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Brown Sicklebill was one of the 21 species of Bird-of-Paradise that we encountered on this year's Papua New Guinea tour. Hearing their loud, machine gun-like rattles echoing through the lush highland forests near Tari Gap was a real thrill. This spectacular adult male put on an especially excellent show for us on our very first morning birding in the region. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
This year’s full Papua New Guinea (PNG) tour went about as smoothly as any PNG tour could run. All flights were on time, we didn’t run into any issues with the various local populaces (despite it being during a tense national election), everybody stayed healthy, we managed to dodge major rain or wind the entire time, and last but not least: we saw a lot of birds and had a ton of fun!
We arrived in PNG’s capital city, Port Moresby, midday on Saturday, July 8, and were very quickly and smoothly transferred over to the Rain Tree, our HQ while in Port Moresby. After a late lunch, we headed out for an afternoon of birding along the coast to the west of the city, heading towards Lea Lea with our excellent local guide, Leonard. We didn’t make it all the way out to the village, but this was because we kept running into things to look at along the way, starting with an adult Brown Booby plunge diving just off shore. We also ran into Whimbrel, Pacific Reef-Egret, White-bellied Sea-Eagle, Fawn-breasted Bowerbird, Golden-headed Cisticola, a surprise Orange-footed Scrubfowl, and plenty of Blue-winged Kookaburras, Brown Goshawks, and Torresian Imperial-Pigeons.
Sunday morning saw us getting up well before it was light out, and after an early breakfast, we met Leonard again and were on the way to Varirata National Park, one of the real birding gems of PNG. The eucalypt forest along the entrance road gave us an overwhelming hit of birds as light broke over the surrounding forests and valleys, with Black-capped Lory, White-throated Honeyeater, Raggiana Bird-of-Paradise (BoP), and two dozen other species under an umbrella of flocks of Papuan Mountain-Pigeons flying to and fro. We also had a nice treat in the form of quite a few Hooded Butcherbirds and Spangled Drongos perching out in the open and hawking insects. We continued into the park proper, and quickly ran into a male Raggiana BoP showing off at its lek site. After this we walked a couple of trails, as we spent the better part of the day inside the National Park itself. Highlights were awesome views of a Barred Owlet-Nightjar on an open branch, Dwarf Koel calling, and calling, and calling, Yellow-billed Kingfisher, excellent views of Brown-headed Paradise-Kingfisher and Pink-spotted Fruit-Dove, the sparsely distributed Green-backed Honeyeater, three species of cuckooshrike, Spectacled Longbill, and of course the Hooded Pitta which everyone was able to get a scope view of!
In the afternoon we made our way over to Pacific Adventist University (PAU), where we enjoyed a slew of waterbirds, many of which we would only see this once. The birds here included Wandering and Plumed Whistling-Ducks, Little Black and Little Pied Cormorants, Comb-crested Jacana, Rufous Night-Heron, Straw-necked Ibis, Australasian Swamphen, a family of Pied Heron, and a big surprise in three Gray Teal. Other special birds that we picked up here were Common Kingfisher, Singing Starling, Orange-fronted Fruit-Dove, the ever-awesome Papuan Frogmouth, and several species of honeyeater, including Scrub, Yellow-tinted, and Rufous-banded. We also got looks at the bower of a Fawn-breasted Bowerbird.
Our journey through the more remote parts of PNG began on Monday, as we flew into Tabubil, a mining town in the foothills not far east of the Indonesian border, and eventually met up with Glen, our local guide throughout our time in this region. We stayed at the Cloudlands Hotel in Tabubil for just one night, but we managed to pick up a great deal of species while there. We made both an afternoon/evening and a morning trip to Dablin Creek, where we were treated to atypically excellent weather, especially notable in that there was no fog! Dablin Creek delivered Carola’s Parotia, Papuan Cicadabird, Long-billed Honeyeater, Great Cuckoo-Dove, Yellow-capped Pygmy-Parrot, Orange-breasted Fig-Parrot, Ruby-throated Myzomela, Mountain Peltops, Black Butcherbird, Obscure Berrypecker, Yellow-bellied Longbill, and an abundance of Gray-headed Cicadabirds. The morning visit was especially notable in that it furnished a dozen Carola’s Parotia, which put on a fantastic show sending their alien-like antennae this way and that as they fed overhead. Monday evening included a dusk visit to Ok Menga, where we heard very well, but didn’t see, Shovel-billed Kookaburra, Hook-billed Kingfisher, and Marbled Frogmouths, but where we DID see a pair of Papuan Boobooks very well.
After our morning visit to Dablin Creek on Tuesday, we drove down to Kiunga, along the mighty Fly River. Our first extensive birding in the Kiunga wasn’t until the next morning, when we started out along the legendary Boystown Road, where had around 70 species, mostly from one spot! The highlights here were several Flame Bowerbirds, a surprise Southern Crowned-Pigeon, Blyth’s Hornbill, Lowland Peltops, Varied Triller, all three species of Manucodes, a cooperative Dwarf Fruit-Dove, and a spectacular pair of Golden Monarchs. Our afternoon outing was to the KM 17 trails at the Greater BoP lek. The interesting thing about this lek, though, is that in addition to the Greater BoPs, it includes a couple of rogue Raggiana BoPs, as well as a couple of hybrids between the two! The trek down to the lek also gave us Variable Pitohui, some neck-breaking views of a beautiful male King BoP, and spectacular scope views of a male Frilled Monarch for all. The lek itself also featured perhaps our best “Attenborough moment” of the tour, with several male Paradiseas (the genus of Greater and Raggiana BoPs) engaging in an all-out display battle. The cacophony alone would have been worth the visit, but we also had clear looks at the display perches in the canopy, and the long and colorful show they put on was tremendous!
