New Caledonia May 1-5 2012

Published by Phil Gregory (info AT

Participants: Phil Gregory (Sicklebill Safaris) plus tour participants


Photos with this report (click to enlarge)

New Caledonian Imperial Pigeon
New Caledonian Imperial Pigeon
Yellow-bellied Flyrobin
Yellow-bellied Flyrobin
New Caledonian Whistler
New Caledonian Whistler
New Caledonian Crow
New Caledonian Crow
Cloven-feathered Dove
Cloven-feathered Dove

Another fine trip to this attractive island, a bit of metropolitan France plonked down in the South Pacific, and looking very prosperous these days due to a boom in nickel prices. The weather was changeable but we dodged heavy showers on the first day, had two quite good days, then had really heavy rain on the final day in the north, which made life hard.

Kagu was as always the star turn and this iconic species did not disappoint, with great looks at them in Riviere Bleue, with a supporting cast of Cloven-feathered Dove, New Caledonian Imperial Pigeon, a single Crow Honeyeater, New Caledonian and Horned Parakeet, plus Barred Honeyeater and New Caledonian Cuckooshrike, Southern Shrikebill, Yellow-bellied Flyrobin, New Caledonia Whistler and Red-throated Parrotfinch.

Unexpected birds included Australian Dabchick and Zebra Dove at La Foa, both new colonists here. Farino now has the lovely new Parc des Grandes Fougeres (treeferns) and we had a good visit with lovely looks at Cloven-feathered Dove, New Caledonian Crow and the delightful Red-throated Parrotfinch, though our search for a pair of Kagu with a baby drew a blank. Our quest for the dreaded New Caledonian Grassbird once again drew a blank at Farino, so we ventured north to the Gohapin area, where awful weather really mucked up our chances. A fine consolation prize through was at least 10 distant Tahiti Petrel with Wedge-tailed Shearwater offshore at La Roche Percee near Bourail- we’d seen hundreds of the shearwaters off Anse Vata with no added extras amongst them, so this was lucky here.

My thanks to John for the chance to do an enjoyable short trip, and to Sue Gregory for setting it all up.

Species Lists

Podicipedidae (Grebes)
AUSTRALASIAN GREBE (Tachybaptus novaehollandiae)
An adult with a stripy juvenile was on the small water impoundment north of La Foa, where they seem to be regular now since I found them in 2010. This is a recent colonist from Australia.

Procellariidae (Shearwaters and Petrels)
TAHITI PETREL (Pseudobulweria rostrata)
A neat find was at least 10 off La Roche Percee with the shearwaters, you could see the dark underwing and white belly with the contrasting dark chin and throat.
WEDGE-TAILED SHEARWATER (Puffinus pacificus)
Hundreds off Anse Vata in the afternoon, and about 100 off La Roche Percee.

Phalacrocoracidae (Cormorants and Shags)
LITTLE PIED CORMORANT (Microcarbo melanoleucos)
Just a couple of singles seen off La Roche Percee.
LITTLE BLACK CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax sulcirostris)
One over Yate Lake at Riviere Bleue was unexpected and was my first from this site.

Accipitridae (Hawks, Eagles, and Kites)
WHISTLING KITE (Haliastur sphenurus)
A few at Riviere Bleue, Farino and going north.
SWAMP HARRIER (Circus approximans)
Just a few seen, with a striking male near R. Bleue and odd birds over he route north
BROWN GOSHAWK (Accipiter fasciatus vigilax)
John saw one by the road near Boulouparis.
One fine bird perched up at Riviere Bleue. these can be tricky and this was the only one we saw. The local name of Blue Goshawk is rather nice.

Rallidae (Rails, Gallinules, and Coots)
PURPLE SWAMPHEN (Porphyrio porphyrio samoensis)
Brief views near La Foa, this is one of the Pacific Swamphen group, often split these days.

