A Field Guides Birding Tours Report

Papua New Guinea (Siebert Private) 2023

June 28-July 16, 2023 with Jay VanderGaast guiding

Field Guides Birding Tours
One of the undisputed highlights of the tour was getting to spend time in a hide at the bower of the spectacular, glowing Flame Bowerbird for the first time in my experience. Though the bird didn’t stay long on either of its visits to the bower, the close views we got were amazing, as evidenced in this beautiful shot by participant Randy Siebert!

To say that this trip had its challenges would be a bit of an understatement. Birding here is already the most difficult I've experienced anywhere, given that many birds here are naturally shy and elusive to begin with, but also extensively hunted, and generally unresponsive, even in places where few birders have ever been (the newly accessible Hindenburg Wall being a prime example). But then there were the unexpected challenges: flight issues with Air Niugini (though maybe I should have expected these) that delayed us and cost us some time in the highlands, the lack of life jackets on the boats in Kiunga which kept us from spending time on the river, the recent bulldozing of the famous mound on Boystown Road, which negatively impacted the view out over the forest. It certainly wasn't the smoothest run of this tour, yet, despite the setbacks, overall we were quite successful in tracking down many of the birds we hoped to see, including members of all PNG's endemic families.

Visits to the wonderful Varirata National Park bookended the tour and highlights at the park were many. Here we had numerous colorful fruit-doves including Beautiful, Pink-spotted and the diminutive Dwarf, and numerous colorful kingfishers, including Brown-headed Paradise-Kingfisher, Rufous-bellied Kookaburra, and the diminutive, and hard to spot Papuan Dwarf-Kingfisher. We also enjoyed fantastic looks at a surprise Marbled Frogmouth on a day roost, with an unsurprising Barred Owlet-Nightjar in another, displaying Pacific Baza, tiny Papuan Hanging-Parrot for a lucky few, the striking, and poisonous, Hooded Pitohui, charming Spot-winged and Frilled monarchs, and a territorial male Growling Riflebird. Topping this all off was an amazing show from the many Raggiana BOPs on their well-known lek--a fantastic way to kick off our birds-of-paradise list!

Onwards to Tabubil, where the weather was surprisingly dry, and a visit to the newly accessible Hindenburg Wall was an unexpected thrill. The pristine forests here reminded me a lot of the famous Tari Gap, and had a very similar suite of birds. Among the nice finds here were our first of several Wattled Ploughbills, some big groups of delightful Tit Berrypeckers (knocking off two of the endemic families early), a pair of Spotted Berrypeckers, Yellow-billed and Plum-faced lorikeets, and superb looks at some minuscule Red-breasted Pygmy-Parrots! This site clearly would have been worth more time than we had. Elsewhere around Tabubil we enjoyed a lovely perched Gray-headed Goshawk, a small flock of Striated Lorikeets (my one lifer on the mainland!), a close Long-billed Honeyeater in a juvenile plumage I'd never seen before, plus 2 other key species of scarce hill forest honeyeaters--the exquisite Spotted, and rare Ruby-throated Myzomela, several Mountains Peltops, and some very good looks at the often elusive Southern Variable Pitohui.

Things got a bit tougher in the lowlands around Kiunga, with overall low bird activity, and some challenging conditions, though several trip favorites came from the region. Topping that list, as well as the bird of the trip voting, was the unbelievably fiery male Flame Bowerbird, seen at his bower near Kwatu Lodge! What a treat that was! A Sclater's Crowned-Pigeon on a nest was another treat, as were Twelve-wired, Greater, and tiny King birds-of-paradise at their various display areas. Though numbers were low, massive Blyth's Hornbills and Palm Cockatoos got hearts racing, too. And managing views of both pitta species--Hooded (excellent) and Papuan (acceptable)--plus Blue Jewel-Babbler (not great, but any look of these skulkers is considered a victory) made the efforts worthwhile.

Our time in the highlands was cut short by much of a day thanks to incompetence, and/or shady business practices by Air Niugini, but we hit the ground running once we made it. Our first venue, Kumul Lodge, gave us the usual close looks at spectacular males of both Ribbon-tailed Astrapia and Brown Sicklebill at the feeders, with displaying Lesser BoPs, a gorgeous male Blue BoP, and an unexpected, but always hoped-for male Magnificent BoPs at nearby venues. We continued to whittle away at the endemic families, with good Blue-capped Ifritas, a singing male Lora's Satinbird, and a reasonably cooperative Lesser Melampitta offering themselves up. The supporting cast included the likes of Yellow-breasted Bowerbird, showy Ornate Melidectes, Brehm's and Madarasz's tiger-parrots, stunning Papuan Lorikeet, Rufous-naped Bellbird, Regent Whistler, and many more. From Kumul we headed to Rondon Ridge, where we added even more highland specialties including bizarre King-of-Saxony BoP, brilliant Greater Lophorina, Stephanie's Astrapia, Mountain Kingfisher, and our final endemic family, the monotypic Mottled Berryhunter, though it wasn't quite as cooperative as we'd have liked.

Back at Moresby, we did our follow-up visits to Varirata, and finally got in a visit to the grounds of PAU, where the dredging of the ponds seemed to have a negative impact on bird numbers, but we still saw a good assortment of waterbirds, including some roosting Nankeen Night-Herons and striking Pied Herons, plus many Fawn-breasted Bowerbirds (and a well-built bower) and a trio of massive Papuan Frogmouths.

I'm glad to have had the chance to share so many wonderful PNG specialties with all of you, and I appreciate how easily you all rolled with the punches when challenges came our way. It was a pleasure traveling with you all, and I look forward to another trip with you again.


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

Anatidae (Ducks, Geese, and Waterfowl)

WANDERING WHISTLING-DUCK (Dendrocygna arcuata)

About 25 of these were hanging around on the edges of the ponds at Pacific Adventist University (aka PAU).

Field Guides Birding Tours
This dozy-looking Barking Owl was a treat to see on a day roost near the Varirata NP picnic area. Participants David and Judy Smith caught the owl casting a sleepy gaze over us after we’d disturbed its siesta.

RADJAH SHELDUCK (Radjah radjah)

One was perched in a tree along the coast west of Port Moresby on our first afternoon, and another three were seen at PAU on our final morning of birding on mainland PNG.

PACIFIC BLACK DUCK (Anas superciliosa)

The most numerous duck at PAU, with about 75 scattered across the various ponds.

GRAY TEAL (Anas gracilis)

Four birds were among the other ducks at PAU.

Megapodiidae (Megapodes)

YELLOW-LEGGED BRUSHTURKEY (Talegalla fuscirostris) [E*]

Heard regularly in the Kiunga area, and we had one calling really close along Boystown Road, but couldn't get it to show itself.

Phasianidae (Pheasants, Grouse, and Allies)

BROWN QUAIL (Synoicus ypsilophorus)

We flushed a couple as we walked along the entrance road at Varirata, then Leonard went off road and flushed up a third bird.

Columbidae (Pigeons and Doves)

ROCK PIGEON (Columba livia) [I]

Only a few birds around Mount Hagen.

AMBOYNA CUCKOO-DOVE (Macropygia amboinensis)

As usual, the most numerous of the cuckoo-doves, and we recorded them more days than not. We had some especially nice looks at a pair feeding in a fruiting tree low over the Lai River.

BLACK-BILLED CUCKOO-DOVE (Macropygia nigrirostris) [E]

This small species seems most common in highland forest, though it can turn up pretty much anywhere. Most of our views were brief flybys, but we did get good scope views of one at Rondon Ridge, good enough to make out the distinctive black barring on the tail.

GREAT CUCKOO-DOVE (Reinwardtoena reinwardti) [E]

The scarcest of the cuckoo-doves, and an easily missed species, but we did well this year, with three sightings. First up was a bird that Anne spotted along the Varirata entrance road. Ensuing scope views were a bit obscured, but acceptable. Later at Rondon, we had far better scope views of another perched above the lodge, then finally, we saw another on our second full day visit to Varirata.

BRONZE GROUND DOVE (Alopecoenas beccarii) [*]

A calling bird at Murmur Pass remained in the forest and out of view.

PEACEFUL DOVE (Geopelia placida)

Small numbers along the Varirata entrance road and at PAU.

PHEASANT PIGEON (Otidiphaps nobilis) [E]

Something of a nemesis bird for me, as I have heard them often at Varirata without so much as a glimpse. Well, this time I got my glimpse, as a calling bird suddenly walked out from behind a large tree buttress then immediately took off and disappeared. A few of us had enough of a look to say we'd seen it, while others were just in the wrong place and missed it altogether.


We had to endure a fair bit of mud and plenty of hungry leeches to get to a nest of this impressive pigeon behind Kwatu Lodge, but the scope views we got as the bird sat motionless atop its stick nest were worth every drop of blood we lost!

WOMPOO FRUIT-DOVE (Ptilinopus magnificus) [*]

Though we heard the odd, unmistakeable call of this one on a few days at Kiunga and Varirata, we were never able to track one down.

PINK-SPOTTED FRUIT-DOVE (Ptilinopus perlatus) [E]

As usual, this was the most often recorded fruit-dove species, and we had numerous excellent looks at them both at Varirata and in the Kiunga area.

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As its name suggests, the lovely Torrent Flycatcher (or Flyrobin, as it is now called) generally frequents the edges of fast-flowing mountain rivers, such as the thundering Lai River, where participants David and Judy Smith snapped this portrait.

ORANGE-FRONTED FRUIT-DOVE (Ptilinopus aurantiifrons) [E]

PAU is about the only place we ever see this species, and we had our only one there again, though it was brief and we could definitely have used better views.

SUPERB FRUIT-DOVE (Ptilinopus superbus)

Ted spotted a couple of females perched in the subcanopy of distant tree along Henry's Road near Tabubil, and we got decent scope views of them. Our only other sighting was a brief one of a male (if I am remembering correctly) along the Drimgas Road.

BEAUTIFUL FRUIT-DOVE (Ptilinopus pulchellus) [E]

An appropriate name, though it could just as easily apply to almost any of the fruit-doves! We heard these often, but saw just a couple-- a reasonable look at one along the Drimgas Road, then incredible scope studies of a bird perched just above the picnic area at Varirata.

