Papua New Guinea Highlights Jul 09—22, 2017

Posted by Dion Hobcroft


Dion Hobcroft

Dion Hobcroft has been working for VENT since 2001. He has led many tours (more than 170) to Australia, New Guinea, New Zealand, Bhutan, Indonesia, India, China, Southwest ...

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We were back in the fascinating country of Papua New Guinea to indulge in the fantastic birding this remote country offers. There is no place quite like it and, while at times a bit challenging to find the birds, the rewards are immense. Including West New Britain, we recorded 334 species of birds. Here is an account of our adventures in the land of birds-of-paradise.  

With “all of the termites holding hands,” we checked in, took off, cleared immigration on two borders (Australia and PNG), and transferred to the hotel and checked in, so that we had a few spare hours in the afternoon to visit the grounds of the Pacific Adventist University close to the city of Port Moresby.

Raggiana Bird-of-Paradise

Raggiana Bird-of-Paradise— Photo: Dion Hobcroft


We started by examining the avenue bower of the Fawn-breasted Bowerbird, a remarkable construction of sticks with a central avenue oriented exactly east-west. The owner of the bower churred at us and gave some decent scope views. As we explored through the grounds, we tallied a respectable 49 species with highlights including Rajah Shelduck, Plumed Whistling-Duck, Australian Gray Teal (quite rare in PNG), Straw-necked Ibis, superb views of Orange-fronted Fruit-Dove, Papuan Frogmouth, and Red-cheeked Parrot. In a flock of the endemic Gray-headed Munia we found a couple of the much scarcer Chestnut-breasted Munia. Another luminary was a glowing male Painted Turtle.

The next morning we were into the hill forests of Varirata National Park. A howling gale did not help our cause, and as branches and trees fell around us, it looked like “a hard day in the office.” After an initial rush at a fruiting fig tree that turned up the poisonous Hooded Pitohui, a Pink-spotted Fruit-Dove, and both Boyer’s and Yellow-eyed cuckoo-shrikes, the birds all but evaporated. The jet stream roared through the display area of the Raggiana Bird-of-Paradise, and not a single bird was present. For nearly two hours we hardly saw a thing, and then the day gathered momentum. The ice-breaker was actually a mammal, a Southern Gray Cuscus, an arboreal marsupial we spotted with its head sticking up out of a Eucalyptus tree hollow. Then a Barred Owlet-nightjar (looking rather like a marsupial) projected its be-whiskered head from another tree hollow.

Read Dion’s full report in his Field List.