Rhynochetidae (Kagu)
KAGU (Rhynochetos jubatus)
Fantastic views in Riviere Bleue, we saw 5 birds on the first day with a family group of 4 right by us. Five singles on the second visit were also very confiding, and numbers are good here these days after the very successful recovery program based on feral animal control. A fabulous bird, truly strange, and amazing that it did not go extinct. They are also now in the new Park Des Grandes Fougeres, where we dipped on a pair with a chick.

Laridae (Gulls, Terns, and Skimmers)
SILVER GULL (Chroicocephalus novaehollandiae forsteri)
Small numbers around Noumea.
GREAT CRESTED TERN (Thalasseus bergii cristatus)
A couple off Anse Vata and again at La Roche Percee.

Columbidae (Pigeons and Doves)
I SPOTTED DOVE (Streptopelia chinensis)
Quite common in the city.
PACIFIC EMERALD DOVE (Chalcophaps longirostris)
Note the IOC now split this as Pacific Emerald Dove, as voice and plumage are quite different to Asian birds. We saw one at Riv. Bleue.
I ZEBRA DOVE (Geopelia striata)
A new colonist, from feral birds, John saw them at La Foa.
CLOVEN-FEATHERED DOVE (Drepanoptila holosericea)
Fantastic views of a male at a fruiting tree at Farino, after a flyby at Riviere Bleue, then a couple more later down the track we walked looking for Kagu. A really strange bird, the white fluffy anklets and flat head are very odd and the wings whistle loudly in flight. One of the birds of the trip for sure.
Just a few singles in the humid forests, we got great looks at this very large Ducula in Riviere Bleue and at Farino. It is the largest arboreal pigeon.

Psittacidae (Parrots)
COCONUT (RAINBOW) LORIKEET (Trichoglossus haematodus deplanchii)
Small numbers on the mainland, with some nice views at Farino, they sound shriller than Rainbow Lorikeet but sure look similar.
HORNED PARAKEET (Eunymphicus cornutus)
Great views of two singles at Riviere Bleue, and heard in the main forest next day, this is quite a scarce bird.
NEW CALEDONIAN PARAKEET (Cyanoramphus saissetti)
Another very sparse endemic parakeet, split off from Red-fronted, we saw one very nicely early on at Riviere Bleue.

Cuculidae (Cuckoos)
SHINING BRONZE-CUCKOO (Chrysococcyx lucidus layardi) H
Heard at Riviere Bleue and Phil heard one at Tontouta car park in the rain.

Apodidae (Swifts)
GLOSSY SWIFTLET (Collocalia esculenta albidior)
Common throughout, this taxon has a large white rump as well as a white belly, and is less blue than NG birds.
WHITE-RUMPED SWIFTLET (Aerodramus spodiopygius leucopygius)
I always find these hard to tell from the local Glossy Swiftlets, but those at El Kentara at La Roche Percee looked darker and browner then Glossy with a dingier belly and smaller white rump.

Alcedinidae (Kingfishers)
SACRED KINGFISHER (Todiramphus sanctus canacorum)
A couple of singles.

Meliphagidae (Honeyeaters)
GREY-EARED (DARK-BROWN) HONEYEATER (Lichmera incana incana)
Common, usually the first endemic (though not this trip!), and a surprisingly good songster.
NEW CALEDONIAN MYZOMELA (Myzomela caledonica)
Nice views at Riviere Bleue and at Farino.
NEW CALEDONIAN FRIARBIRD (Philemon diemenensis)
This striking small friarbird showed well in Riviere Bleue and briefly at Gohapin.
CROW HONEYEATER (Gymnomyza aubryana)
This is the rarest bird of the trip and a major find, just a few hundred surviving and terribly vulnerable as the juv. apparently spends some time on the ground! We got a quick look at one coming to red blossoms at the Grand Kaori, the only flowers we saw; this is a major prize.
BARRED HONEYEATER (Phylidonyris undulatus)
John’s first endemic, we had lovely views in the wet heath at Riviere Bleue and then up at Farino, a very striking bird.

Acanthizidae (Thornbills and Allies)
FAN-TAILED GERYGONE (Gerygone flavolateralis flavolateralis)
Nice looks in Riviere Bleue and at Farino and Gohapin. I am sure this was a lifer for you John?