WHITE-BREASTED FRUIT-DOVE (Ptilinopus rivoli) [E]

A highland forest species, and generally the only fruit-dove in this habitat. We had a few reasonable looks at these (mainly females) at Rondon, though they were not quite as cooperative as we would have liked.

ORANGE-BELLIED FRUIT-DOVE (Ptilinopus iozonus) [E]

A common lowland forest species, only slightly less numerous than Pink-spotted this trip. We had a few good views of these in the Kiunga region.

DWARF FRUIT-DOVE (Ptilinopus nainus) [E]

This can be a tricky bird to track down, as we found out near Kiunga, where we only caught a few glimpses of one high in the canopy above the Km 17 trail. Fortunately we fared better at Varirata where we scored some amazing scope views of a handsome male perched in the canopy of a fruiting tree above the lower picnic area.


Never numerous, but even scarcer than normal this trip, and the only views we had were of a bird we coaxed into flying across the Drimgas Road a couple of times.


We also had fewer than usual of these handsome birds (a bit of a theme with imperial-pigeons this trip) but did manage a few decent looks in the Kiunga region.


Usually common along the Fly and Elevala rivers, but we saw just one group of 7 birds as we boated along the Elevala in the late afternoon, the lowest total I've ever encountered here. The scarcity of pigeons, fruit-doves, hornbills, and starlings, and the complete lack of fruit-bats during the river trip makes me think that there wasn't much fruit available in the region.

ZOE'S IMPERIAL-PIGEON (Ducula zoeae) [E]

Heard or seen daily in the lowland areas, with some excellent looks at these at Varirata and Kiunga.


Mainly a seasonal visitor (in the Austral winter) from Australia. Our only ones were a couple of birds at PAU.

PAPUAN MOUNTAIN-PIGEON (Gymnophaps albertisii) [E]

The most abundant species on the tour, and it wasn't even close. We kicked things off at Ok Menga, where flock after flock went by, with an estimated total of 488 birds. We saw them in many days after as well, and tallied nearly 1100 of them by tour's end.

Cuculidae (Cuckoos)

GREATER BLACK COUCAL (Centropus menbeki) [E*]

For such a large canopy species, this one can be tough to see. We heard them at Varirata and the Kiunga region, but never got one to show itself.

LESSER BLACK COUCAL (Centropus bernsteini) [E*]

Heard around Kiunga and Tabubil, but never really close enough to have a chance to see one.

PHEASANT COUCAL (Centropus phasianinus)

A single our first afternoon on our way along the coast to Lea Lea, then several others along the Varirata entrance road.

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A widespread but easily-missed species, Great Cuckoo-Doves performed well for us this trip, none better than this bird perched along the track above Rondon Ridge. Photo by participants David and Judy Smith.

PACIFIC KOEL (AUSTRALIAN) (Eudynamys orientalis cyanocephalus)

Nice looks at a perched female one morning along the Drimgas Road.

CHANNEL-BILLED CUCKOO (Scythrops novaehollandiae)

Scarce this trip, and we only had one record of a calling pair seen briefly as they flew past at PAU.

RUFOUS-THROATED BRONZE-CUCKOO (Chrysococcyx ruficollis) [E]

This highland forest cuckoo was seen pretty nicely after some effort at the top of Rondon Ridge.

WHITE-CROWNED KOEL (Cacomantis leucolophus) [E]

Widespread and often heard, but often a tough one to see. Not this trip, though, as our first one at Varirata showed remarkably well, both as it flew over, and then as it sat perched atop a tall tree in the picnic area. Some of my best ever views of this one.

CHESTNUT-BREASTED CUCKOO (Cacomantis castaneiventris)

Several were singing along Henry's Road, but they mostly stayed out of view, with just a few folks getting a quick look at one. It was the same at Varirata, where another was calling near the picnic area, but was only seen by a couple of us as it flew between perches.

FAN-TAILED CUCKOO (Cacomantis flabelliformis excitus)

Replaces the similar Chestnut-breasted Cuckoo at high elevations. We heard a few in the Kumul and Rondon areas, and had good views of a couple along the Tonga trail.

BRUSH CUCKOO (Cacomantis variolosus)

Common, widespread, and often heard. We had a few sightings as well, mainly around Kiunga.

Podargidae (Frogmouths)

MARBLED FROGMOUTH (Podargus ocellatus)

A close encounter with two callings birds after dark along the Drimgas Road failed to produce a sighting, so we expected this to be a heard only species. But on our second full day at Varirata, as we birded along the Circuit Track, I was trying to whistle up a jewel-babbler when Randy spotted something fly in, seemingly in response to my whistles. This is certainly not what we were expecting, but it was a fantastic daytime sighting of this incredible bird, which gave us walk away looks.

PAPUAN FROGMOUTH (Podargus papuensis)

Unlike the above, we do expect to see this species during the day, as there have been well-used roosts at PAU for many years. And they did not disappoint, as once again we found 3 birds perched together near the basketball courts.

Caprimulgidae (Nightjars and Allies)

ARCHBOLD'S NIGHTJAR (Eurostopodus archboldi) [E*]

Our attempt to find this one near Kumul was pretty much fogged out, but we were able to hear one calling from the grasslands as dusk, just before the fog took away our view.

Aegothelidae (Owlet-nightjars)

FELINE OWLET-NIGHTJAR (Aegotheles insignis) [E*]

Close calling birds at both Kumul and Rondon failed to play nice and we had to settle for heard-only records.

MOUNTAIN OWLET-NIGHTJAR (Aegotheles albertisi) [E*]

We also heard the high, squeaky call of this species near the generator at Kumul, but just couldn't track it down.

BARRED OWLET-NIGHTJAR (Aegotheles bennettii) [E]

Luckily, there is one reliable owlet-nightjar species here, and we had excellent looks at one as it peered out of a long used tree cavity at Varirata.

Apodidae (Swifts)

PAPUAN SPINETAILED SWIFT (Mearnsia novaeguineae) [E]

Small numbers in the lowlands around Kiunga. The unique shape and flight, along with the pale stripe in the underwing, help separate this from the similarly-colored Glossy Swiftlet.

GLOSSY SWIFTLET (Collocalia esculenta)

Common and seen regularly, including a roosting bird clinging to the underside of the viewing deck at Kumul, where others were also seen gathering moss for their nests.

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The huge eyes of a Barred Owlet-Nightjar leave no doubt that this is a bird of the night! Photo by participants David and Judy Smith.

MOUNTAIN SWIFTLET (Aerodramus hirundinaceus) [E]

Very difficult to separate from the next species in the field, other than by elevation. This one is at higher elevations, and was especially common at Rondon, where a group of 40-50 one afternoon near the lodge was notable.

UNIFORM SWIFTLET (Aerodramus vanikorensis)

Mainly in the Kiunga/Tabubil region, where we had plenty, and lots of good close looks, around the Ok Menga hydro intake particularly.

Rallidae (Rails, Gallinules, and Coots)

BUFF-BANDED RAIL (Gallirallus philippensis)

One of the group (I've forgotten who) spotted one at the Rondon Ridge water feature while we sat at the table having breakfast one morning.

DUSKY MOORHEN (Gallinula tenebrosa)

Only a handful were present at PAU this time. No doubt the ongoing dredging work involving dozens of people in and around the main pond had impacted numbers of these and many other regulars (no jacanas at all this visit!).

AUSTRALASIAN SWAMPHEN (Porphyrio melanotus melanopterus)

About 8 birds around the pond with all the dredging activity, somewhat fewer than we usually see here.

Charadriidae (Plovers and Lapwings)

MASKED LAPWING (MASKED) (Vanellus miles miles)

A few pairs at PAU, and a small number of birds along the runway at the Port Moresby airport.

Glareolidae (Pratincoles and Coursers)


Not a bird we see every trip, but when we do, they are invariably seen in the verges of various runways. This year those airports were Daru (where we made a brief stop without deplaning), Port Moresby, and Kiunga (I think).

Laridae (Gulls, Terns, and Skimmers)

GULL-BILLED TERN (Gelochelidon nilotica)

One mixed in with a flock of crested terns on a small offshore sandbar at Lea Lea.

GREAT CRESTED TERN (Thalasseus bergii cristatus)

The bulk of the terns (about 15 birds) at Lea Lea, easily told by their bushy crests and pale yellow bills.

LESSER CRESTED TERN (Thalasseus bengalensis)

The orange bills of these birds set them apart from the above species. There were a couple of these in among the Greaters at Lea Lea.

Phalacrocoracidae (Cormorants and Shags)

LITTLE PIED CORMORANT (Microcarbo melanoleucos)

A single bird roosting in a tree at PAU was the only one for mainland PNG.

GREAT CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax carbo)

One flew up the Ok Menga river as we watched in vain for Salvadori's Teals.

LITTLE BLACK CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax sulcirostris)

About 20 of these were at the PAU ponds.

Ardeidae (Herons, Egrets, and Bitterns)

INTERMEDIATE EGRET (Ardea intermedia)

Herons and egrets were in short supply overall, and we saw just 4 birds at PAU, with another seen by some at the Kiunga airport.

LITTLE EGRET (AUSTRALASIAN) (Egretta garzetta nigripes)

Just one or two birds at the PAU ponds.

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I didn’t really notice it in the field, but this excellent shot of a Pygmy Eagle soaring over the Varirata NP entrance road shows that the bird has a full crop. Wonder what it just ate? Photo by participants David and Judy Smith.

PIED HERON (Egretta picata)

I was afraid that the dredging had chased off all of these dapper herons at PAU, but we finally found 7 of them (all but a couple in subadult plumage) foraging on the verge of some secluded ponds far from the dredging activity.

CATTLE EGRET (EASTERN) (Bubulcus ibis coromandus)

Small numbers scattered along the tour route, mainly during drives. Biggest count was about 20 at PAU, with a couple of birds feeding along the runway at Mt Hagen airport as well.

STRIATED HERON (Butorides striata)

Folks in the first boat saw one when it flushed from the edge of the Elevala River.

NANKEEN NIGHT-HERON (Nycticorax caledonicus)

The enormous rain tree these birds favor at PAU appeared empty on first inspection, and it seemed impossible that there were any of these birds at all in the canopy. But with some careful searching, we eventually turned up at least 7 of them hiding in plain view.

Threskiornithidae (Ibises and Spoonbills)

AUSTRALIAN IBIS (Threskiornis molucca)

About 10 of these common Australian birds were at PAU, where they seem to be more regular and slightly more numerous than they were in the past.

