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Snow Mountains Robin Petroica archboldi is one of three bird species that occur only in the Snow Mountains of Indonesian New Guinea and nowhere else on Earth. This little gem appears to be genuinely confined to Peak Trikora or Wilhelmina and Peak Jaya or Carstenz, reliably setting in above 4,000 m elevation only.

Snow Mountains of New Guinea

Birding hotspot

The discovery in 1938 of the densely populated and agriculturally advanced Grand Baliem Valley in the heart of the Snow Mountains by American mammalogist, explorer and millionaire, Richard Archbold, and the massively supplied, 14-month's expedition he mounted under the auspices of the American Museum of Natural History, may well have been the last great feat of the age of exploration. Among the scores of novelties brought back from the field were no less than 40 undescribed bird taxa, four of which received full species status.

Following in Archbold's footsteps, a superb selection of New Guinea's wonderfully diverse montane avifauna can be seen when hiking through cultivations and upper montane forests up the Ibele Valley onto the Lake Habbema alpine plateau at 3,200 m elevation above the timberline, in the shadow of Peak Trikora. Here, in some of the most splendid mountain scenery this side of the Himalaya, lives MacGregor’s Honeyeater Macgregoria pulchra. This monotypic genus has long been treated as a bird-of-paradise. However, T. Iredale observed living birds and back in 1956 already indicated that Macgregoria is instead a member of the honeyeater family Meliphagidae, a conclusion which more recently was reinforced by molecular and morphological evidence. Only three bird species appear to be genuinely confined to the Snow Mountains, but a staggering 34 montane restricted-range species occur.

New Guinea Snow Mountains endemic birds (3 species)

Orange-cheeked Honeyeater Oreornis chrysogenys
Snow Mountains Robin Petroica archboldi
Black-breasted Munia Lonchura teerinki

Restricted-range species (34 species)

Snow Mountains Quail Anurophasis monorthonyx
Chestnut Forest Rail Rallicula rubra
Archbold's Nightjar Eurostopodus archboldi
Archbold's Owlet-nightjar Aegotheles archboldi
Bare-legged Swiftlet Aerodramus nuditarsus
Painted Tiger Parrot Psittacella picta
Modest Tiger Parrot Psittacella modesta
Archbold's Bowerbird Archboldia papuensis
Leaden Honeyeater Ptiloprora plumbea
Yellowish-streaked Honeyeater Ptiloprora meekiana
Rufous-sided Honeyeater Ptiloprora erythropleura
Grey-streaked Honeyeater Ptiloprora perstriata
MacGregor’s Honeyeater Macgregoria pulchra
Sooty Melidectes Melidectes fuscus
Short-bearded Melidectes Melidectes nouhuysi
Belford’s Melidectes Melidectes belfordi
New Guinea Thornbill Acanthiza murina
Loria's Satinbird Cnemophilus loriae
Crested Satinbird Cnemophilus macgregorii
Papuan Whipbird Androphobus viridis
Black Sittella Daphoenositta miranda
Wattled Ploughbill Eulacestoma nigropectus
Lorentz’s Whistler Pachycephala lorentzi
Western Crested Berrypecker Paramythia olivacea
Sooty Shrikethrush Colluricincla tenebrosa
Short-tailed Paradigalla Paradigalla brevicauda
Splendid Astrapia Astrapia splendidissima
Brown Sicklebill Epimachus meyeri
Smoky Robin Peneothello cryptoleuca
Mountain Robin Petroica bivittata
Greater Ground Robin Amalocichla sclateriana
Mountain Firetail Oreostruthus fuliginosus
Western Alpine Munia Lonchura montana
Alpine Pipit Anthus gutturalis

Widespread goodies

Salvadori’s Teal Salvadorina waigiuensis
Black-mantled Goshawk Accipiter melanochlamys
Meyer's Goshawk Accipiter meyerianus
Papuan Harrier Circus spilothorax
Spotless Crake Porzana tabuensis
New Guinea Woodcock Scolopax rosenbergii
Greater Sooty Owl Tyto tenebricosa
Eastern Grass Owl Tyto longimembris
Papuan Boobook Ninox theomacha
Feline Owlet-nightjar Aegotheles insignis
Mountain Kingfisher Syma megarhyncha
Goldie's Lorikeet Psitteuteles goldiei
Stella's Lorikeet Charmosyna stellae
Yellow-billed Lorikeet Neopsittacus musschenbroekii
Orange-billed Lorikeet Neopsittacus pullicauda
Brehm’s Tiger Parrot Psittacella brehmii
Madarasz Tiger Parrot Psittacella madaraszi
Black-throated Honeyeater Caligavis subfrenatus
Slaty-headed Longbill Toxorhamphus poliopterus
Tit Berrypecker Oreocharis arfaki
Torrent-lark Grallina bruijni
Lesser Melampitta Melampitta lugubris
Blue-capped Ifrit Ifrita kowaldi
King of Saxony Bird-of-paradise Pteridophora alberti
Superb Bird-of-paradise Lophorina superba
White-winged Robin Peneothello sigillata
White-eyed Robin Pachycephalopsis poliosoma
Lesser Ground Robin Amalocichla incerta
Island Thrush Turdus poliocephalus
Papuan Parrotfinch Erythrura papuana

Related links

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

    Snow Mountains birding facts
  • Just three birds are endemic, but a staggering 34 montane restricted-range species occur.
  • Homeland of avian delights as Archbold's Bowerbird, MacGregor’s Honeyeater, Short-tailed Paradigalla, Splendid Astrapia, and Brown Sicklebill.
  • The possibility to combine bird-watching with a real hiking adventure off the beaten track, in some of the finest mountain scenery between Himalaya and Andes.

Lorentz and Habbema

Habbema certainly sounds most exotic and one would almost swear that it is therefore a local Papuan toponym. However, this alpine lake was in fact named for the Dutch Lieutenant Habbema who's military detachment supervised the 1909 Lorentz Expedition to New Guinea led by Dr. H. A. Lorentz. The expedition came first to reach the tropical snow at the base of the jagged summit of Mount Trikora, then called Wilhelmina, an achievement which earned Lorentz the hero status back home. Interesting detail: each Dayak-porter the expedition employed apparently was rewarded with a tatoe of a snow-clad mountain with a dragon. The 1909 Lorentz Expedition, however, ends catastrophically. During the descent of Mount Trikora, of which the actual summit was never reached, Lorentz falls down and breaks a few ribbs. One Dayak-porter gets lost in the thick fogg and dies of exhaustion. Then, due to lack of food on the return journey, the rest of the expedition nearly succumbs. One Dutch soldier disappears without a trace in the dense forest, and a second Dayak-porter dies totally enfeebled. Eventually, the party manages to reach the expedition vessel 'Arend' which lay anchored on an inland jungle river, still known as the North or Lorentz River. In 1913 the actual summit of Trikora was reached on a Dutch military expedition led by Captain A. Franssen Herderschee. Sadly, the snow caps on Trikora have now vanished completely, revealing only glinstering limestones.