Flycatcher (Lai River) and Island Thrush. Also a chance of Chestnut
Forest Rail and Dusky Woodcock.
- Rondon Ridge King-of-Saxony and Superb Birds-of-paradise, Princess Stephanie's Astrapia, Black
and Brown Sicklebills, MacGregor's and Yellow-breasted Bowerbirds, Lesser Melampitta, Wattled Ploughbill and Blue-capped
Ifrita. Also a chance of Orange-crowned Fairywren, Loria's Satinbird, Blue Bird-of-paradise, Papuan Parrotfinch and Silky
- Tari Valley including Ambua Lodge Blue, King-of-Saxony and Superb Birds-of-paradise,
Ribbon-tailed and Princess Stephanie's Astrapias, Black and Brown Sicklebills, Lawes's Parotia, Short-tailed Paradigalla,
Loria's Satinbird, Lesser Melampitta, Wattled Ploughbill, Papuan King Parrot, Australasian Grass and Greater Sooty Owls,
New Guinea Logrunner, Fan-tailed, Tit and Crested Berrypeckers, Black-breasted Boatbill, Great Woodswallow, Regent Whistler,
Mottled Berryhunter and Blue-capped Ifrita. Also a chance of Buff-tailed Sicklebill, Torrent Lark, New Guinea Eagle, Chestnut
and Forbes's Forest Rails, Feline Owlet Nightjar, Papuan Whipbird, Spotted Jewel Babbler, Garnet and Grey-headed Robins,
Spotted Berrypecker and Hercules Moth, as well as Striped Possum, Coppery Ringtail and Long-fingered Triok.
- Off the Standard Circuit
- Kokada Trail (a 96-km-long hiking trail/track) Raggiana Bird-of-paradise (several stands of trees used for displaying),
Magnificent Bird-of-paradise (display court at Isurava), Eastern Parotia (display court at Isurava), Lawes's Parotia (display court at Brigade Hill),
Brown Sicklebill and Princess Stephanie's Astrapia. Also a chance of Chestnut-shouldered Goshawk, Pheasant Pigeon and Bronze Ground Dove.
- Karawari Lodge and Area King and Twelve-wired Birds-of-paradise (both at display sites),
Jobi Manucode, Palm Cockatoo, Victoria Crowned Pigeon, Blyth's Hornbill, White-bellied Sea Eagle, and Great-billed and
Pied Herons. Also a chance of New Guinea Scrubfowl and New Guinea Eagle.
Displaying male Emperor Birds-of-paradise at Gatop on the Huon Peninsula by
- Keki Lodge, Adelbert Range Fire-maned Bowerbird, Tan-capped (White-eared) Catbird, Red-legged (Brown-collared) Brush
Turkey, Victoria Crowned Pigeon, Cinnamon Ground Dove, Pesquet's Parrot, Dwarf Koel, Dimorphic (Brown-capped) Jewel Babbler, Forest Meliphaga, and
Lesser (display trees) and Magnificent (display court) Birds-of-paradise.
- Crater Mountain NP Yellow-breasted Satinbird.
- Madang, Milne Bay, Tufi and Port Moresby Area Top scuba-diving and snorkeling sites.
- Huon Peninsula Emperor Bird-of-paradise, Huon Astrapia, Wahne's Parotia and Pesquet's
- Bensbach Spangled Kookaburra, Fly River Grassbird, and Black and Grey-crowned Mannikins.
- Bismarck Archipelago
- New Britain Over half of the archipelago's 50+ endemics including Blue-eyed Cockatoo, Golden Masked Owl, New Britain
(White-mantled) Kingfisher and Black-headed (Buff-breasted) Paradise Kingfisher, as well as Lesser and Great Frigatebirds, Black-naped Tern, Nicobar
Pigeon (Malu Malu and Restorf Islands), Beach Kingfisher and Mangrove Golden Whistler, and superb scuba-diving and snorkeling (900 fish species). Also
a chance of Heinroth's Shearwater. Should the highlands of New Britain become accessible and that looked possible in 2019 there is a chance of seeing
additional birds such as New Britain Goshawk, New Britain Thicketbird (not seen since its discovery in 1949), Gilliard’s Melidectes and Black-backed
Thrush (a subspecies which may be a separate species), as well as Red-chinned Lorikeet, Black Imperial Pigeon, Rusty Thicketbird and Bismark Fantail.
Other specialties hard to see in the lowlands include New Britain Sparrowhawk, Slaty-mantled Goshawk and Yellow-legged Pigeon, and there is even an
outside chance of Pink-legged Rail and Bismarck Pitta.
- New Ireland Nearly half of the archipelago's 50+ endemics including 9 island endemics and 14 shared with New Britain
including Paradise (Ribbon-tailed) Drongo.
- Tench Island Lesser and Great Frigatebirds, White-tailed Tropicbird, White Tern, Red-footed Booby, Black and Brown Noddies,
Nicobar Pigeon and Atoll Starling. Also a chance of other seabirds to and from the island and elsewhere in the archipelago including Bulwer's and Tahiti
Petrels, Heinroth's, Streaked and Wedge-tailed Shearwaters, and Black-naped Tern, as well as Melon-headed Whale and Spinner Dolphin.
- Mussau Island Mussau Fantail, Mussau Triller and White-breasted Monarch.
- Manus Island 8 endemics including Superb Pitta.
- D'Entrecasteaux Islands
- Fergusson and Normanby Islands Goldie's Bird-of-paradise and Curl-crested Manucode.
- Louisiade Archipelago
- Misima and Sudest Islands Islet (Collared) Kingfisher, Tagula Butcherbird, Tagula Meliphaga, Louisiade and Tagula White-eyes,
White-chinned Myzomela, Louisiade Whistler and Louisiade Flowerpecker, as well as local forms of Glossy-mantled Manucode (possibly a separate species),
Double-eyed Fig Parrot, White-bellied Whistler, Little Shrike Thrush, Spectacled Monarch and Common Cicadabird.