Accipitridae (Hawks, Eagles, and Kites)

LONG-TAILED HONEY-BUZZARD (Henicopernis longicauda) [E]

A couple of these distinctively-shaped hawks were seen soaring over the hills at the Ok Menga hydro intake, then we had some much closer and nicer views of another over the Ketu River during the boat trip.

PACIFIC BAZA (Aviceda subcristata)

All our records came from Varirata, where we had them on three different days, and had brilliant views of them including a bird in display flight (and in fantastic light!) over the entrance road, and a pair perched in tall eucalyptus trees at the picnic area.

NEW GUINEA EAGLE (Harpyopsis novaeguineae) [E*]

I've only seen this scarce species one time, so when we heard one calling at Varirata, my hopes were high that this might be my second. Alas, it was not to be, and despite some effort to try and track it down, it continued to taunt us from deep in the forest. Still, it's pretty cool to hear this one, too!

PYGMY EAGLE (Hieraaetus weiskei) [E]

A small, Buteo-like eagle, this raptor showed beautifully as it soared low overhead along the Varirata entrance road on our first full day in PNG. We saw another, or perhaps the same one, a couple of weeks later, and also had one flying over the Tonga trail below Kumul.

PAPUAN MARSH-HARRIER (Circus spilothorax) [E]

A fairly recent split from Eastern Marsh-Harrier, this form is now treated as a good species endemic to PNG. About the only likely place for us to get it on this itinerary was at the Mt. Hagen airport, and that's exactly where we got it. We first spotted the bird (a female) flying among a number of Black Kites well out beyond the runway, but it eventually flew closer and made a nice close pass as we watched from the comfort of departure lounge!

VARIABLE GOSHAWK (Accipiter hiogaster)

A few sightings in the Tabubil/Kiunga region included decent scope views of a perched bird along Henry's Road. We also saw one along the Varirata entrance road on our final morning before heading to New Britain.

BROWN GOSHAWK (Accipiter fasciatus)

Quite common and widespread, though we didn't see many overall. We did have fine views of a couple along the road to Lea Lea on our first morning, with our only other one seen at the Lesser BoP site below Kumul.

BLACK-MANTLED GOSHAWK (Accipiter melanochlamys) [E]

Our only sighting of this endemic highland Accipiter was brief but good, as a handsome adult flew across at eye level, a couple of melidectes in hot pursuit, just after we'd arrived at the clearing atop Rondon Ridge. Well, most of us, as a couple of people were still behind trying to track down a King-of-Saxony BoP.

GRAY-HEADED GOSHAWK (Accipiter poliocephalus) [E]

A distinctive Accipiter of lowland and hill forests. We had good scope views of our only one, perched atop a fairly distant bare tree along Henry's Road.

BLACK KITE (BLACK) (Milvus migrans affinis)

A few birds in the lowlands around Port Moresby, but the majority of the ones we saw were up in the highlands, where they are abundant.

An enthusiastic vocal performance from a Black-backed Butcherbird at Pacific Adventist University. Video by participants David and Judy Smith.

WHISTLING KITE (Haliastur sphenurus)

Just a few birds on our first afternoon as we headed out along the coast towards Lea Lea. Sadly, we also saw a couple of tethered birds for sale on the streets of Port Moresby.

BRAHMINY KITE (Haliastur indus)

These handsome kites are pretty common and widespread, though we saw them primarily at lower elevations, with just one in the highlands at Rondon Ridge.

WHITE-BELLIED SEA-EAGLE (Haliaeetus leucogaster)

Our only one was a striking adult flying along the coast as we headed out towards Lea Lea.

Strigidae (Owls)

BARKING OWL (Ninox connivens)

Happily, there was one bird (with perhaps a second hiding nearby) sitting right out in the open at a day roost that Leonard knew in Varirata, and we had superb looks at it as it eyed us sleepily.

PAPUAN BOOBOOK (Ninox theomacha) [E*]

Frustrating, as we heard them calling on 4 different days around Tabubil and Rondon, but just couldn't get one to show itself.

Bucerotidae (Hornbills)

BLYTH'S HORNBILL (Rhyticeros plicatus)

A lack of fruiting trees may have been to blame for a poor showing from these impressive birds, as we had a grand total of only about 6 of them in the Kiunga region. We also had good views of a couple along the Varirata entrance road at the end of the trip, and of course, plenty on the New Britain extension!

Alcedinidae (Kingfishers)

AZURE KINGFISHER (Ceyx azureus) [*]

We heard these along the stream at Varirata, but they never showed themselves.


We narrowly missed seeing this elusive small kingfisher on our first visit to Varirata, but on our return at tour's end, we wound up with stellar scope views of one looking down at us from the subcanopy. Always a challenge, but well worth the effort!


At least a half a dozen were perched on roadside wires along the route to Lea Lea.


Quite common in lowlands and hill forest regions, though more often heard than seen. We did have some excellent looks at a pair perched above the upper picnic area on our first visit to Varirata. We also had a pair that seemed to be reacting aggressively to the Hook-billed Kingfishers were were trying to see along the Drimgas Road, which certainly didn't help us out in our attempts.


Seeing one of these huge, bizarre kingfishers is never an easy task, as they seem to be most active, or at least they call more frequently, when it is nearly too dark to see them. We gave it a good try, and had a close calling bird near Tabubil, but it flew off as we approached and was only seen as a bulky silhouette against the darkening sky as it flew over the road and deep into the woods.

FOREST KINGFISHER (Todiramphus macleayii)

One each along the coast road to Lea Lea and the Varirata entrance road. Both a resident subspecies and a migrant subspecies from Australia occur in PNG. By the looks of the photos you all got of the first one, it looks like that bird, at least, was a migrant, as it shows a very green back.

SACRED KINGFISHER (Todiramphus sanctus) [a]

A trio of birds at the Ok Menga hydro intake made up half our total on mainland PNG. We also saw singles along Henry's road, during our boat trip, and at PAU. This species is a migrant from Australia during the austral winter.

HOOK-BILLED KINGFISHER (Melidora macrorrhina) [E]

By voice, this is quite a common and widespread bird of lowland forests, but it can be devilishly hard to see. We did manage some poor views by luring a pair across the Drimgas Road a couple of times, but they headed straight for deep cover each time, partly just because that's their nature, and partly (perhaps) due to that pesky pair of unhappy Rufous-bellied Kookaburras that didn't seem to like their neighbors.


Our first visit to Varirata may have been the only time I've ever failed to see this species in the park, but admittedly we didn't put in any effort. We made up for this on our final 2 visits, getting some fantastic looks of several, including a female perched quietly above the trail at eye level for several long minutes.

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One of the weirdest birds in PNG (and that’s saying something!) the Wattled Ploughbill can be tough to come by, though you wouldn’t have it guessed from our experience. Participants David and Judy Smith captured this great shot of one of the several males we saw, this one at Rondon Ridge.

MOUNTAIN KINGFISHER (Syma megarhyncha) [E]

Very similar to the above, which it replaces in high elevation forests. This species generally is tougher to find, in my experience, and that was certainly the case this trip. The first one along the Tonga trail was vocal, but remained hidden in the canopy. We fared better at Rondon; they were still difficult, but we eventually managed to track a couple down for some fine views.

COMMON PARADISE-KINGFISHER (Tanysiptera galatea) [E*]

Though they're never really that easy to find, the lone bird we had along the Ketu River was especially flighty, and though I managed to spot it a couple of times, it flew off each time before I was able to get anyone else on it.


Generally the easiest of the paradise-kingfishers, but they were a bit trickier than usual this trip. But we still managed to track down a pair at Varirata for some fine looks.

Meropidae (Bee-eaters)

RAINBOW BEE-EATER (Merops ornatus) [a]

Good numbers of these beautiful birds were seen both along the Varirata entrance road and at a couple of sites below Kumul. They were especially numerous at the Lesser BoP site, where 50+ birds flew by as we watched the BoPs. Most, if not all the ones we saw, would have been winter visitors from Australia.

Coraciidae (Rollers)

DOLLARBIRD (Eurystomus orientalis) [a]

Not quite as numerous as usual, but we still had fair numbers in the Kiunga region, as well as a few along the Varirata entrance road. As with the bee-eater, there is both an endemic, resident race and a winter visitor from Australia. We might well have seen both forms, but they're hard to tell apart.

Cacatuidae (Cockatoos)

PALM COCKATOO (Probosciger aterrimus)

This spectacular bird gave us a tough time this trip, and we never had that hoped-for view of a perched bird, but we had a couple of decent fly-bys along Boystown Road and Drimgas Road, though surprisingly none during our river trip.


Significantly less numerous and conspicuous than the ones in Australia, though we tallied about a dozen during our time in the Kiunga region as well as at Varirata.

Psittaculidae (Old World Parrots)

YELLOW-CAPPED PYGMY-PARROT (Micropsitta keiensis) [E]

Seen both during our river trip and along Boystown Road, mainly as tiny parrot-shaped forms rocketing overhead, but a pair of birds in riverside trees at Kwatu Lodge were seen remarkably well, perhaps my best views ever of this species!

RED-BREASTED PYGMY-PARROT (Micropsitta bruijnii)

Easily the fanciest of the pygmy-parrots, and it seems to be easier to actually see than other species, mainly as it often feeds in open trees with relatively sparse foliage. We had beautiful looks at a quartet in highland forest at the Hindenburg Wall, then another pair at Rondon.

ECLECTUS PARROT (Eclectus roratus)

Quite common in lowland and hill forest regions, but not as numerous as they are in New Britain. We had numerous great views of these colorful large parrots, including a stunning female that Randy spotted sitting in the opening of a cavity in a large eucalyptus trunk along the Varirata entrance road.

RED-CHEEKED PARROT (Geoffroyus geoffroyi)

Fairly common around Varirata and Kiunga, with especially good views of several perched above the picnic site at Varirata. One of several species (including the above) that have very limited ranges in the Cape York region of Australia.

BLUE-COLLARED PARROT (Geoffroyus simplex) [E]

The tinkling bell-like calls of these parrots are usually the key to identifying them, as they rarely, if ever, seem to land, and they tend to fly quite high overhead. I have still never seen these birds perched, or made out any color as they flew over, and it was no different this trip, as our lone sighting was a baker's dozen of birds that flew over as we birded along Henry's Road. It was easily one of my best-ever views of this species, as they were relatively low for a change.

