Caledonia Birding Tour
1 - 8 August 2006
This is a fully accommodated, comprehensive
birding tour to New Caledonia designed to seek all the endemic and near-endemic
species on the main island (Grand Terre) and nearby islands of the Loyalty
New Caledonia is in the southwest Pacific, about 2000 km NE of Sydney.
The capital, Noumea, sits just above the Tropic of Capricorn. It is
said to have the richest biodiversity per square kilometre in the world.
The highlight of New Caledonian birds is the kagu, which like
the plains-wanderer is the sole member of its family. Other species
of note are the white-bellied goshawk, horned parakeet, Ouvéa
parakeet, metallic pigeon, cloven-feathered dove, New Caledonian imperial
pigeon, red-bellied fruit-dove, six species of honeyeater including
the spectacular crow honeyeater, yellow-bellied robin, New Caledonian
whistler, southern shrikebill, New Caledonian grassbird, New Caledonian
crow, New Caledonian myzomela, large and small Lifou white-eyes, striated
starling and red-throated parrotfinch.
Caledonia is French territory. The surprising thing, given its close
proximity to Australia and distance from France, is how overwhelmingly
French the island is. Little English is spoken away from the tourist
hot spots. Food is good - the cheese and pate and wine fabulous. Having
said that, the Kanak culture is evident everywhere but most notably
on Lifou and Ouvéa Islamds and adds another dimension to this
- 8 August 2006
August 1 2006
Day one August 1
breakfasting on croissants and quite decent French pastries, we'll head
out to start our birding adventure around Noumea. First stop will be
a small wetland and then we'll venture further afield to some riverine
habitat. Here we could see some of the more common birds such as the
vocal dark brown honeyeater, fantail gerygone, green-backed
white-eye, striated starling and glossy swiftlet.
We could also see New Caledonian crow, so much nicer than any
of our corvids; plus New Caledonian flycatcher and Melanesian
cuckoo-shrike. We then travel back to Mont Dore on the eastern side
of Noumea, ready for our assignment at Parc Riviere Bleue early the
Overnight: Mont Dore
Mont Dore to Parc Riviere Bleue
Riviere Blue is our destination this morning where we hope to see the
pièce de résistance of the New Caledonian birds - the
enigmatic kagu, New Caledonia's powder grey national avian emblem.
This reserve of 9000 hectares contains a good population of kagu as
well as most of the other endemics or near-endemics to be found on New
Caledonia. The rangers at Riviere Bleue have been instrumental in the
much-improved status of Kagu. We will meet Yves or Jean-Marc at 7.00
There are three other must-see species in the park. These are the very
difficult crow honeyeater one of the largest honeyeaters
in the world, resembling a giant, black regent honeyeater; plus the
unusual New Caledonian cuckoo-shrike and the southern
shrikebill. These four species are near impossible anywhere else
in New Caledonia and we will be pulling out all stops in our attempt
to see them. (We saw all four in 2005 and three of the four in 2004
- dipping on crow honeyeater). The park is also the stronghold for the
Notua, the New Caledonian imperial-pigeon, reputedly the
largest arboreal pigeon in the world and without question, a goliath,
as its Latin name denotes. After a hard day in the field, we'll travel
back to Mont Dore.
Overnight: Mont Dore
Mont Dore to Parc Riviere Bleue to Mont Koghi
Other species we'll be on the lookout for in Parc Riviere Bleue will
be the delightful horned parakeet, New Caledonian parakeet,
New Caledonian friarbird, New Caledonian myzomela,
barred honeyeater, streaked fantail, yellow-bellied
robin and the distinctive New Caledonian whistler.
Parc Riviere Bleue also contains much of the indigenous flora of New
Caledonia, which includes rainforest trees such as giant kauri. The
park also contains large areas of heathland where we'll see plants familiar
to us, such as acacias and grevilleas. There is a spectacular pink-flowered
grevillea, a favourite of barred honeyeaters. There is also a
stunning red-flowered creeping mistletoe.