Thursday, July 13, was the day of our all-day boat trip up the Fly and Elevala Rivers. This was one of the highlights of the tour for several in the group. Before we even got to the Elevala River, we ran into what was our biggest surprise of the day, an immature BROWN NODDY, more than 200 miles from where the Fly River drains into the ocean! This was the first record of any species of noddy in the Kiunga region. Once we got over that shock, we made it way up to the Ketu River, and all the way to Watame Lodge (which is Glen’s lodge). The day was a wonderful one, filled with several species of imperial-pigeon (including a good number Pinon’s, several Zoe’s, and many Collared), multiple encounters with Blyth’s Hornbill, Palm Cockatoo, Golden Myna, and Southern Crowned-Pigeon. We also encountered Channel-billed Cuckoo, Wompoo Fruit-Dove, skulky White-bellied Pitohuis and Emperor Fairywrens, Gray-headed Goshawk, Long-billed Cuckoo, Black-sided Robin, and saw all three of the special trio of kingfishers: Common and Little Paradise-Kingfishers, and Hook-billed Kingfisher. After getting off the boat at the end of the long day, we also encountered Streak-headed Munia and Crimson Finch in a weedy lot right near the boat launch!
The next day was our final day in Kiunga, but before our afternoon flight it was once more back on the boats. Our aim this time was to get to a Twelve-wired BoP display site at dawn. On the way, we were treated to a big flock of 39 Channel-billed Cuckoos flying over the river, as well as some more Blyth’s Hornbills. Unfortunately, we were joined at the display site by another birding group, and the newly cleared viewing site was probably too close to the display perch for the bird to be completely comfortable. We saw the male come in several times, but it only went to the display perch very briefly, and didn’t do much showing off there (though a few folks got stellar looks at it while it was there). We did get reasonable looks at it while it was feeding nearby, and the female came in to give great views on the display perch as well, before we moved along to try and pick up our last few birds for the region, which ended up including Emperor Fairywren, Golden Cuckooshrike, and an eleventh hour Large Fig-Parrot. We got to the Kiunga airport for what we assumed would be a routine waiting period before our flight. However, while we amused ourselves with the Australian Pratincoles that were running around the airstrip, an airport employee walked in carrying a noddy on his hand. What’s more, it was a young BLACK Noddy, which he had found an hour prior at the base of an airport fence. It was still feisty (it bit my hand), which was heartening, and after telling him that it ate small fish he walked away promising to take care of it. Never a dull moment!
The Highlands of PNG are legendary as one of the last places of human habitation to be “discovered” by modern society. We spent the next week in these fantastically well-preserved forests looking at the truly incredible avifauna. We arrived in Mt. Hagen on Friday evening, but didn’t do any birding until the next morning. We birded the morning with local guide Wilson, and started out at Kama (the Lesser BoP site), and then made a brief pit stop at the Yellow-breasted Bowerbird site, and another brief stop at the Lai River, before returning to Kumul Lodge for lunch and to bird the feeders and surrounding trails. It was a great day, with Lesser BoP, Pygmy Eagle, Superb BoP, Yellow-breasted Bowerbird, Papuan Grassbird, many Rainbow Bee-eaters, Torrent Flycatchers, Elfin Myzomela, and Ornate Melidectes in the morning alone. Our evening walk was down to Max’s Orchid Garden, which was a big treat. He has done some truly amazing work to amass such an impressive collection of orchids in his yard. Blue-capped Ifrita, Rufous-naped Bellbird, White-breasted Fruit-Dove, and a surprise Painted Tiger-Parrot were the avian highlights of the evening, the latter being a lifer for Jay!
The next day we birded the Tonga Trail with Max, before heading back to Kumul to do some more trail and feeder birding there. The highlights from our Tonga Trail outing were spectacular views of Blue Bird-of-Paradise, Madarasz’s Tiger-Parrot, Streaked Berrypecker, more good views of Superb BoP, Black-breasted Boatbill, Slaty-chinned Longbill, and Mid-mountain Berrypecker. That was a hard morning to beat, but our afternoon and evening at Kumul did its best to try and top it, with Papuan Lorikeet, Crested Satinbird, good views of Wattled Ploughbill, Lesser Melampitta, and Crested Berrypecker, and an absurdly confiding Mountain Mouse-Warbler. Then the evening walk produced Plum-faced Lorikeet, several New Guinea (Dusky) Woodcocks, and an awesome Feline Owlet-Nightjar, which we walked away from after looking at for twenty minutes! It was a pretty spectacular way to say good-bye to Kumul.
Monday saw us taking a charter flight from Mt. Hagen to the Ambua airstrip, an incredible time-and-effort-saving convenience. We stayed in the Ambua area until Friday, July 21, spending about four days in total birding the area. We typically birded the Highlands Highway east of Ambua, heading to the elevations between Ambua Lodge and the Tari Gap. We also did a loop of the Ambua Lodge waterfall trail, and spent one late morning heading down into the Tari Valley for some lower elevation birds and a cultural excursion where we were given a viewing of a Sing-sing put on by the Huli Wigmen. The avian highlights during our time around Ambua were many, and it seemed that every walk, even to places where we’d been already, added another special species. Our Bird-of-Paradise list was an impressive 9 species: Brown Sicklebill (including a stunning male), Black Sicklebill, Lawes’s Parotia, Superb BoP, Short-tailed Paradigalla, Blue BoP, the incredibly long-tailed Ribbon-tailed and Stephanie’s Astrapias, and the incomparable King-of-Saxony BoP. We also ran into some secretive forest birds such as Papuan Logrunner, Lesser Ground-Robin, and more Lesser Melampittas. We also had a couple more encounters with the bizarre Wattled Ploughbill, with the final individual being absurdly cooperative. In addition to these obvious headliners, other highlights were multiple Mottled Berryhunters, Mountain Firetail, Black-throated Robin, Dimorphic Fantail, more Blue-capped Ifritas, Spotted Berrypecker, Black-headed Whistler, Loria’s Satinbird, Black Sittella, Gray Thornbill, Brown Quail, Papuan Harrier, Rufous Owl, awesome aerial shows by Great Woodswallows and Mountain Peltops at the lodge itself, and of course our Papuan Treecreeper.
