New 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 group.

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.

New 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 tour.

1 - 8 August 2006

Day One
August 1 2006
Day one August 1
Noumea/Tontouta area

After 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 next morning.
Overnight: Mont Dore

Day Two
August 2
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 am.

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

Day Three
3 August
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 cheese.
Accommodation: Mont Koghi auberge

Day Four
4 August
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 horned parakeet.
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

Day Five
5 August
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 grassbird.

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

Day Six
6 August
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.
Overnight: Noumea

Day Seven
7 August
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.
Overnight: Noumea

Day Eight
8 August
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 August.

Cost: $4,950 AUD (twin share) per person

Single supplement: $487.60 (35,350 XPF / 72.5 cents)

Cost 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.

Accommodation outside the tour timeframe can be arranged through, Arc en ciel, our inbound operators,

Tour leaders: Philip Maher & Patricia Maher

Limited to 6 participants

see 2005 trip list

trip information