BREHM'S TIGER-PARROT (Psittacella brehmii) [E]

While they didn't seem to be as consistent at the Kumul Lodge feeders as they usually are, we still had great studies of 4 birds shortly after we arrived there.

MADARASZ'S TIGER-PARROT (Psittacella madaraszi) [E]

With the exception of Kumul's feeder birds, tiger-parrots are quiet and inconspicuous overall, so any sighting of any species in a natural setting is a good one. Unfortunately, our only such tiger-parrot was a male of this species feeding in a fruiting tree high above the Tonga trail, and it mysteriously vanished into the canopy before everyone got a look, never to be seen again.

ORANGE-BREASTED FIG-PARROT (Cyclopsitta gulielmitertii) [E]

Wow, where were all the fig-parrots this year? This is usually a pretty common species around Kiunga and Tabubil, but we had only one poor view of 4 birds flying over in bad light along the Drimgas Road.

Field Guides Birding Tours
The huge and spectacular Sclater’s Crowned-Pigeon is always one of the most hoped-for sightings in the Kiunga area lowlands. Fortunately for us, our local guides had staked out an active nest. The blood we lost to the leeches here was worth it for views like this! Photo by participants David and Judy Smith.

DOUBLE-EYED FIG-PARROT (Cyclopsitta diophthalma)

We fared significantly better with this one, with pairs seen on multiple days around the Kiunga region, beginning with a very cooperative pair well-spotted by David in the canopy of a roadside tree at Km 17.

PLUM-FACED LORIKEET (Oreopsittacus arfaki) [E]

These tiny, highland lorikeets always seem to be on the move, scrambling around in dense forest canopy, playing hide and seek behind the foliage, and so are not always the easiest to see well. But we had several chances, finding them at the Hindenburg Wall, at Murmur Pass, and at Rondon, and I believe everyone wound up with some decent views by the time we left the highlands.

RED-FLANKED LORIKEET (Hypocharmosyna placentis) [E]

Much more common and easily seen on New Britain, but fairly numerous in the lowlands around Kiunga, as well, and we had a few good sightings, including beautiful looks at a couple of pairs sitting out on a palm trunk next to the Km 17 trail.

STRIATED LORIKEET (Synorhacma multistriata)

As the light was fading late one afternoon along Henry's Road, I spotted a group of about 15 small lorikeets perched in some treetops well off the road. The scope came in especially handy, as the birds were nothing but silhouettes in the bins, while the scope allowed us to make out the fine yellow streaks on the face and breast that identified them as this scarce species. even after so many visits to PNG, this was still a lifer for me.

PAPUAN LORIKEET (Charmosyna papou) [E]

We had a handful of these spectacular large lorikeets in the highlands, but none better than the bird that flew in and fed on one of the Schefflera plants just off the balcony shortly after we first arrived at Kumul.

YELLOW-BILLED LORIKEET (Neopsittacus musschenbroekii) [E]

Relatively few, though we had nice views of 10+ birds at the Hindenburg Wall, and a couple along the Tonga trail. Some high-flying lorikeets over Rondon Ridge were very likely this species as well.

BLACK-CAPPED LORY (Lorius lory) [E]

Small numbers daily in the Kiunga region, and a few birds at Varirata. As is often the case, many were seen only in flight, though we did eventually manage some good scope views of these colorful birds.

YELLOW-STREAKED LORY (Chalcopsitta scintillata) [E]

In poor light, these birds just look dark, and are best told by size, shape, flight, and calls. Sadly we had to rely on these cues both times we saw some flying over the Drimgas Road, as we certainly couldn't make out any color.

COCONUT LORIKEET (COCONUT) (Trichoglossus haematodus nigrogularis)

A sister species to Australia's Rainbow Lorikeet, and like that species, this is the most numerous and familiar of the lorikeet species in PNG. We had plenty of these around Tabubil, Kiunga, and Varirata, and even saw a half a dozen as high up in the mountains as the Lesser BoP site.

PAPUAN HANGING-PARROT (Loriculus aurantiifrons) [E]

On our final morning along the Varirata NP entrance road, I spotted a tiny bird rocket into the top of a nearby eucalyptus. I quickly trained the scope on the spot, and was surprised to see it was a handsome male of this very hard to see species. Unfortunately only Ted and Wanda, who were the first to the scope, got a look at it before it scurried out of sight and couldn't be refound. This was only about the 3rd sighting I've ever had of this scarce bird.

Pittidae (Pittas)

PAPUAN PITTA (Erythropitta macklotii) [E]

Ted and Leonard both got on a bird that was feeding on the forest floor near the brushturkey mound at Varirata, but the rest of us were unable to spot it before it disappeared up the slope. A few days later, we all had brief looks at one along the Km 17 trail at the same spot, and immediately following, a much better performance from the next species.

HOODED PITTA (Pitta sordida)

Playback often seems to be a dismal failure in PNG, but every once in a while it works beautifully, and that's what happened with this species at Km 17. One of a pair responded well and hopped out onto the trail, pausing for a few seconds in full view before popping back into the sense undergrowth. A nice reward for our efforts!

Ptilonorhynchidae (Bowerbirds)

MACGREGOR'S BOWERBIRD (Amblyornis macgregoriae) [E]

A fruiting tree inside the forest at Rondon Ridge was drawing in a few of these birds, but they were really wary and kept flying off every time we approached. But by exercising a little patience, we eventually managed to get some reasonable looks at them. Almost as good was the impressive bower that Joseph showed us; it really is a cool structure.

FLAME BOWERBIRD (Sericulus ardens)

This was my first ever chance to sit in a hide at the bower of this blazingly orange bird, so I was happy to finally get the opportunity. It took some time, but it was worth the wait, as the male is truly a breathtaking bird! Due to limited viewing space, we had to wait for a second appearance to catch everyone up, but ultimately the bird came back and allowed those that missed it to catch up. Though neither visit was very lengthy, seeing the bird at close range was an amazing experience, and this bird earned the top spot as bird of the trip, with Ted, Wanda, and Dan all placing it atop their lists.

YELLOW-BREASTED BOWERBIRD (Chlamydera lauterbachi) [E]

This species seems to have gotten easier in recent years, and we saw about half a dozen at two sites below Kumul Lodge, both on the same morning.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Unlike the near lookalike Yellow-billed Kingfisher, the larger Mountain Kingfisher seems to be much harder to track down, but we did just that, and participant Randy Siebert managed to snap this fantastic image of it at Rondon Ridge!

FAWN-BREASTED BOWERBIRD (Chlamydera cerviniventris)

Quite a common bird at PAU, where we had some great views of a handful of birds. Though Leonard didn't have any bowers staked out, he managed to locate a nice one for us.

Maluridae (Fairywrens)

WALLACE'S FAIRYWREN (Sipodotus wallacii) [E]

PNG's fairywrens are generally much tougher birds to see than their Australian counterparts. We had a pair of these handsome birds at Km 17, but they stayed high in the canopy and the lighting was poor enough that we the sighting left us wanting more.

ORANGE-CROWNED FAIRYWREN (Clytomyias insignis) [E]

This highland species generally frequents dense bamboo thickets, where it is often even harder to see than the above. A small party of them made a couple of passes as we birded atop Rondon Ridge, and though they were elusive, I think everyone came away with fairly good views.

EMPEROR FAIRYWREN (Malurus cyanocephalus) [E]

And this species is a denizen of thick, impenetrable undergrowth at the edge of lowland forests. We encountered small parties along the Ketu River and Drimgas Road, but only a couple of folks came away with satisfactory views.

WHITE-SHOULDERED FAIRYWREN (Malurus alboscapulatus) [E]

The one PNG fairywren that is actually pretty easy to see. We had some lovely views of these several times below Kumul and at Rondon Ridge.

Meliphagidae (Honeyeaters)

PLAIN HONEYEATER (Pycnopygius ixoides) [E]

Aptly-named, as the only real field mark is the lack of any solid field marks! The pair of birds we saw in a fruiting tree at Varirata presumably belong to the rufous-colored race finschi.

MARBLED HONEYEATER (Pycnopygius cinereus) [E]

Somewhat local species of second growth and disturbed areas of the highlands. We saw our only one along the Tonga trail, one of the more reliable places to see this bird.

STREAK-HEADED HONEYEATER (Pycnopygius stictocephalus) [E]

Quite similar to friarbirds and Brown Orioles (and all 3 species can be found together) and could be overlooked, though their distinctive songs easily separate them from those species. We had some pretty good looks at these a couple of places in the Kiunga/Tabubil region.

MOUNTAIN HONEYEATER (Microptilotis orientalis) [E]

The Meliphaga/Microptilotis honeyeaters present the toughest identification challenge in PNG. There are numerous species, all very similar-looking, and quite similar vocalizations (or they just haven't been sorted out yet). This species occurs above the elevational range of most others in the group, and are thus relatively easy to identify. We saw a few birds below Kumul, along the Lai River.

SCRUB HONEYEATER (Microptilotis albonotatus) [E]

Fairly easily seen in the scrub around the town of Tabubil. The whitish rather than yellow ear patch make this one fairly straightforward.

MIMIC HONEYEATER (Microptilotis analogus) [E]

Quite common in lowland and hill forest, and we saw them several times in the Kiunga region and at Varirata.

ELEGANT HONEYEATER (Microptilotis cinereifrons cinereifrons) [E]

Quite common at Varirata, where the shape of the ear patch and the contrast between it and the dark face make it pretty easily separable from the above. We saw a few of these on our visits to the park.

BLACK-THROATED HONEYEATER (Caligavis subfrenata) [EN]

A highland forest bird which can be very vocal, but at times tough to see. We had fair looks at the Hindenburg Wall and Murmur Pass, but perhaps our best views were of a pair that were continually delivering food to a well-hidden nest at the clearing atop of Rondon Ridge.

ORNATE MELIDECTES (Melidectes torquatus) [E]

A fine-looking large honeyeater, seen well during our visit to the Lesser BoP lek area below Kumul.

BELFORD'S MELIDECTES (Melidectes belfordi) [E]

The common Melidectes in high elevation forest. We saw our first at the Hindenburg Wall, then became intimately familiar with them at Kumul, where they are unmissable.