We finally had to pry ourselves away from the wonderfully unique highlands of PNG, but we didn’t have to pry ourselves away from birding quite yet. We were able to get into Port Moresby with enough time to drive all the way out to Lea Lea on Friday afternoon. In addition to an interesting suite of waterbirds which we don’t always encounter on the tour (Great-crested and Gull-billed Terns, Far-eastern Curlew, Lesser Frigatebird), we also picked up Varied Honeyeater and the real prize, the endemic mangrove-dwelling Silver-eared Honeyeater.
Saturday rolled around and saw us facing the sad prospect of our final birding day of the tour, but it turned out to not be all that sad, since it entailed almost a full day back at Varirata with Leonard. We started out at the Raggiana Bird-of-Paradise lek, and were treated to multiple males doing their full plumes-up display. The rest of the morning was spent walking the entire trail from below to the lookout down to the picnic area. Highlights here were Wompoo Fruit-Dove, male Growling Riflebirds, Tawny-breasted Honeyeater, Fairy Gerygone, Stout-billed Cuckooshrike (it was a great tour overall for this species), Chestnut-bellied Fantail at a nest, Little Shrikethrush, Papuan (Variable) Dwarf-Kingfisher, and a stupendous encounter with a pair of always skulky Chestnut-backed Jewel-Babblers. After a lunch complete with beautiful views of Beautiful Fruit-Doves, we split up into two groups, with the combined highlights being Ruby-throated Myzomela, Pale-billed Scrubwren, Azure Kingfisher, Pygmy Drongo-Fantail, Black-faced Monarch, and Pygmy Longbill, among others. The eucalypt forest along the exit road delivered once again, with Australian Hobby, White-bellied Whistler, and Black-faced Cuckooshrike. Our final birding stop of the tour was at the small town of Sogeri, adjacent to the Kokoda Track monument. Here, in addition to absurd views of a pair of Pheasant Coucals in the road, we connected with our main target, and the final endemic we would see: Grand Munia, which was an appropriate ending to what was a truly grand trip!
Jay and I are ecstatic that we got to share this adventure with such a fine group of people, and we're excited to enjoy some more avian exploration with each and every one of you in the future!
KEYS FOR THIS LIST
One of the following keys may be shown in brackets for individual species as appropriate: * = heard only, I = introduced, E = endemic, N = nesting, a = austral migrant, b = boreal migrant
The grasslands at the Tari Gap offer a unique landscape within the generally forested highlands. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
Anatidae (Ducks, Geese, and Waterfowl)
PLUMED WHISTLING-DUCK (Dendrocygna eytoni)
WANDERING WHISTLING-DUCK (Dendrocygna arcuata)
PACIFIC BLACK DUCK (Anas superciliosa)
GRAY TEAL (Anas gracilis)
YELLOW-LEGGED BRUSHTURKEY (Talegalla fuscirostris) [E*]
ORANGE-FOOTED SCRUBFOWL (Megapodius reinwardt)
Phasianidae (Pheasants, Grouse, and Allies)
BROWN QUAIL (Synoicus ypsilophorus)
This Silky Owl Butterfly (Taenaris catops) entertained us on our first morning at Varirata. These large butterflies utilize dark areas of the forest in tandem with mimicry (check out those "eyes") to avoid becoming lunch for the insectivorous birds that share their home. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
LESSER FRIGATEBIRD (Fregata ariel)
Sulidae (Boobies and Gannets)
BROWN BOOBY (Sula leucogaster)
Phalacrocoracidae (Cormorants and Shags)
LITTLE PIED CORMORANT (Microcarbo melanoleucos)
GREAT CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax carbo)
LITTLE BLACK CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax sulcirostris)
These stately Plumed Whistling-Ducks were two of more than 40 individuals that we encountered at PAU. Photo by participant Myles McNally.
Ardeidae (Herons, Egrets, and Bitterns)
GREAT EGRET (AUSTRALASIAN) (Ardea alba modesta)
INTERMEDIATE EGRET (Mesophoyx intermedia)
PACIFIC REEF-HERON (Egretta sacra)
PIED HERON (Egretta picata)
CATTLE EGRET (EASTERN) (Bubulcus ibis coromandus)
RUFOUS NIGHT-HERON (Nycticorax caledonicus)
Here is a compilation of video clips from the tour (excepting some Bird-of-Paradise clips, which can be seen below). From the breathtaking landscapes, to the wonderful birds, and the interesting culture, our time in Papua New Guinea was an absolute blast! Video clips by guide Doug Gochfeld.
Threskiornithidae (Ibises and Spoonbills)
AUSTRALIAN IBIS (Threskiornis moluccus)
STRAW-NECKED IBIS (Threskiornis spinicollis)
OSPREY (AUSTRALASIAN) (Pandion haliaetus cristatus)
Accipitridae (Hawks, Eagles, and Kites)
LONG-TAILED HONEY-BUZZARD (Henicopernis longicauda) [E]
PACIFIC BAZA (Aviceda subcristata)
PYGMY EAGLE (Hieraaetus weiskei) [E]
EASTERN MARSH-HARRIER (PAPUAN) (Circus spilonotus spilothorax) [E]
VARIABLE GOSHAWK (Accipiter hiogaster)
BROWN GOSHAWK (Accipiter fasciatus)
This Papuan Harrier (still classed as a taxon of Eastern Marsh-Harrier by some) gave us phenomenal views as it coursed over the grasslands at the Tari Gap. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
BLACK-MANTLED GOSHAWK (Accipiter melanochlamys) [E]
GRAY-HEADED GOSHAWK (Accipiter poliocephalus) [E]
BLACK KITE (BLACK) (Milvus migrans affinis)
WHISTLING KITE (Haliastur sphenurus)
Comb-crested Jacana was one of the waterbirds we were treated to on our trip to PAU early on in the tour. Photo by particpant Myles McNally.