- Rossel Island Also a chance of Rossel (Common) Paradise Kingfisher and Louisiade (Red-bellied) Pitta.
- This island, which lies between the Bismarck Archipelago and the Solomon Islands east of New Guinea, is politically part of Papua New Guinea but
ecologically more like the Solomon Islands. It supports Bougainville Bush Warbler, Bougainville Thicketbird, Bougainville Crow, Bougainville Whistler,
Bougainville Honeyeater and Bougainville Monarch, as well as Sanford’s Sea Eagle, Woodford’s Rail (an endemic race), Duchess Lorikeet, Fearful Owl,
Moustached Kingfisher and White-eyed Starling, and other specialties such as Imitator Goshawk, Pale Mountain Pigeon, Meek’s Lorikeet, Black-backed Thrush
and Brown Fantail.
Best Times for Birds and other wildlife in Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea has a warm, wet equatorial climate and rain falls year round in the highlands, but there is a dry
season in the lowlands which usually lasts from May to September and this is the best time to go, with July arguably
being the best month. The best scuba-diving and snorkeling conditions overlap with both ends of this season; from
April to June and from September to November. The average temperature in the lowlands from May to September is a hot
and sticky 28°C or so but it is cooler and more pleasant in the highlands, usually around 20°C. Long-sleeved shirts,
a hat and repellants for chiggers and mosquitoes are recommended.
Recommended Bird Books etc. for Papua New Guinea
Birds of New Guinea by P Gregory. Lynx Edicions, 2017.
Birds of New Guinea by T K Pratt and B M Beehler. PUP, 2014 (Second Edition).
Birds of New Guinea by B M Beehler et al. PUP, 1986 (First Edition but arguably better than the Second).
Birds of New Guinea and the Bismarck Archipelago: Photographic Guide by B Coates. Dove Publications, 2001.
Birding Indonesia edited by P Jepson and R Ounsted. Periplus Editions, 1997.
Mammals of New Guinea by T Flannery. Cornell University Press, 1995 (Revised Edition).
Where to watch birds in Australasia & Oceania by N Wheatley. Helm, 1998.
Don’t know which country/countries/regions to visit in Australasia? Then it may be worth considering taking a look
at this book, written by this website’s author. It is many years old of course but it still provides a starting point, an overview and a guiding
light to the best birds and the best places to look for them in the region, and could save hours of searching for similar information on the
internet. However, it is important to check more up-to-date sources for sites which have been opened up, sites and species which have been
discovered, lodges that have been built etc. since the book was published.
Birding and Wildlife Trip Reports for Papua New Guinea
Many trip reports, some for Papua New Guinea, are posted on the websites listed here. On some of these
websites some reports are independent and some are posted by tour companies who organize tours to
Papua New Guinea. These tour companies and others also post their own reports on their websites,
which are listed under 'Some Organized Tours to Papua New Guinea' below.
Local bird and wildlife guides in Papua New Guinea
The costs of organized tours partly reflect the quality of the tour leaders.
Some leaders are certainly better than others and many companies claim their leaders are
the best but even the best rely at least to some extent on the exceptional
skills of the local guides they employ. If you are travelling independently,
employing such local guides will greatly increase your chances of seeing the
wildlife you wish to see.
- Trans Niugini Tours
- Trans Niugini Tours (TNT) is Papua New Guinea’s leading inbound tour operator, owning
six wilderness lodges in Papua New Guinea. At each of TNTs' lodges are comprehensive
cultural or birding programs. With over 30 years of operating in PNG, you can be assured
of a consistently high service while with TNTs.
Accommodation for birders in Papua New Guinea
Some Organized Tours for birds and other wildlife to Papua New Guinea
There are many tour companies who organize tours to see mammals, birds, other
wildlife and other natural wonders. The cost of these tours vary considerably
according to such variables as the airlines used, the number of days the tours
last, the number of sites visited, the number of people in the group (an
important consideration if you wish to see such wildlife as rainforest mammals
and birds), the number of tour leaders, the standard of accommodation and
transport, and the percentage profit the company hopes to make. Generally, where
the number of days tours last and the number of sites visited are similar, the
cheapest tours are those that use the cheapest airlines, accommodation and local
transport, that have the largest groups with the least number of leaders, and
that make the least amount of profit. The most expensive tours tend to be those
which are exceptionally long, use the most expensive accommodation (ridiculously
lavish in some cases, even for single nights) and which make the most profit.
Some tour costs partly reflect the quality of the tour leaders. Some leaders are
certainly better than others and many companies claim their leaders are
the best but even the best rely at least to some extent on the exceptional
skills of the local guides they employ.
While tour companies organize tours with set itineraries many also organize custom
tours for individuals and private groups who instead of taking a tour with a set
itinerary want to follow their own itinerary to suit their own personal tastes,
whether it be mammals, birds, other wildlife, other natural wonders or even man-made
attractions, or a mixture of them all. Many organized tours with set itineraries are
also fast-paced and target as many species as possible, whether they are mammals, birds
or other wildlife or everything, which usually leaves little time to enjoy the best
sites and individual species, but on a custom tour those taking part can specify the
pace and the sites and species they wish to concentrate on. Custom tours also suit
people who like to travel with people they already know, rather than with a group of
strangers, and people with partners with different interests. Individuals and small
groups will almost certainly have to pay more than the price of an organized tour with
a set itinerary but a large group of friends may be able to travel for less than the
price quoted for a set tour.
Tour companies who run organized tours or can arrange custom tours to Papua New Guinea
include the following.