Field Guides Birding Tours
A fully-plumed male Ribbon-tailed Astrapia almost requires the panoramic camera setting to fit it all in one shot! Photo by participants David and Judy Smith.

YELLOW-BROWED MELIDECTES (Melidectes rufocrissalis) [E]

Replaces the above species at slightly lower elevations. We saw our first ones along the Tonga trail, but the majority of our sightings were from Rondon, where it is the default Melidectes.

VARIED HONEYEATER (Gavicalis versicolor)

Not uncommon in coastal areas, including mangroves. We saw several on our first afternoon at Lea Lea.

RUFOUS-BANDED HONEYEATER (Conopophila albogularis)

A few birds each around Lea Lea and at PAU.

SMOKY HONEYEATER (Melipotes fumigatus) [E]

Abundant in highland forests, where we saw plenty of them. Always fun to watch them blush when they get near the fruit on the Kumul Lodge feeders.

LONG-BILLED HONEYEATER (Melilestes megarhynchus) [E]

Our first one along Henry's Road prompted some discussion, as, though the shape and size looked right, for this species, it had some streaking below and a bold, conspicuous eye ring that I'd never seen on this species before. A look in the field guide showed that this was a juvenile, a plumage I'd never seen before. We did see another more typical adult the same morning, and some folks saw another at the Lesser BoP site.


The same flower trees along Henry's Road that attracted in the juvenile Long-billed Honeyeater also drew in one of these rather scarce hill forest honeyeaters, and we had some fine views of this species, which I've only seen a handful of times over the many years I've been coming here.

PAPUAN BLACK MYZOMELA (Myzomela nigrita) [E]

A couple of sightings around the picnic areas at Varirata. Males can look pretty similar to Black Sunbird, but that contrasting white underwing readily separates them.

ELFIN MYZOMELA (Myzomela adolphinae) [E]

A female at the Lesser BoP site was a bit underwhelming, but fortunately we came across good numbers along the Tonga trail and in the numerous flowering shrubs at Rondon Ridge, where we all got very nice looks at the flashier, red-headed, males.

RED-COLLARED MYZOMELA (Myzomela rosenbergii) [E]

A very common bird around Rondon Ridge, with many excellent looks at them in the flowering shrubs around the lodge, where they fed alongside Elfin Myzomelas. We also saw a few birds at the Hindenburg Wall and Kumul.

YELLOW-STREAKED HONEYEATER (Ptiloprora meekiana) [E]

A Rondon Ridge specialty, and the only place I've ever seen it. We had some super views of several in the forest subcanopy.

RUFOUS-BACKED HONEYEATER (Ptiloprora guisei) [E]

Very similar to the next species, but has obvious rufous coloring in the mantle that is lacking in Gray-streaked. We saw these first at Murmur Pass, then again up at the top of Rondon Ridge where they were fairly common.

GRAY-STREAKED HONEYEATER (Ptiloprora perstriata) [E]

Replaces the above species at higher elevations, such as at the Hindenburg Wall, where they proved to be pretty common, and at Kumul, where they gave great looks as they fed in the honeysuckle-like flowers around the lodge gardens.

SILVER-EARED HONEYEATER (Lichmera alboauricularis) [E]

Fairly local along the coast, with Lea Lea being a very good place to find them. We had no luck in the usual spots in the town, but then had fantastic scope views of 3 birds teed up in a leafless tree on the outskirts of town.

WHITE-THROATED HONEYEATER (Melithreptus albogularis)

Quite vocal in the eucalyptus savannah along the Varirata entrance road, though windy conditions made them tough to track down. We did finally get some good views of several on our final couple of visits to the park.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Along the Varirata NP entrance road, both Black-backed and Hooded butcherbirds can occur, though the latter tends to favour denser rainforest areas while Black-backed prefers more open savanna. The full black hood and more extensively white mantle mark this handsome bird as a Hooded. Photo by participants David and Judy Smith.

TAWNY-BREASTED HONEYEATER (Xanthotis flaviventer)

Less obvious than usual, and I think we only saw one or two birds during the boat trip, with a few heard only records elsewhere around Kiunga, Tabubil, and Varirata.

SPOTTED HONEYEATER (Xanthotis polygrammus) [E]

A pretty fancy, but generally scarce, honeyeater of foothill forest regions, and one we miss more often than not. We were lucky this trip, getting good views for almost everyone at a bird visiting the flowering shrubs along Henry's Road (same place as our Ruby-throated Myzomela). And for those that missed that one, we found another on our final afternoon at Varirata.

HELMETED FRIARBIRD (NEW GUINEA) (Philemon buceroides novaeguineae)

Very common and widespread, and we recorded them pretty much daily other than at high elevations.

Acanthizidae (Thornbills and Allies)

GOLDENFACE (Pachycare flavogriseum) [E*]

We heard one calling up at the Kaori Treehouse in Varirata, but it wouldn't come out.

RUSTY MOUSE-WARBLER (Crateroscelis murina) [E]

One of those birds that can drive you nuts, as they are quite vocal, have an amazing repertoire (including a significant amount of mimicry) and often devilishly hard to see. A few folks had reasonable looks at the first one we tried for along Henry's Road, with all subsequent records being heard only.

MOUNTAIN MOUSE-WARBLER (Crateroscelis robusta) [E]

Replacing the above species in montane forests, this one can be similarly frustrating, though they can often be found feeding on the ground along clearing edges at Kumul Lodge. David and Anne spotted one such bird our first afternoon at Kumul, and it remained feeding in the open for a good long stretch, giving us all ample time to enjoy.

LARGE SCRUBWREN (Sericornis nouhuysi) [E]

Small parties of these drab birds were encountered regularly at Kumul.

BUFF-FACED SCRUBWREN (Sericornis perspicillatus) [E]

Heard and seen by some along the Tonga Trail, with improved encounters at Rondon, where this is the common scrubwren.

GRAY THORNBILL (Acanthiza cinerea) [E]

Once called Mountain Gerygone, and the song is certainly more like that of a gerygone than a thornbill, so who knows where it actually belongs. Judy spotted our lone bird high in the canopy along the forest edge at Rondon, but it disappeared without everyone getting a look.

GREEN-BACKED GERYGONE (Gerygone chloronota) [*]

We heard the lilting song of this one often enough, mainly at Varirata, but also at Tabubil and Kiunga. But, we never managed to see one despite several attempts.

FAIRY GERYGONE (Gerygone palpebrosa)

Overall we didn't fare too well with mixed flocks of small birds at Varirata, but we ultimately did catch up with one small flock along the Circuit Track, and that small flock had our only pair of these fancy gerygones, which showed nicely to all.

YELLOW-BELLIED GERYGONE (Gerygone chrysogaster) [E]

The flock with the Fairy Gerygones also had one of these along for the ride, but I think David is the only one who actually saw it; for the rest if us it was heard only, both here and several times around Kiunga.

LARGE-BILLED GERYGONE (Gerygone magnirostris)

Good views of an excited, active pair in riverside vegetation along the Ketu Creek, during the boat trip.

BROWN-BREASTED GERYGONE (Gerygone ruficollis) [E]

After seeing one quite well at the Hindenburg Wall, we never really worked too hard to see another, though we heard their pretty songs regularly in the highlands.

Pomatostomidae (Pseudo-Babblers)

PAPUAN BABBLER (Pomatostomus isidorei) [E]

A group of 7 of these somewhat elusive birds showed very well in the forest beyond the Greater BoP lek at Km 17, with another group of about half a dozen moving through with a group of White-bellied Pitohuis at the Twelve-wired BoP site.

A beautifully adorned male King-of-Saxony Bird-of-Paradise sings its “sizzling bacon” display song in this video by participants David and Judy Smith.
Cinclosomatidae (Quail-thrushes and Jewel-babblers)

PAINTED QUAIL-THRUSH (Cinclosoma ajax) [EN]

Always a difficult species, and it wasn't any different this trip. We did manage to call in a singing bird near the Greater BoP lek, and it did respond, but I believe I was the only one that saw it when it hopped up on a log briefly before melting back into the undergrowth. We did all see one the next day, when the local guide at Kwatu Lodge showed us a nest right next to the trail (we had to be careful not to tread on it). The nest contained a small, fuzzy black chick, that was barely recognizable as a bird, and certainly not as a quail-thrush, though I guess that technically it is countable!

BLUE JEWEL-BABBLER (Ptilorrhoa caerulescens) [E]

The only species of jewel-babbler that we could conjure up this trip. A calling pair at Km 17 responded, and moved towards us, though most of the group likely only saw them as they darted quickly across the muddy footpath we were on. Still, that's not the worst view I've ever had at these sneaky birds!

Campephagidae (Cuckooshrikes)

STOUT-BILLED CUCKOOSHRIKE (Coracina caeruleogrisea) [E]

Pairs of these hefty cuckooshrikes were seen twice, along the Tonga Trail, and then again at varirata.

HOODED CUCKOOSHRIKE (Coracina longicauda) [E]

For most of us this was a heard-only species at Rondon, though a couple of folks saw one that briefly flew in and landed overhead, while the rest of us were distracted by a Rufous-throated Bronze-Cuckoo which came in at the same time.

BARRED CUCKOOSHRIKE (Coracina lineata)

Unlike the nominate birds that occur in Australia, which are barred below in both sexes, the race found here, axillaris, has only the females barred, with the males being completely gray. Luckily the obvious yellow eyes of this bird make it easy to tell apart from all other cuckooshrikes. We had these regularly at Varirata, including perched right over the picnic area.

BOYER'S CUCKOOSHRIKE (Coracina boyeri) [E]

The most numerous cuckooshrike seen, with the exception of the swarms of wintering Black-faced. We had these regularly in the Kiunga region and at Varirata. One of the key features to look for on these is the rusty wing linings, a feature shared only with the much larger Stout-billed.

BLACK-FACED CUCKOOSHRIKE (Coracina novaehollandiae) [a]

Though small numbers breed in the Port Moresby region, I'd say most, if not all, the ones we saw were austral migrants from Australian breeding grounds. Our many sightings in the capital region included a group of at least 25 birds in the savannah along the Varirata entrance road.

WHITE-BELLIED CUCKOOSHRIKE (Coracina papuensis papuensis)

A single bird on our first visit to Varirata, and a pair at a roadside stop below Kumul were the only ones for the mainland.