BRAHMINY KITE (Haliastur indus)
WHITE-BELLIED SEA-EAGLE (Haliaeetus leucogaster)
Rallidae (Rails, Gallinules, and Coots)
FORBES'S RAIL (Rallina forbesi) [E*]
AUSTRALASIAN SWAMPHEN (Porphyrio melanotus melanopterus)
DUSKY MOORHEN (Gallinula tenebrosa)
Charadriidae (Plovers and Lapwings)
MASKED LAPWING (MASKED) (Vanellus miles miles)
COMB-CRESTED JACANA (Irediparra gallinacea)
Scolopacidae (Sandpipers and Allies)
WHIMBREL (SIBERIAN) (Numenius phaeopus variegatus)
We saw several female Crested Satinbirds around Kumul, but only Claudi was fortunate enough to connect with this male over the feeders one afternoon. Photo by participant Claudi Racionero.
FAR EASTERN CURLEW (Numenius madagascariensis)
NEW GUINEA WOODCOCK (Scolopax rosenbergii) [E]
Glareolidae (Pratincoles and Coursers)
AUSTRALIAN PRATINCOLE (Stiltia isabella)
Laridae (Gulls, Terns, and Skimmers)
BROWN NODDY (Anous stolidus)
BLACK NODDY (Anous minutus)
GULL-BILLED TERN (Gelochelidon nilotica)
GREAT CRESTED TERN (Thalasseus bergii cristatus)
Columbidae (Pigeons and Doves)
ROCK PIGEON (Columba livia) [I]
AMBOYNA CUCKOO-DOVE (Macropygia amboinensis)
BLACK-BILLED CUCKOO-DOVE (Macropygia nigrirostris) [E]
We were graced with the first record of Brown Noddy in the Kiunga region during our first boat trip on the Fly River, starting the lowlands part of our tour with a big rarity bang! Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
GREAT CUCKOO-DOVE (Reinwardtoena reinwardti) [E]
STEPHAN'S DOVE (Chalcophaps stephani)
PEACEFUL DOVE (Geopelia placida)
BAR-SHOULDERED DOVE (Geopelia humeralis)
SOUTHERN CROWNED-PIGEON (Goura scheepmakeri) [E]
Out of the 22 species of dove which we saw on this tour, Southern Crowned-Pigeons would probably be voted the best. They simply are incredible birds! Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
WOMPOO FRUIT-DOVE (Ptilinopus magnificus)
PINK-SPOTTED FRUIT-DOVE (Ptilinopus perlatus) [E]
ORANGE-FRONTED FRUIT-DOVE (Ptilinopus aurantiifrons) [E]
SUPERB FRUIT-DOVE (Ptilinopus superbus)
This colorful Large Fig-Parrot was a fantastic pickup on our final morning birding the Elevala River. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
BEAUTIFUL FRUIT-DOVE (Ptilinopus pulchellus) [E]
WHITE-BREASTED FRUIT-DOVE (Ptilinopus rivoli bellus)
ORANGE-BELLIED FRUIT-DOVE (Ptilinopus iozonus) [E]
DWARF FRUIT-DOVE (Ptilinopus nainus) [E]
PURPLE-TAILED IMPERIAL-PIGEON (Ducula rufigaster) [E]
PINON'S IMPERIAL-PIGEON (Ducula pinon) [E]
COLLARED IMPERIAL-PIGEON (Ducula mullerii) [E]
ZOE IMPERIAL-PIGEON (Ducula zoeae) [E]
TORRESIAN IMPERIAL-PIGEON (Ducula spilorrhoa)
PAPUAN MOUNTAIN-PIGEON (Gymnophaps albertisii) [E]
King-of-Saxony Bird-of-Paradise was one of the fan favorites, and with good reason. This one is mid-"song", so its antennae are obediently draped behind it. However, when it wasn't calling, and instead was moving around, those head ornaments got tossed around every which way! Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
GREATER BLACK COUCAL (Centropus menbeki) [E]
LESSER BLACK COUCAL (Centropus bernsteini) [E]
PHEASANT COUCAL (Centropus phasianinus)
DWARF KOEL (Microdynamis parva) [E]
PACIFIC KOEL (AUSTRALIAN) (Eudynamys orientalis cyanocephalus)
CHANNEL-BILLED CUCKOO (Scythrops novaehollandiae)
LONG-BILLED CUCKOO (Chrysococcyx megarhynchus) [E]
This distinctively patterned White-eared Bronze-Cuckoo was part of a fantastically cooperative pair during our morning at Dablin Creek above Tabubil. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
RUFOUS-THROATED BRONZE-CUCKOO (Chrysococcyx ruficollis) [E]
WHITE-EARED BRONZE-CUCKOO (Chrysococcyx meyerii) [E]
LITTLE BRONZE-CUCKOO (Chrysococcyx minutillus)
WHITE-CROWNED KOEL (Cacomantis leucolophus) [E]
CHESTNUT-BREASTED CUCKOO (Cacomantis castaneiventris)
FAN-TAILED CUCKOO (Cacomantis flabelliformis excitus)
BRUSH CUCKOO (Cacomantis variolosus)
SOOTY OWL (GREATER) (Tyto tenebricosa arfaki) [E]
Our group enjoying the fantastic view from Kama in the legendary highlands of New Guinea. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
RUFOUS OWL (Ninox rufa)
PAPUAN BOOBOOK (Ninox theomacha) [E]
MARBLED FROGMOUTH (Podargus ocellatus)
PAPUAN FROGMOUTH (Podargus papuensis)
FELINE OWLET-NIGHTJAR (Aegotheles insignis) [E]
MOUNTAIN OWLET-NIGHTJAR (Aegotheles albertisi) [E*]
BARRED OWLET-NIGHTJAR (Aegotheles bennettii) [E]
The camouflage of Papuan Frogmouths is simply mindboggling. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
PAPUAN SPINETAILED SWIFT (Mearnsia novaeguineae) [E]
GLOSSY SWIFTLET (Collocalia esculenta)
MOUNTAIN SWIFTLET (Aerodramus hirundinaceus) [E]
UNIFORM SWIFTLET (Aerodramus vanikorensis)
MOUSTACHED TREESWIFT (Hemiprocne mystacea)
BLYTH'S HORNBILL (Rhyticeros plicatus)
Blue-winged Kookaburra was the most common kookaburra along the coast to the west of Port Moresby. This one was captured excellently by participant Myles McNally.