In the afternoon we'll venture up Monts Koghi to our chalet nestled
in a delighting forest setting. Paradoxically, given we on a tropical
island, the auberge gives more than a passing nod to the Haute Savoie
region of France with its ski paraphernalia, cheery log fires and raclette
Accommodation: Mont Koghi auberge
Those awake early should hear the Morse-code-like call of the Notou
(New Caledonian imperial-pigeon) as it heralds another dawn.
Other good birds to watch for here are New Caledonian goshawk,
New Caledonian whistler, New Caledonian flycatcher and
Before lunch we'll set off in a northerly direction for La Foa. After
checking into our quaint, circular, thatched-roof bungalows, we'll venture
up to the forests near Farina for some of the best birding to be had
in New Caledonia. The ancient forests in this area should also give
us good sightings of many of the endemic or near endemics such as New
Caledonian goshawk, New Caledonian parakeet, horned parakeet,
New Caledonian whistler, long-tailed triller, Melanesian
cuckoo-shrike, striated starling, barred honeyeater
and New Caledonian myzomela. Non-endemics we should see in the
area include buff-banded rail, emerald dove, white-breasted
woodswallow (much darker on the back than ours), grey fantail,
rufous whistler and swamp harrier. However, the raison
d'être for visiting this area is the shy New Caledonian grassbird.
Less timid are the brilliant red-throated parrot-finch, the cloven-feathered
dove and the massive metallic pigeon. New Caledonian
crow is quite common here this is one of the few species
in the world that uses tools in this case, a stick to extract
grubs from wood.
Accommodation: Le Naina Parc Hotel, La Foa
La Fou area to Noumea
This morning we will bird the Fairna area again for another go at, and
better views of, the endemics including the troublesome New Caledonian
In the afternoon we will return to Noumea and depart Magenta airport
for Lifou Island in the Loyalty Group for an overnight stay.
Overnight: Lifou Island
Lifou, which retains much of its natural vegetation, has two endemics
the large and small Lifou white-eyes. The latter
is quite common but the large Lifou white-eye presents more of a challenge.
Other good birds on Lifou are blue-faced parrot-finch, fan-tailed
gerygone, long-tailed triller, cardinal myzomela and
red-bellied fruit-dove. There is also a good chance for Pacific
imperial pigeon. We spend most of the day exploring the island,
returning to Noumea in the evening. Flight departing Lifou 6.50 pm.
We need to be at Magenta Airport: at 7.45 am for an 8.35 am departure.
We fly to Ouvéa Island, also in the Loyalty group, to see the
island's only endemic, the rare Ouvéa Parakeet. This species
has been split from the horned parakeet of Grand Terre and is quite
distinctive. Other species on the island include golden whistler
(distinctive form) and red-bellied fruit-dove, fantail cuckoo,
shining bronze-cuckoo and striated starling. At 4.30 pm
we fly back to Grand Terre.
The tour finishes after breakfast. Participants leaving New Caledonia
will be transferred to Tontouta International Airport for departure.
Tour starts are 8am, 1 August. Participants should arrive prior to 1
$4,950 AUD (twin share) per person
Single supplement: $487.60 (35,350 XPF / 72.5 cents)
includes meals from breakfast on 1 August to breakfast on 8
August; all accommodation from the pe-tour night of 31 August
to and including 7 August, all transportation including flights to Lifou
and Ouvéa islands, park entrance fees, park rangers' fees and
transfers to and from the international airport. The price does not
include the international flight to or from New Caledonia. Also not
included is dinner 31 July (pre-tour evening) or alcohol, mini bar tab,
phone calls, laundry etc.
outside the tour timeframe can be arranged through, Arc en ciel, our
leaders: Philip Maher & Patricia Maher
Limited to 6 participants
see 2005 trip list