GOLDEN CUCKOOSHRIKE (Campochaera sloetii) [E]

This gorgeous cuckooshrike was only seen along the Drimgas Road, and while they made us work, we did eventually end up with great looks at this trio as they teed up on top of the canopy.

VARIED TRILLER (Lalage leucomela)

Widespread in the lowlands and foothill forest, and we had several sightings in the Kiunga region and at Varirata.

BLACK-BELLIED CICADABIRD (Edolisoma montanum) [E]

A highland forest bird. We had pretty sweet looks at both members of a pair at the Hindenburg Wall, then a single bird at Murmur Pass.

GRAY-HEADED CICADABIRD (Edolisoma schisticeps) [E]

While the male is a pretty typical, solid gray cicadabird, the female is distinctive, being rufous, with a contrasting gray head (at least in the subspecies we see on this tour). We saw pairs well both at Henry's Road and Km 17, with the distinctive songs heard on a couple of other days around Kiunga.

BLACK CICADABIRD (Edolisoma melas) [E]

Our first visit to Varirata only netted us a lone rufous-colored female. Visits at the end of the trip also allowed us to catch up with a glossy black male.

Eulacestomatidae (Ploughbill)

WATTLED PLOUGHBILL (Eulacestoma nigropectus) [E]

Arguably the most unique, and certainly the strangest bird among the 7 endemic families in PNG. Always a big target for people coming here. We did exceptionally well, finding our first pair along the road at the Hindenburg Wall, then getting pretty good views of a singing male at Murmur Pass. We also had a couple of males during our hike to the top of Rondon Ridge, with the final one topping all the other sightings. That bird was so territorial that it responded strongly to the song of Black-throated Robin as I tried to lure one out of the bush. Instead, the ploughbill popped out at eye level a few feet away and sang lustily a few times before melting back into the undergrowth! This was Ann's pick for bird of the trip.

Oreoicidae (Australo-Papuan Bellbirds)

RUFOUS-NAPED BELLBIRD (Aleadryas rufinucha) [E]

Recorded daily in the highland forests at Kumul and Rondon, and seen several times at the latter site. Though several of our sightings were of subadult birds, we did have fine views of an adult foraging below the feeders on one afternoon.

Field Guides Birding Tours
The gorgeous red and blue female Eclectus Parrot (now known as Papuan Eclectus) makes it an even more striking bird than the more typical parrot-green male. Participant Randy Siebert caught all the stunning colours of this bird after spotting it perched in the hollow of a roadside tree at Varirata NP.
Paramythiidae (Tit Berrypecker and Crested Berrypecker)

TIT BERRYPECKER (Oreocharis arfaki) [E]

It was good that we saw so many of these at the Hindenburg Wall, where we encountered a flock of 20+ birds, as there were few elsewhere on the trip, though we did see a pair at Murmur Pass and another at Rondon.

Pachycephalidae (Whistlers and Allies)

RUSTY PITOHUI (Pseudorectes ferrugineus) [E]

Though they retain the name pitohui for now, this species and the next two "pitohuis" are more closely aligned with the shrike-thrushes than the true, poisonous pitohuis, which belong with the Old World Oriole family. We saw more than usual of this chunky, pale-eyed bird, with several good looks at Varirata, where they are a regular component of the "brown and black" flocks. We also heard them several times in the Tabubil/Kiunga region.

WHITE-BELLIED PITOHUI (Pseudorectes incertus) [E]

A local species of dense, floodplain forest in the southern lowlands, this is never an easy species to see well. We had a group of 5 or 6 with a small group of Papuan Babblers at the Twelve-wired BoP site. They were elusive as always, but we all came away with some kind of view.

GRAY SHRIKETHRUSH (Colluricincla harmonica)

A lone singing bird along the entrance road to Varirata on our final morning's visit to the park.

VARIABLE SHRIKETHRUSH (Colluricincla fortis) [*]

Species limits among the different forms of the former Little Shrikethrush are still being worked out, but this is the one we heard at Varirata.

SEPIK-RAMU SHRIKETHRUSH (Colluricincla tappenbecki)

The ones we heard at the Lesser BoP site certainly can be attributed to this species, and presumably the birds at Rondon Ridge (one of which we saw briefly) are also this species, though there are also reports of Variable at this site in Ebird, so this still needs to be sorted.

ARAFURA SHRIKETHRUSH (Colluricincla megarhyncha)

I originally was calling the birds we heard (and saw briefly) along Henry's Road Rufous Shrikethrush, but the birds in this region should actually belong to this form instead.

BLACK PITOHUI (Melanorectes nigrescens) [E]

Rondon Ridge is a reliable site for this rather scarce species, and we had some good views of a pair from the fruiting tree clearing one morning, and quick, close views of a male that popped out above the trail at eye level before dashing off out of sight.

REGENT WHISTLER (Pachycephala schlegelii) [E]

This stunning highland whistler was happily fairly common and easily seen at all the upland forest sites, with our first ones showing nicely at the Hindenburg Wall.

SCLATER'S WHISTLER (Pachycephala soror) [EN]

A couple of folks saw a male in a small mixed flock as we made the climb to the top of Rondon Ridge. The rest of us caught up the following day when we tracked down a female that was delivering food to a recently-fledged juvenile, which probably explains why they were so quiet overall.

BROWN-BACKED WHISTLER (Pachycephala modesta) [E*]

Oddly missed at Kumul, and the only one we found at the top of Rondon Ridge just wouldn't come to where we could see it, though it sang pretty much non-stop during our time on the ridge.

GRAY WHISTLER (GRAY-HEADED) (Pachycephala simplex griseiceps)

Decent views of a pair of birds with a small "brown and black" flock along the Circuit Track at Varirata.

BLACK-HEADED WHISTLER (Pachycephala monacha) [E]

We found a pair of this species at the Lesser BoP lek. They took a while to show themselves, but eventually appeared in the top of a tall Casuarina tree. Our only other sighting was of a singing male later the same morning at the Lai River bridge.

Oriolidae (Old World Orioles)

HOODED PITOHUI (Pitohui dichrous) [E]

This is the original poisonous pitohui. Usually not a hard bird to see at Varirata, though we somehow missed it entirely on our first visit. We fared better on our later visits, with some nice looks at a couple along the Circuit Track.


We had a pretty good encounter with these birds, which are often hard to see well. A trio of them appeared in a nearby fruiting tree along Henry's Road, giving us some surprisingly good looks before they hustled out of sight. Another pair of singing birds along the Drimgas Road were a bit more typical, remaining mostly (entirely?) out of view.

Field Guides Birding Tours
A striking Pacific Baza doing a display flight over the Varirata NP entrance road almost appears to be walking on air in the photo by participants David and Judy Smith.

BROWN ORIOLE (Oriolus szalayi) [E]

A common and easily seen endemic throughout the lowland and hill forest regions, and we saw and heard them often.

Machaerirhynchidae (Boatbills)

BLACK-BREASTED BOATBILL (Machaerirhynchus nigripectus) [E]

After hearing these adorable little birds both at the Hindenburg Wall and Murmur Pass without getting any visuals, we finally tracked them down at Rondon Ridge, where we had especially nice views of a responsive pair around the clearing on the top of the ridge.

Artamidae (Woodswallows, Bellmagpies, and Allies)


A few birds in the Port Moresby region, including PAU, were all we ran into this trip.

MOUNTAIN PELTOPS (Peltops montanus) [E]

The two peltops species are nearly identical in appearance, and best separated by elevation and calls. This species has twittering calls quite unlike the dry, clicking calls of Lowland. We saw and heard these nicely along Henry's Road.

LOWLAND PELTOPS (Peltops blainvillii) [E]

Our only sighting this trip was of a couple of birds along the Ketu Creek during our boat trip.


A species of open, savannah habitats. We finally caught up with these at PAU, getting some nice close views, and a serenade from one bird.

HOODED BUTCHERBIRD (Cracticus cassicus) [E]

More of a forest bird than the above species, though it does wander out into the more open savannah regions along the Varirata entrance road. This was the most often seen butcherbird of the trip.

BLACK BUTCHERBIRD (Cracticus quoyi)

Best seen in the Tabubil area, where we had several good looks around the Ok Menga hydro intake and along Henry's Road.

Rhagologidae (Mottled Berryhunter)

MOTTLED BERRYHUNTER (Rhagologus leucostigma) [E]

Though these birds can be pretty vocal, I find them to be one of the toughest members of the endemic families to actually see. We had a singing bird at Murmur Pass that stayed completely out of view, then a slightly more cooperative bird as we came down from Rondon Ridge. That one was also singing quite steadily, and it actually moved in closer in response to playback, but it was only in view in a nearby treetop for a fraction of a second before moving away out of sight. So, for most of us, this was essentially a heard-only species, sadly.

Rhipiduridae (Fantails)

BLACK FANTAIL (Rhipidura atra) [E]

A male was seen along the roadside at the Hindenburg Wall, another male along the Tonga Trail, but we saw them most regularly at Rondon, including some great looks at the more striking female.

WHITE-BELLIED THICKET-FANTAIL (Rhipidura leucothorax leucothorax) [E]

Skulking and difficult to get a clear view of, though a commonly heard voice in dense, lowland forest habitats. We did manage to entice one bird into flying across Henry's Road a few times, and I've certainly had worse looks at these!

WILLIE-WAGTAIL (Rhipidura leucophrys)

Very common and familiar, and we should have recorded these every day of the trip, but we weren't paying enough attention on our final full day's trip to Varirata.

RUFOUS-BACKED FANTAIL (Rhipidura rufidorsa) [E*]

A singing bird along Henry's Road stayed well back away from the road.

DIMORPHIC FANTAIL (Rhipidura brachyrhyncha) [E*]

Frustrating at Rondon, as a singing bird seemed to be moving across the clearing below our viewing spot on the ridgetop, but never emerged from underneath the dense bamboo.

FRIENDLY FANTAIL (Rhipidura albolimbata) [E]

With all the unfriendly fantails here in PNG, this charming bird comes as a welcome relief. They are common and easy to see in highland forests, and we saw them regularly, including a recently fledged bird along the edge of the parking lot at Kumul.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Happily, the name of this species has reverted back to Nankeen Night-Heron from the previously much less evocative Rufous Night-Heron. Photo by participants David and Judy Smith.