COMMON KINGFISHER (Alcedo atthis)
AZURE KINGFISHER (Ceyx azureus)
PAPUAN DWARF-KINGFISHER (Ceyx solitarius)
BLUE-WINGED KOOKABURRA (Dacelo leachii)
RUFOUS-BELLIED KOOKABURRA (Dacelo gaudichaud) [E]
SHOVEL-BILLED KOOKABURRA (Clytoceyx rex) [E*]
FOREST KINGFISHER (Todiramphus macleayii)
SACRED KINGFISHER (Todiramphus sanctus)
HOOK-BILLED KINGFISHER (Melidora macrorrhina) [E]
YELLOW-BILLED KINGFISHER (Syma torotoro)
MOUNTAIN KINGFISHER (Syma megarhyncha) [E]
LITTLE PARADISE-KINGFISHER (Tanysiptera hydrocharis) [E]
COMMON PARADISE-KINGFISHER (Tanysiptera galatea) [E]
BROWN-HEADED PARADISE-KINGFISHER (Tanysiptera danae) [E]
The breathtaking landscape from Ambua Lodge, our home for four nights in the highlands. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
RAINBOW BEE-EATER (Merops ornatus)
DOLLARBIRD (Eurystomus orientalis)
Falconidae (Falcons and Caracaras)
AUSTRALIAN KESTREL (Falco cenchroides)
AUSTRALIAN HOBBY (Falco longipennis)
PALM COCKATOO (Probosciger aterrimus)
SULPHUR-CRESTED COCKATOO (Cacatua galerita)
This male Red-breasted Pygmy-Parrot was a great find by one of our local guides during a drizzly afternoon above Ambua. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
Psittaculidae (Old World Parrots)
YELLOW-CAPPED PYGMY-PARROT (Micropsitta keiensis) [E]
RED-BREASTED PYGMY-PARROT (Micropsitta bruijnii)
PAPUAN KING-PARROT (Alisterus chloropterus) [E*]
ECLECTUS PARROT (Eclectus roratus)
RED-CHEEKED PARROT (Geoffroyus geoffroyi)
BLUE-COLLARED PARROT (Geoffroyus simplex) [E]
PAINTED TIGER-PARROT (Psittacella picta) [E]
BREHM'S TIGER-PARROT (Psittacella brehmii) [E]
MODEST TIGER-PARROT (Psittacella modesta) [E]
MADARASZ'S TIGER-PARROT (Psittacella madaraszi) [E]
YELLOW-BILLED LORIKEET (Neopsittacus musschenbroekii) [E]
ORANGE-BREASTED FIG-PARROT (Cyclopsitta gulielmitertii) [E]
DOUBLE-EYED FIG-PARROT (Cyclopsitta diophthalma)
Black-capped Lorys were seen in multiple locations, but these absurdly colorful and very vocal parrots never got old. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
LARGE FIG-PARROT (Psittaculirostris desmarestii) [E]
PLUM-FACED LORIKEET (Oreopsittacus arfaki) [E]
RED-FLANKED LORIKEET (Charmosyna placentis) [E]
PAPUAN LORIKEET (Charmosyna papou) [E]
YELLOW-STREAKED LORY (Chalcopsitta scintillata) [E]
BLACK-CAPPED LORY (Lorius lory) [E]
GOLDIE'S LORIKEET (Psitteuteles goldiei) [E]
RAINBOW LORIKEET (COCONUT) (Trichoglossus haematodus nigrogularis)
Tiger-Parrots can be amazingly hard to track down in the forest, and yet we had a very unusual Tiger-Parrot sweep on this tour. Brehm's Tiger-Parrot was the most frequently seen species, especially around Kumul, where they regularly give amazing point-blank views which are atypical for this often-shy group of birds. Photo by participant Myles McNally.
HOODED PITTA (Pitta sordida)
ARCHBOLD'S BOWERBIRD (Archboldia papuensis) [E]
MACGREGOR'S BOWERBIRD (Amblyornis macgregoriae) [E]
FLAME BOWERBIRD (Sericulus aureus) [E]
YELLOW-BREASTED BOWERBIRD (Chlamydera lauterbachi) [E]
FAWN-BREASTED BOWERBIRD (Chlamydera cerviniventris)
Climacteridae (Australasian Treecreepers)
PAPUAN TREECREEPER (Cormobates placens) [E]
EMPEROR FAIRYWREN (Malurus cyanocephalus) [E]
WHITE-SHOULDERED FAIRYWREN (Malurus alboscapulatus) [E]
PLAIN HONEYEATER (Pycnopygius ixoides) [E]
STREAK-HEADED HONEYEATER (Pycnopygius stictocephalus) [E]
SCRUB HONEYEATER (Meliphaga albonotata) [E]
MOUNTAIN MELIPHAGA (Meliphaga orientalis) [E]
MIMIC HONEYEATER (Meliphaga analoga) [E]
YELLOW-GAPED HONEYEATER (Meliphaga flavirictus) [E]
ELEGANT HONEYEATER (Meliphaga cinereifrons cinereifrons) [E]
Belford's Melidectes is one of the common high elevation honeyeaters along our route, and are at no place more common than at Kumul, where several patrol the feeding station throughout the day. Photo by participant Myles McNally.
BLACK-THROATED HONEYEATER (Caligavis subfrenata) [E]
OBSCURE HONEYEATER (Caligavis obscura) [E*]
ORNATE MELIDECTES (Melidectes torquatus) [E]
BELFORD'S MELIDECTES (Melidectes belfordi) [E]
YELLOW-BROWED MELIDECTES (Melidectes rufocrissalis) [E]
Lemon-bellied Flycatcher was one of the open eucalypt forest specialties that we found during our time on the outskirts of Varirata. Photo by participant Claudi Racionero.