Artamidae (Woodswallows)
WHITE-BREASTED WOODSWALLOW (Artamus leucorynchus melaleucus)
Widespread in small numbers.

Campephagidae (Cuckoo-shrikes)
SOUTH MELANESIAN CUCKOO-SHRIKE (Coracina caledonica caledonica)
Seen nicely at La Foa and Farino, the yellow eye is quite striking.
As usual, the only place we saw this small grey cuckooshrike with the rusty vent was in Riviere Bleue, where we had a group of 3 on the second day.
LONG-TAILED TRILLER (Lalage leucopyga montrosieri)
Good views at Riviere Bleue.

Pachycephalidae (Whistlers and Allies)
NEW CALEDONIAN WHISTLER (Pachycephala caledonica)
Lovely looks at this attractive endemic at Riviere Bleue and Farino.
RUFOUS WHISTLER (Pachycephala rufiventris xanthetraea)
Good views at Riviere Bleue and Farino, it overlaps with the NC Whistler on the forest edge.

Rhipiduridae (Fantails)
GRAY FANTAIL (Rhipidura albiscapa bulgeri)
A few in the forest areas.
STREAKED FANTAIL (Rhipidura spilodera verreauxi)
Fairly common in the forest areas.

Monarchidae (Monarch Flycatchers)
SOUTHERN SHRIKEBILL (Clytorhynchus pachycephaloides pachycephaloides)
Elusive this trip, we tried hard and eventually got great looks at one bird at Riviere Bleue, whilst hearing it at Farino was a new locality for me.
MELANESIAN FLYCATCHER (Myiagra caledonica caledonica)
Lovely views at Riviere Bleue and Farino, they were vocal but wary.

Corvidae (Crows, Jays, and Magpies)
NEW CALEDONIAN CROW (Corvus moneduloides)
3 up at Farino and singles again at La Roche Percee and near Gohapin, they showed very well this trip and were very vocal.

Petroicidae (Australasian Robins)
YELLOW-BELLIED FLYROBIN (Microeca (Eopsaltria) flaviventris)
Nice looks in Riviere Bleue. This is no longer placed in Petroicidae (Australasian robins), but is actually a flycatcher in the genus Microeca, and the new name is Yellow-bellied Flyrobin.

Pycnonotidae (Bulbuls)
I RED-VENTED BULBUL (Pycnonotus cafer)
A few in Noumea.

Timaliidae (Babblers)
GREEN-BACKED WHITE-EYE (Zosterops xanthochroa)
Common in the humid forests on the mainland.
SILVEREYE (Zosterops lateralis griseonota)
This race was decidedly uncommon, I think John saw just one.

Sturnidae (Starlings)
STRIATED STARLING (Aplonis striata)
Very sparse, we saw a single in forest at Riv. Bleue, then had 2 at La Roche Percee and 4 flying over near Gohapin.
I COMMON MYNA (Acridotheres tristis)
Distressingly common and widespread on the big island.

Passeridae (Old World Sparrows)
I HOUSE SPARROW (Passer domesticus)
A few around Noumea.

Estrildidae (Waxbills and Allies)
I COMMON WAXBILL (Estrilda astrild)
This gets commoner very year, we had some quite big flocks around Gohapin.
RED-THROATED PARROTFINCH (Erythrura psittacea)
Nice looks at Riviere Bleue and Farino, then really good up at Gohapin where we saw at least 4 birds.
I CHESTNUT-BREASTED MUNIA (Lonchura castaneothorax)
This seems to be getting scarce, we just had a single on wires near La Foa and John saw a handful nearby.

A good trip for them, we had about 10 species. Apparently New Caledonia has 61 endemics. The dark blue Ulysses-type is Papilio montrouzieri. Others included a small “tailed” blue at Farino, An argus Junonia sp. and a Varied Eggfly Hypolimnas sp. there as well, and a Crow species in the north, plus grass yellows, Monarch and a Delias type in the forest at Farino.

Phil Gregory Kuranda May 2012