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New Guinea forest bird communities differ markedly from elsewhere in featuring an unusually high proportion of ground-dwellers like this strange Pheasant Pigeon Otidiphaps nobilis which belongs in its own monotypic genus and is among 286 bird species that are endemic to the New Guinea or Papuan avifaunal region. Copyright © Dubi Shapiro

About the birdlife of West Papua

West Papua foremost is home for a rich and exquisite humid forest avifauna. Exactly 704 bird species have now reliably been recorded from the territory, out of some 780 for the entire New Guinea or Papuan avifaunal region. Knowledge of the birdlife of West Papua remains far less comprehensive than that for adjacent Papua New Guinea, however, and taken in tow by Papua Expeditions you will experience firsthand that the intrepid and careful observer is bound to make significant observations just about anywhere.

The breeding land- and freshwater avifauna that adorns West Papua with a nearly mythical status amounts to 588 species. This total includes 289 regional New Guinea endemics and up to 54 recognized species who's distribution is entirely confined to West Papua alone. Species richness is high, lowland forest habitats typically supporting close to 200 different resident breeding birds. New Guinea forest bird communities differ markedly from elsewhere, however, in featuring an unusually high proportion of fruit- and nectar-eaters as well as ground-dwellers, but no wood-borers. Australasian passerines including fairywrens Maluridae, honeyeaters Meliphagidae, warblers Acanthizidae, whistlers Pachycephalidae, monarchs Monarchidae, and robins Petroicidae radiated to fill all niches. Of paramount interest naturally, are the 25 species of bird-of-paradise that occur in West Papua, six of which occor only here and nowhere else on Earth. Among these, the Wilson's Bird-of-paradise Diphyllodes respublica stands out as 'a wanton waste' of extreme beauty (just to use the epic words that the celebrated 19th century naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace bequeathed us), and may well rank among Earth's greatest avian treasures.

Well over 100 Palearctic and Australian migrants and vagrants have also been recorded from West Papua, and its southeastern Trans-Fly zone, which includes the famed Wasur National Park, is a globally significant staging and wintering ground for waders and waterfowl.

Papuan bird families

The seven New Guinea endemic bird families (Satinbirds Cnemophilidae, Berrypeckers, Longbills Melanocharitidae, Painted Berrypeckers Paramythiidae, Berryhunter Rhagologidae, Ploughbill Eulacestomatidae, Melampittas Melampittidae, and Ifrita Ifritidae) are represented in West Papua, as are the eight families shared with Australia (Cassowaries Casuariidae, Bowerbirds Ptilonorhynchidae, Australasian Treecreepers Climacteridae, Australasian Wrens Maluridae, Australasian Babblers Pomatostomidae, Logrunners Orthonychidae, Whipbirds, Jewel-babblers and Quail-thrushes Psophodidae, and Australo-Papuan Bellbirds Oreoicidae.

West Papua endemic bird species

The following 54 bird species may only be seen in West Papua and nowhere else on Earth:

Bruijn's Brushturkey Aepypodius bruijnii
Red-billed Brushturkey Talegalla cuvieri
Biak Megapode Megapodius geelvinkianus
White-striped Forest Rail Rallicula leucospila
Western Crowned Pigeon Goura cristata
Geelvink Imperial Pigeon Ducula geelvinkiana
Biak Coucal Centropus chalybeus
Biak Scops Owl Otus beccarii
Vogelkop Owlet-nightjar Aegotheles affinis
Kofiau Paradise Kingfisher Tanysiptera ellioti
Biak Paradise Kingfisher Tanysiptera riedelii
Numfor Paradise Kingfisher Tanysiptera carolinae
Geelvink Pygmy Parrot Micropsitta geelvinkiana
Papuan Lorikeet Charmosyna papou
Black Lory Chalcopsitta atra
Black-winged Lory Eos cyanogenia
Biak Lorikeet Trichoglossus rosenbergii
Salvadori's Fig Parrot Psittaculirostris salvadorii
Arfak Catbird Ailuroedus arfakianus
Vogelkop Bowerbird Amblyornis inornatus
Golden-fronted Bowerbird Amblyornis flavifrons
Rufous-sided Honeyeater Ptiloprora erythropleura
Brass's Friarbird Philemon brassi
Western Smoky Honeyeater Melipotes gymnops
Wattled Smoky Honeyeater Melipotes carolae
Vogelkop Melidectes Melidectes leucostephes
Orange-cheeked Honeyeater Oreornis chrysogenys
Vogelkop Scrubwren Sericornis rufescens
Biak Gerygone Gerygone hypoxantha
Western Crested Berrypecker Paramythia olivacea
Biak Triller Lalage leucoptera
Vogelkop Whistler Pachycephala meyeri
Baliem Whistler Pachycephala balim
Raja Ampat Pitohui Pitohui cerviniventris
Kofiau Monarch Symposiachrus julianae
Biak Monarch Symposiachrus brehmii
Biak Black Flycatcher Myiagra atra
Brown-headed Crow Corvus fuscicapillus
Long-tailed Paradigalla Paradigalla carunculata
Arfak Astrapia Astrapia nigra
Western Parotia Parotia sefilata
Bronze Parotia Parotia berlepschi
Wilson's Bird-of-paradise Diphyllodes respublica
Red Bird-of-paradise Paradisaea rubra
Ashy Robin Heteromyias albispecularis
Smoky Robin Peneothello cryptoleuca
Snow Mountain Robin Petroica archboldi
Numfor Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus maforensis
Biak Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus misoriensis
Biak White-eye Zosterops mysorensis
Long-tailed Starling Aplonis magna
Olive-crowned Flowerpecker Dicaeum pectorale
Grey-banded Munia Lonchura vana
Black-breasted Munia Lonchura teerinki

Related links

Browse our check-list of the birds of West Papua.

    West Papua birding facts
  • Total avian diversity in West Papua stands at 704 species.
  • The resident land- and fresh water avifauna totals 588 species.
  • Of these, 289 are regional New Guinea endemics.
  • 54 bird species, many of which remain poorly known, occur only in West Papua and nowhere else on Earth!
  • 25 out of the world's 42 species of bird-of-paradise (excluding both Macgregoria and Melampitta) are present in West Papua, and six species are West Papua endemics.
  • Well over 100 Palearctic and Australian migrants and vagrants have also been recorded.

I thought of the long ages
of the past, during which the successive generations of this little creature [= King Bird of Paradise Cicinnurus regius] had run their course — year by year being born, and living and dying amid these dark and gloomy woods, with no intelligent eye to gaze upon their loveliness — to all appearance such a wanton waste of beauty.
A. R. Wallace, 1869