VARIED HONEYEATER (Gavicalis versicolor)
YELLOW-TINTED HONEYEATER (Ptilotula flavescens)
RUFOUS-BANDED HONEYEATER (Conopophila albogularis)
SMOKY HONEYEATER (Melipotes fumigatus) [E]
LONG-BILLED HONEYEATER (Melilestes megarhynchus) [E]
RUBY-THROATED MYZOMELA (Myzomela eques) [E]
PAPUAN BLACK MYZOMELA (Myzomela nigrita) [E]
ELFIN MYZOMELA (Myzomela adolphinae) [E]
RED-COLLARED MYZOMELA (Myzomela rosenbergii) [E]
GREEN-BACKED HONEYEATER (Glycichaera fallax fallax)
RUFOUS-BACKED HONEYEATER (Ptiloprora guisei) [E]
Here the group birds the lush highland forest outside Mt. Hagen. Somewhere around there is a Wattled Ploughbill! Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
GRAY-STREAKED HONEYEATER (Ptiloprora perstriata) [E]
SILVER-EARED HONEYEATER (Lichmera alboauricularis) [E]
WHITE-THROATED HONEYEATER (Melithreptus albogularis)
TAWNY-BREASTED HONEYEATER (Xanthotis flaviventer)
MEYER'S FRIARBIRD (Philemon meyeri) [E*]
HELMETED FRIARBIRD (NEW GUINEA) (Philemon buceroides novaeguineae)
Mountain Mouse-Warblers are skulky birds, and are typically easier to hear than to see, but this one obliged us by hopping around on the ground at the forest edge at Kumul. Photo by participant Myles McNally.
Acanthizidae (Thornbills and Allies)
GOLDENFACE (Pachycare flavogriseum) [E*]
RUSTY MOUSE-WARBLER (Crateroscelis murina) [E*]
BICOLORED MOUSE-WARBLER (Crateroscelis nigrorufa) [*]
MOUNTAIN MOUSE-WARBLER (Crateroscelis robusta) [E]
LARGE SCRUBWREN (Sericornis nouhuysi) [E]
BUFF-FACED SCRUBWREN (Sericornis perspicillatus) [E]
PAPUAN SCRUBWREN (Sericornis papuensis) [E]
PALE-BILLED SCRUBWREN (Sericornis spilodera) [E]
GRAY THORNBILL (Acanthiza cinerea) [E]
GREEN-BACKED GERYGONE (Gerygone chloronota)
FAIRY GERYGONE (Gerygone palpebrosa)
YELLOW-BELLIED GERYGONE (Gerygone chrysogaster) [E]
LARGE-BILLED GERYGONE (Gerygone magnirostris) [*]
BROWN-BREASTED GERYGONE (Gerygone ruficollis) [E]
Papuan Logrunner was a big hit with everyone, and we found an exceptionally cooperative pair at the Tari Gap. Here, the male of that pair sings its little logrunning heart out. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
PAPUAN BABBLER (Pomatostomus isidorei) [E]
PAPUAN LOGRUNNER (Orthonyx novaeguineae) [E]
We had an amazing show by the Greater BoPs just outside the Kiunga, as they danced in the treetops in perfect afternoon light. This flight photo was ably nabbed by participant Myles McNally.
LORIA'S SATINBIRD (Cnemophilus loriae) [E]
CRESTED SATINBIRD (Cnemophilus macgregorii) [E]
Melanocharitidae (Berrypeckers and Longbills)
OBSCURE BERRYPECKER (Melanocharis arfakiana) [E]
BLACK BERRYPECKER (Melanocharis nigra) [E]
MID-MOUNTAIN BERRYPECKER (Melanocharis longicauda) [E]
FAN-TAILED BERRYPECKER (Melanocharis versteri) [E]
STREAKED BERRYPECKER (Melanocharis striativentris)
SPOTTED BERRYPECKER (Melanocharis crassirostris) [E]
YELLOW-BELLIED LONGBILL (Toxorhamphus novaeguineae) [E]
SLATY-CHINNED LONGBILL (Toxorhamphus poliopterus) [E]
SPECTACLED LONGBILL (Oedistoma iliolophus) [E]
PYGMY LONGBILL (Oedistoma pygmaeum) [E]
Crested Berrypecker is an outstanding looking bird, and one of only two species in its family. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
Paramythiidae (Tit Berrypecker and Crested Berrypecker)
TIT BERRYPECKER (Oreocharis arfaki) [E]
CRESTED BERRYPECKER (Paramythia montium) [E]
Cinclosomatidae (Quail-thrushes and Jewel-babblers)
PAINTED QUAIL-THRUSH (Cinclosoma ajax) [E*]
BLUE JEWEL-BABBLER (Ptilorrhoa caerulescens) [E*]
CHESTNUT-BACKED JEWEL-BABBLER (Ptilorrhoa castanonota) [E]
Chestnut-backed Jewel-Babbler! After a fairly long wait, our patience was rewarded when a couple of these hopped down the hill and into the open (any view of a whole Jewel-Babbler qualifies as "in the open"), and we were all able to see this exceptionally skulky species. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
BLACK-BREASTED BOATBILL (Machaerirhynchus nigripectus) [E]
YELLOW-BREASTED BOATBILL (Machaerirhynchus flaviventer)
GREAT WOODSWALLOW (Artamus maximus) [E]
WHITE-BREASTED WOODSWALLOW (Artamus leucorynchus)
We encountered Mountain Peltops at both Dablin Creek and Ambua, but the birds at Ambua were especially confiding, sometimes sallying for insects at knee level between people in our group. Photo by participant Claudi Racionero.