CHESTNUT-BELLIED FANTAIL (Rhipidura hyperythra) [E]

A regular component of small songbird flocks at Varirata, but we failed to come across any such flocks on our first visit. We ultimately caught up with one very small flock along the Circuit Track, and saw our only pair of these attractive fantails in that flock.

Dicruridae (Drongos)

SPANGLED DRONGO (Dicrurus bracteatus)

Just a few sightings, primarily along the Varirata entrance road, but with a few birds also in the Tabubil/Kiunga region.

Paradisaeidae (Birds-of-Paradise)

TRUMPET MANUCODE (Phonygammus keraudrenii)

Manucodes are the only songbirds in the world to have elongated looped (or coiled in the case of this species) tracheas, an enhancement developed to amplify their calls. It is this feature this species was named for, and not the awful, decidedly un-trumpet-like sounds they produce. This was the most often recorded manucode, heard and seen a few times around Kiunga, as well as at Varirata, where I only recall seeing them once previously.

CRINKLE-COLLARED MANUCODE (Manucodia chalybatus) [E]

The bumps on the head of this species are one of the best features for telling them apart from the other two manucodes possible on this tour. The crinkly collar usually only shows with an exceptional view in good light. We had a couple of these on two visits to Varirata, and heard one along Henry's Road as well.


The largest of the 3 manucodes, lacking the wispy crest feathers of Trumpet and the head bumps of the above species. Quite common in lowland forest and savannah, though we heard the ringing, tuning fork call more often then we saw them. We did have a couple of views along the Elevala River and the Varirata entrance road.

KING-OF-SAXONY BIRD-OF-PARADISE (Pteridophora alberti) [E]

First encountered at the Hindenburg Wall, where we heard quite a few, but only managed to see some females. Our first male was about a week later at Murmur Pass, but it was a subadult male in a female-like plumage. It wasn't until we arrived at the top of Rondon Ridge that we finally caught up with an adult male, but he was well worth waiting for! During our time up at the clearing, he made several visits to a nearby display perch and showed beautifully as he gave his sizzling bacon call and waved around his shiny, waxy antennae-like head plumes.

TWELVE-WIRED BIRD-OF-PARADISE (Seleucidis melanoleucus) [E]

An early morning departure was required to get us on site at the nearest stakeout display perch to Kiunga, and while we got there not long after first light, the show was all but over. The male was calling nearby, but never showed up on his display perch (the female did, however), though we did manage to track him down on a canopy perch for some reasonable views before he moved on.

GREATER LOPHORINA (Lophorina superba) [E]

Not uncommon below Kumul, and our first looks were at the Kama Lesser BoP site, but by far our best looks came at Rondon, where we had repeated views of this stunning little bird with his turquoise breast shield fully extended as he called from favored perches near the fruiting tree clearing.

MAGNIFICENT RIFLEBIRD (Ptiloris magnificus magnificus) [*]

Several calling birds in the Tabubil and Kiunga regions, but not one that showed itself.

GROWLING RIFLEBIRD (Ptiloris intercedens) [E]

Now split from the above species based in part on the very different songs of the two forms. This one is easy to hear at Varirata, but seeing one can be a challenge. Some folks saw a female on our first visit, while the rest of us finally caught up with some decent views of a subadult male up near the viewpoint.

BLACK SICKLEBILL (Epimachus fastosus) [E*]

A calling male was heard a few times as we approached the top of Rondon Ridge, but it was always just a bit too far off for us to have any realistic chance of spotting it.

BROWN SICKLEBILL (Epimachus meyeri) [E]

Our first was a very distant male that we scoped at Rondon Ridge; acceptable, but we were hoping for better. We got better at Kumul Lodge, where we got close up views of several birds at the fruit feeders. Happily, there was also an adult male back at the feeders after having been missing here for several years.

STEPHANIE'S ASTRAPIA (Astrapia stephaniae) [E]

Generally at slightly lower elevations than the next species, and this is the expected astrapia at Rondon. We had a couple of birds in a fruiting tree not far from the lodge, but had our best views at the top of the ridge, including an adult male with a full tail.

RIBBON-TAILED ASTRAPIA (Astrapia mayeri) [E]

The star bird of the Kumul Lodge feeders, and we were thrilled that there were a couple of fully-plumed adult males present this visit. We had numerous spectacular views of these stunners, and had plenty of photo opportunities, though the challenge was getting the entire bird in the frame! I guess David must have enjoyed the challenge, as he picked this as his favorite bird of the trip.

KING BIRD-OF-PARADISE (Cicinnurus regius) [E]

This tiny BoP is pretty common in lowland forest, but can be tough to find as it tends to hang out in thick vine tangles in the subcanopy. We had to put in a bit of effort to track one down along the Ketu Creek, but we ultimately managed to spot him and got some fantastic scope views as he called from his lofty perch.

Visits to the long-used Raggiana BoP lek at Varirata can be somewhat hit or miss, but fortunately it was a huge hit this trip, as several males performed in spectacular fashion! Video by participants David and Judy Smith.

MAGNIFICENT BIRD-OF-PARADISE (Cicinnurus magnificus) [E]

We heard several of these calling along Henry's Road, but unfortunately for us, the hide at the display area was only constructed the day after we left for Kiunga. More were calling at Kama, and after we'd finished up with the Lesser BoP, local guide Wilson led us upslope towards the closest bird. He eventually managed to find it perched uphill from our position, and we all got a quick, but excellent, look at the bird, a fabulous adult male, in the scope.

BLUE BIRD-OF-PARADISE (Paradisaea rudolphi) [E]

The Tonga trail below Kumul remains an excellent place to find this incredible bird, and after a steep climb, we tracked down the local male calling from his exposed canopy perch. Later at Rondon, we enjoyed several close views of females (also a fine-looking bird) in the fruiting trees near the lodge.

LESSER BIRD-OF-PARADISE (Paradisaea minor) [E]

These birds had moved into a new display tree since my last visit, but they were still in the same general area, and we had some great looks at two or three males and a couple of females as they squawked and danced in the treetops. Interestingly, there were also a couple of males that were either Raggiana BoPs or possibly hybrids, the first time I've seen anything but pure Lessers here.

RAGGIANA BIRD-OF-PARADISE (Paradisaea raggiana) [E]

As usual, our first BoP, and we had phenomenal looks on our first morning at Varirata, when we paid a visit to a long-used display area. There were at least half a dozen adult males present, and there was plenty of display activity. A real David Attenborough experience that Glenda picked as her favorite of the trip.

GREATER BIRD-OF-PARADISE (Paradisaea apoda) [E]

There was only a single adult male at the long-used display site at Km 17, but lucky for us he was active and displaying in a fairly open spot, so we had fantastic looks at him. There were also a number of young males and females present.

Ifritidae (Ifrita)

BLUE-CAPPED IFRITA (Ifrita kowaldi) [E]

Another unique, monotypic endemic species, this is usually one of the easier of the endemic families to get, though they were a bit tougher than usual this trip. Some folks saw a pair in the Kumul Lodge gardens after lunch one day, though they didn't' stick around for long. We also had a vocal, but oddly shy pair at Murmur Pass that stayed out of sight for some. Finally, we caught up with a better behaved bird foraging above the trail as we came back down from the top of Rondon Ridge.

Monarchidae (Monarch Flycatchers)

FAN-TAILED MONARCH (Symposiachrus axillaris) [E]

Remarkably similar to the male Black Fantail, and often seems to be found with it, in my experience. This species can be distinguished by its white pectoral tufts, which the fantail lacks, and lack of a whitish eyebrow, which the fantail has. Our lone record was of one or two birds foraging together with a Black Fantail along the trails at Rondon.

SPOT-WINGED MONARCH (Symposiachrus guttula) [E]

Encountered a couple of times low inside rainforest in the Kiunga area, but they were a bit elusive there. We fared better on our final visit to Varirata, scoring with a bird that actually stayed still long enough to get everyone on it.

FRILLED MONARCH (Arses telescopthalmus) [E]

Often one of the easier monarchs to see well, and that was our experience again this trip as we saw these handsome small birds a few times at Varirata and in the Kiunga region, both with mixed flocks and as pairs on their own.


Seen only during the boat trip, moving through the riparian growth and flying back and forth across the Ketu Creek.

Melampittidae (Melampittas)

LESSER MELAMPITTA (Melampitta lugubris) [E]

I wasn't quite convinced when Wilson told me that one of these shy terrestrial birds was being seen on the Kumul Lodge driveway with some regularity. And when we kept seeing Island Thrushes and White-winged Robins there, I was even less convinced. So I was a little surprised when we actually did catch a glimpse of one, as it hopped quickly across below the parking lot! The looks weren't great, so we worked it with a bit of playback, getting a pretty good response, and some improved looks for almost everyone. Another of the endemic families, and usually a tough bird to see well, though it is pretty common by voice.

Laniidae (Shrikes)

LONG-TAILED SHRIKE (NASUTUS GROUP) (Lanius schach stresemanni)

The only shrike to regularly occur on the south side of Wallace's Line (Brown Shrike is a vagrant to the region). This subspecies is endemic to PNG (with no records at all on the Indonesian half of the island!), and is a common resident of disturbed areas in the highlands. We saw a few at the sites downslope from Kumul.

Corvidae (Crows, Jays, and Magpies)

GRAY CROW (Corvus tristis) [E]

This odd crow was seen a few times, with some good looks at a quartet of them along Drimgas Road, then several more sightings over the last couple of days at Varirata.

TORRESIAN CROW (Corvus orru orru)

A common bird in the savannah regions around Port Moresby.

Cnemophilidae (Satinbirds)

LORIA'S SATINBIRD (Cnemophilus loriae) [E]

Another endemic family, this one with only 3 species. We'd dipped on a close calling Crested Satinbird the previous day, so when we heard this one calling at Murmur Pass, there was a bit of urgency in tracking it down. Fortunately, Wilson soon spotted the bird, a male, sitting on an open perch singing, and we were able to get some good scope views before it moved on.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Participant Glenda Brown captured this beautiful view from the restaurant at Rondon Ridge, where we also saw our only Buff-banded Rail for the trip.
Melanocharitidae (Berrypeckers and Longbills)

BLACK BERRYPECKER (Melanocharis nigra) [E]

Small numbers on each of our visits to Varirata. The berrypecker family is the largest of the endemic families with 11 species, including the only recently described (in 2021) Satin Berrypecker.