Cracticidae (Bellmagpies and Allies)
MOUNTAIN PELTOPS (Peltops montanus) [E]
LOWLAND PELTOPS (Peltops blainvillii) [E]
BLACK-BACKED BUTCHERBIRD (Cracticus mentalis)
HOODED BUTCHERBIRD (Cracticus cassicus) [E]
BLACK BUTCHERBIRD (Cracticus quoyi)
STOUT-BILLED CUCKOOSHRIKE (Coracina caeruleogrisea) [E]
HOODED CUCKOOSHRIKE (Coracina longicauda) [E]
BARRED CUCKOOSHRIKE (Coracina lineata)
BOYER'S CUCKOOSHRIKE (Coracina boyeri) [E]
BLACK-FACED CUCKOOSHRIKE (Coracina novaehollandiae)
WHITE-BELLIED CUCKOOSHRIKE (Coracina papuensis papuensis)
GOLDEN CUCKOOSHRIKE (Campochaera sloetii) [E]
VARIED TRILLER (Lalage leucomela)
BLACK-BELLIED CICADABIRD (Edolisoma montanum) [E]
PAPUAN CICADABIRD (Edolisoma incertum) [E]
COMMON CICADABIRD (Edolisoma tenuirostre)
GRAY-HEADED CICADABIRD (Edolisoma schisticeps) [E]
BLACK CICADABIRD (Edolisoma melan) [E]
BLACK SITTELLA (Daphoenositta miranda) [E]
The wattles on a Wattled Ploughbill have to be one of most bizarre manifestations of sexual selection in a land that is already rife with examples this type of evolution. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
WATTLED PLOUGHBILL (Eulacestoma nigropectus) [E]
Pachycephalidae (Whistlers and Allies)
RUSTY PITOHUI (Colluricincla ferruginea) [E]
WHITE-BELLIED PITOHUI (Colluricincla incerta) [E]
LITTLE SHRIKETHRUSH (Colluricincla megarhyncha)
GRAY SHRIKETHRUSH (Colluricincla harmonica)
BLACK PITOHUI (Melanorectes nigrescens) [E]
REGENT WHISTLER (Pachycephala schlegelii) [E]
Brown-backed Whistler was a common sight in both of our highlands regions, but our best views were above the feeders at Kumul, where we were able to view it at and below our eye level. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
SCLATER'S WHISTLER (Pachycephala soror) [E]
BROWN-BACKED WHISTLER (Pachycephala modesta) [E]
GRAY WHISTLER (GRAY-HEADED) (Pachycephala simplex griseiceps)
WHITE-BELLIED WHISTLER (Pachycephala leucogastra) [E]
BLACK-HEADED WHISTLER (Pachycephala monacha) [E*]
Rhagologidae (Mottled Berryhunter)
MOTTLED BERRYHUNTER (Rhagologus leucostigma) [E]
Oreoicidae (Australo-Papuan Bellbirds)
RUFOUS-NAPED BELLBIRD (Aleadryas rufinucha) [E]
PIPING BELLBIRD (Ornorectes cristatus) [E]
The Great Woodswallow sentinels at Ambua. Their vigilance was a bad deal for all the local aerial insects, especially any moths that were unlucky enough to still be flying by the time dawn rolled around. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
LONG-TAILED SHRIKE (NASUTUS GROUP) (Lanius schach stresemanni)
Oriolidae (Old World Orioles)
HOODED PITOHUI (Pitohui dichrous) [E]
VARIABLE PITOHUI (Pitohui kirhocephalus) [E*]
BROWN ORIOLE (Oriolus szalayi) [E]
AUSTRALASIAN FIGBIRD (Sphecotheres vieilloti)
SPANGLED DRONGO (Dicrurus bracteatus)
This Feline Owlet-Nightjar was an unparalleled bonus bird during our final night at Kumul. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
PYGMY DRONGO-FANTAIL (Chaetorhynchus papuensis) [E]
BLACK FANTAIL (Rhipidura atra) [E]
NORTHERN FANTAIL (Rhipidura rufiventris)
WHITE-BELLIED THICKET-FANTAIL (Rhipidura leucothorax leucothorax) [E*]
WILLIE-WAGTAIL (Rhipidura leucophrys)
RUFOUS-BACKED FANTAIL (Rhipidura rufidorsa) [E*]
DIMORPHIC FANTAIL (Rhipidura brachyrhyncha) [E]
Friendly Fantail is a common sight in the highlands, and this one was gathering nesting material just below Kumul Lodge. Photo by participant Claudi Racionero.
FRIENDLY FANTAIL (Rhipidura albolimbata) [E]
CHESTNUT-BELLIED FANTAIL (Rhipidura hyperythra) [EN]
BLUE-CAPPED IFRITA (Ifrita kowaldi) [E]
Monarchidae (Monarch Flycatchers)
GOLDEN MONARCH (Carterornis chrysomela) [E]
BLACK-FACED MONARCH (Monarcha melanopsis)
FANTAILED MONARCH (Symposiachrus axillaris) [E]
HOODED MONARCH (Symposiachrus manadensis) [E]
SPOT-WINGED MONARCH (Symposiachrus guttula) [E]
Here are some selected clips of a few of the many wonderful Birds-of-Paradise which we encountered during our time in PNG. Video clips by guide Doug Gochfeld.
FRILLED MONARCH (Arses telescopthalmus) [E]
LEADEN FLYCATCHER (Myiagra rubecula)
SHINING FLYCATCHER (Myiagra alecto)
Corvidae (Crows, Jays, and Magpies)
GRAY CROW (Corvus tristis) [E]
This young male Superb Bird-of-Paradise was in a very interesting plumage, with a black head and a full adult-like breast shield, but otherwise having female-like body plumage. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
TORRESIAN CROW (Corvus orru orru)
TRUMPET MANUCODE (Phonygammus keraudrenii)
CRINKLE-COLLARED MANUCODE (Manucodia chalybatus) [E]
GLOSSY-MANTLED MANUCODE (Manucodia ater) [E]
KING-OF-SAXONY BIRD-OF-PARADISE (Pteridophora alberti) [E]
CAROLA'S PAROTIA (Parotia carolae) [E]
LAWES'S PAROTIA (Parotia lawesii) [E]
We saw Blue Bird-of-Paradise in a couple of locations, but never closer than the female which was being very loyal to a couple of the fruiting trees on the grounds of Ambua. Photo by participant Claudi Racionero.