FAN-TAILED BERRYPECKER (Melanocharis versteri) [E]

Our first view of this one at the Hindenburg Road was also one of our best, though we had a few more quick encounters with these around Rondon Ridge.

SPOTTED BERRYPECKER (Melanocharis crassirostris) [E]

The male of this species is rather drab, and it's the strikingly-spotted female for which this species was named. A pair of these in a roadside tree at the Hindenburg Wall were a nice surprise, and our only sighting for the trip.

YELLOW-BELLIED LONGBILL (Toxorhamphus novaeguineae) [E]

Heard a couple of times in the forests along Ketu Creek, and one bird was seen briefly, but pretty well, by some of the group along the Km 17 trail.

SLATY-CHINNED LONGBILL (Toxorhamphus poliopterus) [E]

Small numbers low inside the forest at Rondon were primarily heard only, though one or two flushed from close by or darted across the trail ahead of us. None of the looks were very good though.

SPECTACLED LONGBILL (Oedistoma iliolophus) [E]

Aka Dwarf Longbill. One called near the trail at Varirata and was seen briefly by Leonard and Wanda.

PYGMY LONGBILL (Oedistoma pygmaeum) [E]

Heard fairly often at Tabubil, Kiunga, and Varirata, but pretty elusive and hard to spot. We eventually did get some pretty good views of a pair on one of our final visits to Varirata.

Petroicidae (Australasian Robins)

LESSER GROUND-ROBIN (Amalocichla incerta) [E]

We heard the sweet, flute-like song of this shy, terrestrial species as we climbed towards the top of Rondon Ridge. It wasn't a particularly good spot to try and call it in, but we tried anyway, and got a pretty good response. I think everyone got to see it as it darted across the trail, but due to the limited viewing up the trail, only a couple of folks got good looks as it paused briefly on the side of the trail.

TORRENT FLYCATCHER (Monachella muelleriana) [E]

These ethereal little birds are fairly easy to find along the fast-flowing rivers they favor. We saw them at a couple of spots along the Ok Menga, as well as at the Lai River bridge below Kumul.

LEMON-BELLIED FLYCATCHER (Microeca flavigaster)

Fairly common in the sparsely wooded savannah along the Varirata entrance road, and we heard a few singing here, and had good looks at a couple.

PAPUAN FLYCATCHER (Microeca papuana) [E]

A highland forest species formerly known as Canary Flycatcher. We ran into them a couple of times at Rondon, but saw them best as we worked our way back down from the ridgetop.

WHITE-FACED ROBIN (Tregellasia leucops)

Excellent looks at a quartet of these along the Circuit Track at Varirata.

BLACK-SIDED ROBIN (Poecilodryas hypoleuca) [E]

A pretty elusive robin of lowland forests. We worked on a singing bird in the ravine behind Kwatu Lodge, and got some pretty nice looks at it, though it never stayed put in the open for long.

WHITE-WINGED ROBIN (Peneothello sigillata) [E]

A few birds around the Kumul Lodge gardens were typically cooperative and showed nicely several times.

BLUE-GRAY ROBIN (Peneothello cyanus) [E]

Heard regularly at Rondon, though they proved to be a bit tough to see well. I think ultimately everyone got some sort of view.

Field Guides Birding Tours
They might be a bit on the pugnacious side, but Belford’s Melidectes is a pretty handsome honeyeater nonetheless! Photo by participant Randy Siebert.
Locustellidae (Grassbirds and Allies)

PAPUAN GRASSBIRD (Cincloramphus macrurus)

Not uncommon in grassy, disturbed areas of the highlands, and we had some fine views near the Kama Lesser BoP site.

Hirundinidae (Swallows)

PACIFIC SWALLOW (Hirundo tahitica)

The only resident swallow on the island, and generally the only one we ever see. Widespread and common, and we saw them regularly.

Phylloscopidae (Leaf Warblers)

ISLAND LEAF WARBLER (Phylloscopus poliocephalus)

A difficult genus of Old World warblers, but as this is the only one on PNG, it's a cinch to identify. Widespread in highland forests, and especially common at Rondon, where we saw a bunch, and heard even more.

Zosteropidae (White-eyes, Yuhinas, and Allies)

BLACK-FRONTED WHITE-EYE (Zosterops minor) [E*]

Heard on a couple of our visits to Varirata, but never close enough to see.

NEW GUINEA WHITE-EYE (Zosterops novaeguineae) [E]

Quite numerous at Rondon, and seen there daily, often in the flowering shrubs just outside the main building.

Sturnidae (Starlings)

METALLIC STARLING (Aplonis metallica)

Often one of the most numerous birds along the rivers on the boat trips, but they were strangely scarce this trip, and we only recorded 15-20 of them on the river trip, and no others at all anywhere on mainland PNG!

SINGING STARLING (Aplonis cantoroides)

Stockier, thicker-billed, and with a shorter tail than the above species. Our first sighting was of a couple of pairs with the Silver-eared Honeyeaters at Lea Lea on our first day in the country. And on our final day, we picked up a pair from the international departure lounge at the Port Moresby airport.

YELLOW-FACED MYNA (Mino dumontii) [E]

A common and widespread endemic throughout the lower elevation regions. We saw them first on our initial visit to Varirata.

Turdidae (Thrushes and Allies)

ISLAND THRUSH (Turdus poliocephalus)

As often is the case, we saw these only at Kumul, where at least half a dozen birds in all manner of plumages were fixtures on the feeders.

Muscicapidae (Old World Flycatchers)

PIED BUSHCHAT (Saxicola caprata)

A common bird of disturbed areas, primarily in the upland regions, though we saw our first along the road to Lea Lea on our initial afternoon.

Dicaeidae (Flowerpeckers)

RED-CAPPED FLOWERPECKER (Dicaeum geelvinkianum)

These tiny birds occur pretty much everywhere but the highest elevations, though they are far more often heard than seen. Still, common as they are, we were bound to get a few good looks, and we certainly did see them quite a few times.

Nectariniidae (Sunbirds and Spiderhunters)

BLACK SUNBIRD (Leptocoma aspasia)

Quite common in the Tabubil/Kiunga regions, and we saw plenty, though they often looked all black, as the iridescent colors rarely show well in the dull lighting conditions we experienced here.

OLIVE-BACKED SUNBIRD (Cinnyris jugularis)

A single bird along the road to Lea Lea was all we could muster on the main tour.

Estrildidae (Waxbills and Allies)

HOODED MUNIA (Lonchura spectabilis) [E]

It was a poor visit for finch-like birds, and the only munias we managed to find were these attractive birds, which are fairly common in the highlands. We saw them best in the scrubby growth just below Rondon Lodge one afternoon.

BLUE-FACED PARROTFINCH (Erythrura trichroa)

Not a very easy species to get a good view of, as they are quite shy and their colors blend into the foliage. A few of us got on one in the clearing at Murmur Pass, then most folks caught up with a pair at the top of Rondon Ridge, and one or two got on another pair the following day, also at Rondon. Not a bad showing for a species we often miss altogether.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Where did all this come from? An impromptu market suddenly appeared while we were watching Lesser Birds-of-Paradise at Kama. Participant Randy Siebert grabbed this shot of the locals displaying a colorful assortment of bilum bags for our shopping pleasure.
Passeridae (Old World Sparrows)

EURASIAN TREE SPARROW (Passer montanus) [I]

The first Ebird records of this species are from 2008 in Port Moresby and Mt Hagen. They first started showing up in Kiunga and Tabubil around 2013. Now they are fairly common, and at some sites, like the Port Moresby airport, they seem to have mostly pushed out House Sparrows, which formerly were the regular Passer species.

Motacillidae (Wagtails and Pipits)

AUSTRALASIAN PIPIT (AUSTRALIAN) (Anthus novaeseelandiae australis)

Ted was determined to find a pipit from the Mt Hagen airport departure lounge, and he eventually found not 1, but 3 of them.


SPECKLED DASYURE (Neophascogale lorentzii) [E]

Seen a couple of times at Kumul Lodge, with nice views of one at the generator clearing. I thought I had another, much more obviously spotted individual the same day from my cabin's balcony, but on further study, it appears that animal was actually a New Guinea Quoll (Dasyurus albopunctatus).

AGILE WALLABY (Macropus agilis)

A couple in the large grassy field of the natural gas plant west of Port Moresby as we headed back to the city in the late afternoon. Judy also saw what was probably this species along the entrance road at Varirata.

SPECTACLED FLYING-FOX (Pteropus conspicillatus)

After some further research upon my return home, I determined that the large bats we saw roosting at PAU were actually this species, not Greater. Presumably the huge flocks we saw at dawn over Port Moresby were also this one, though Greater and Big-eared flying foxes are both possible as well.

GREATER FLYING FOX (Pteropus neohibernicus)

Usually seen in big numbers at dawn during the river trip; not so this year, as there were none at all along the river! Our only sighting was of a lone individual flying overhead along Boystown Road.


Barred Keelback (Tropidonophis doriae): The lovely black-banded snake we saw in the stream at the Varirata NP picnic area.

Skink sp. (Sphenomorphus leptofasciatus): the dead (not dead) skink we saw in the little rivulet at Rondon was likely this species.

There were also a number of dragonflies that I managed to photograph. They included:

Zircon Flutterer (Rhyothemis princeps): the fluttery bronzy-colored dragonfly with calico wings in the clearing at Kwatu Lodge.

Green Skimmer (Orthetrum serapia): also at Kwatu, a slender green and black skimmer.

Fiery Skimmer (Orthetrum villosovittatum): the large, bright red dragonfly at Varirata.

Painted Grasshawk (Neurothemis stigmatizans): These lovely reddish dragonflies with red wings were over the stream along Henry's Road.

(Huonia epinephela): The large black and yellow dragonfly with the brilliant green eyes at Varirata is possibly this species.

(Pyrrhargiolestes sidonia): the small dragonfly with bright red legs at Varirata is presumably this species.

(Agrionoptera longitudinalis): blackish dragonfly with thick yellow stripe on thorax. Perched above the trail at Varirata.

(Nososticta sp.): a small damselfly (threadtail) with bright blue stripes on thorax and a bright orange tail. Seen perched above the stream at Varirata.

(Rhinocypha sp.): also over the stream at Varirata. A thick-bodied damselfly with bright blue sides and large black tips to the wings.

Totals for the tour: 272 bird taxa and 4 mammal taxa