TWELVE-WIRED BIRD-OF-PARADISE (Seleucidis melanoleucus) [E]
SUPERB BIRD-OF-PARADISE (Lophorina superba) [E]
MAGNIFICENT RIFLEBIRD (MAGNIFICENT) (Ptiloris magnificus magnificus)
Male Ribbon-tailed Astrapias have the longest tail in relation to body length of any bird in the world, and we saw several adult males with their fully grown white tails. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
MAGNIFICENT RIFLEBIRD (GROWLING) (Ptiloris magnificus intercedens) [E]
BLACK SICKLEBILL (Epimachus fastosus) [E]
BROWN SICKLEBILL (Epimachus meyeri) [E]
SHORT-TAILED PARADIGALLA (Paradigalla brevicauda) [E]
STEPHANIE'S ASTRAPIA (Astrapia stephaniae) [E]
RIBBON-TAILED ASTRAPIA (Astrapia mayeri) [E]
KING BIRD-OF-PARADISE (Cicinnurus regius) [E]
MAGNIFICENT BIRD-OF-PARADISE (Cicinnurus magnificus) [E]
BLUE BIRD-OF-PARADISE (Paradisaea rudolphi) [E]
LESSER BIRD-OF-PARADISE (Paradisaea minor) [E]
It wasn't until our final morning at Ambua that everyone got good looks at the eerily pale eyes of Lawes's Parotia, but when we did finally all connect, we did so in a big way, with excellent close-up views. Photo by participant Claudi Racionero.
RAGGIANA BIRD-OF-PARADISE (Paradisaea raggiana) [E]
GREATER BIRD-OF-PARADISE (Paradisaea apoda) [E]
LESSER MELAMPITTA (Melampitta lugubris) [E]
GREATER MELAMPITTA (Melampitta gigantea) [E*]
Our Greater Bird-of-Paradise show was truly a proper "Attenborough moment". Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
Petroicidae (Australasian Robins)
LESSER GROUND-ROBIN (Amalocichla incerta) [E]
TORRENT FLYCATCHER (Monachella muelleriana) [E]
LEMON-BELLIED FLYCATCHER (Microeca flavigaster)
PAPUAN FLYCATCHER (Microeca papuana) [E]
GARNET ROBIN (Eugerygone rubra) [E*]
WHITE-FACED ROBIN (Tregellasia leucops)
BLACK-SIDED ROBIN (Poecilodryas hypoleuca) [E]
BLACK-THROATED ROBIN (Poecilodryas albonotata) [E]
WHITE-WINGED ROBIN (Peneothello sigillata) [E]
WHITE-RUMPED ROBIN (Peneothello bimaculata) [E*]
BLUE-GRAY ROBIN (Peneothello cyanus) [E]
PACIFIC SWALLOW (Hirundo tahitica)
The White-winged Robins at Kumul Lodge were exceptionally confiding, offering an interesting contrast to the ones along the Highlands Highway above Ambua, which could be tricky to see sitting still. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
Phylloscopidae (Leaf Warblers)
ISLAND LEAF WARBLER (Phylloscopus maforensis)
Locustellidae (Grassbirds and Allies)
TAWNY GRASSBIRD (Megalurus timoriensis)
Cisticolidae (Cisticolas and Allies)
GOLDEN-HEADED CISTICOLA (Cisticola exilis)
Zosteropidae (White-eyes, Yuhinas, and Allies)
BLACK-FRONTED WHITE-EYE (Zosterops minor minor)
The Huli Wigmen gave us an excellent demonstration of a traditional sing sing, and ended up sending us off with an animated farewell dance. Photo by participant Myles McNally.
BLACK-FRONTED WHITE-EYE (Zosterops minor delicatulus)
CAPPED WHITE-EYE (Zosterops fuscicapilla) [E]
Muscicapidae (Old World Flycatchers)
PIED BUSHCHAT (Saxicola caprata)
Turdidae (Thrushes and Allies)
ISLAND THRUSH (Turdus poliocephalus)
METALLIC STARLING (Aplonis metallica)
SINGING STARLING (Aplonis cantoroides)
YELLOW-FACED MYNA (Mino dumontii) [E]
GOLDEN MYNA (Mino anais) [E]
RED-CAPPED FLOWERPECKER (Dicaeum geelvinkianum)
We were able to check out the massive honkin' bills on these Grand Munias on our very final evening of the tour. This was the final endemic we picked up, in what was indeed a grand ending to our exploration of Papua New Guinea! Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
Nectariniidae (Sunbirds and Spiderhunters)
BLACK SUNBIRD (Leptocoma sericea)
OLIVE-BACKED SUNBIRD (Cinnyris jugularis)
Motacillidae (Wagtails and Pipits)
AUSTRALASIAN PIPIT (AUSTRALIAN) (Anthus novaeseelandiae australis)
Mountain Firetail is endemic to only the highest of the highlands of New Guinea. The species was apparently quite difficult to track down this summer, so this one was a great pickup just below the grasslands at the Tari Gap. Photo by participant Claudi Racionero.
Passeridae (Old World Sparrows)
HOUSE SPARROW (Passer domesticus) [I]
EURASIAN TREE SPARROW (Passer montanus) [I]
Estrildidae (Waxbills and Allies)
MOUNTAIN FIRETAIL (Oreostruthus fuliginosus) [E]
CRIMSON FINCH (Neochmia phaeton)
STREAK-HEADED MUNIA (WHITE-SPOTTED) (Lonchura tristissima leucosticta) [E]
GRAND MUNIA (Lonchura grandis) [E]
HOODED MUNIA (Lonchura spectabilis) [E]
GRAY-HEADED MUNIA (Lonchura caniceps) [E]
What a merry band or birders (and orchid-hunters!) we were. Here we are with Max Mal, at Max's wonderful orchid garden. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
GREATER FLYING FOX (Pteropus neohibernicus)
SUNDA SAMBAR (Cervus timorensis) [I]
We had unidentified Water Dragons along the road between Tabubil and Kiunga and then again along the Elevala River. We also had what was apparently a Water Monitor of some variety along the Elevala River. We had a brief view of a Parrotfinch flying across the road up to the Tari Gap, which Jay and Ed saw, but we didn't see it again, so we couldn't figure which of the two very similar possibilities it was.
Totals for the tour: 331 bird taxa and 2 mammal taxa