Indonesian New Guinea
The western half of the subcontinental island of New Guinea, variously known as Papua, West Papua or Irian Jaya, is a singularly unique tropical wilderness area and a birdwatcher's paradise. In fact, the vast and lush frontier forests of Papua are home to some of the most glorious birds on Earth. Anyone who watched the nearly mythical birds of paradise doing their intimate thing in the highly-acclaimed BBC nature documentary 'Attenborough in Paradise' is destined to long ever beyond to see the real stuff. But Papua has so much more to offer than BOP's alone. The cliché-ridden examples of spectacular avian diversity from many an ornithology textbook all occur here: from the man-heigh, flightless cassowaries and the fascinating megapodes or incubatorbirds, to the glorious crowned-pigeons and amazing bowerbirds. Just short of 680 bird species have now reliably been recorded from the territory, out of slightly more than 700 for the entire New Guinea faunal region. Knowledge of the birdlife of Indonesian Papua, however, is far less comprehensive than that for adjacent Papua New Guinea, and the intrepid and careful observer is bound to make significant observations just about anywhere.
It is the breeding land- and freshwater avifauna that adorns Papua with a nearly mythical status, comprising over 550 species including 279 widespread regional New Guinea endemics and at least 42 currently recognized species who's distribution is entirely confined to Papua alone. Species richness is high, lowland forests typically sporting 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. Australo-Papuan passerines including fairywrens Malurini, warblers Pardalotidae, robins Eopsaltriidae, honeyeaters Meliphagidae, and the diverse corvid assemblage radiated to fill all niches. Obviously, of prime interest, are the 29 birds of paradise (here including Melampitta but discounting Macgregoria) scattered across the territory. Among these, the Wilson's Bird of Paradise Cicinnurus respublica of Waigeo and Batanta in the fabled Raja Ampat archipelago, has widely been claimed by seasoned world birders to be one of the best birds roaming the face of this planet! Finally, some 115 Palearctic and Australian migrants, including vagrants and seabirds, have also been recorded from 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.
You can see a list of the 42 endemic species, and another of all of the birds seen in Indonesian New Guinea at www.bird-watching-papua-adventure-travel.com/birdingexpeditions.html
Where to go birding in Papua?
The paramount centres of avian endemism in Papua (in declining order of importance) are the isolated Arfak Mountains on the Bird's Head Peninsula, the oceanic twin islands of Biak-Supiori plus nearby Numfor in Geelvink Bay, the Snow Mountains along the central cordillera, and the Waigeo ophiolitic suite comprising the islands of Waigeo, Batanta and Kofiau in the Raja Ampat archipelago. Moreover, the vast lowland forests effectively isolated to the north and south of the central dividing range, harbour a presently still underestimated endemism component on a much grander scale. See the 'Top Sites' section below for details - they are in alphabetical order, NOT order of importance.
Since Dutch colonial times these mountains are one of the most frequently explored and best known regions of western New Guinea. They support all of the 10 presently described, so-called 'Vogelkop' endemics and provide straightforward access to largely untouched foothill, hill and montane forests that support a wonderfully diverse avifauna. Among the Vogelkop endemics are the Vogelkop Bowerbird Amblyornis inornatus, which surely builds the most complex avian structure on Earth, the little-known Arfak Astrapia Astrapia nigra, the highly-prized Long-tailed Paradigalla Paradigalla carunculata, and the wacko Western Parotia Parotia sefilata, who's ballerina dance almost has to be seen to be believed. In addition, 15 of the 21 restricted-range species present in the Bird's Head region can be seen in the Arfak Mountains.
The deep-water twin islands of Biak and Supiori are only separated from one another by a narrow mangrove-lined channel and harbour the most highly endemic avifauna of any land area in the New Guinea region. In total, 11 endemic taxa have now widely become accepted at the species level, most notably including a megapode, a paradise-kingfisher, a regionally unique scops owl, and two parrots. Numfor Island lies approximately 60 kilometres to the southwest and further boasts its own endemic kingfisher, the glorious Numfor Paradise-Kingfisher Tanysiptera carolinae. In addition, another staggering 25, often morphologically highly distinctive, endemic subspecies exist on the islands.
This oceanic Raja Ampat island features a generally rather depauperate avifauna with a decidedly Moluccan element, but importantly includes two endemic allospecies: Kofiau Paradise-Kingfisher Tanysiptera ellioti and Kofiau Monarch Monarcha julianae. Both are readily seen, as are a limited selection of restricted-range and more widespread goodies.
The vast alluvial lowland forests just west of the Cyclops Mountains near Jayapura are an excellent place to secure a great selection of New Guinea's northern lowlands specialties, including the Victoria Crowned-Pigeon Goura victoria, and the little-known Pale-billed Sicklebill Epimachus bruijnii.
The discovery in 1938 of the densely populated and agriculturally advanced Balim Valley in the heart of the Snow Mountains by American mammalogist, explorer and millionaire, Richard Archbold, may well have been the last great feat of the age of exploration. Following in Archbold's footsteps, an exquisite selection of the wonderfully diverse montane Papuan avifauna can be seen when hiking through cultivation 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 Mount Trikora or Wilhelmina, New Guinea's second peak. Getting to grips with the MacGregor’s 'Bird of Paradise' Macgregoria pulchra here, in some of the most splendid mountain scenery this side of the Himalayas, is quite simply 'over the top', regardless of whether this is a bird of paradise or a member of the honeyeater family. While only three bird species are genuinely confined to the Snow Mountains, a staggering 33 montane restricted-range species occur.
Trans-Fly and Wasur National Park
Many key species of New Guinea's southern lowlands, including Southern Crowned-Pigeon Goura scheepmakeri and Greater Bird of Paradise Paradisaea apoda, can still be seen in and around the famed Wasur National Park near Merauke within the so-called Trans-Fly zone. This is an extensive plain of seasonally flooded grassland, marshes, reedbeds, savanna, woodland and monsoon forest, bordered by the Digul, Fly and Aramia rivers: in essence, a little piece of Australia, isolated within New Guinea. Not surprisingly therefore, the area harbours the most distinctive avifauna within New Guinea with four endemic species and heaps of Australian specialties. Wasur is also a globally significant staging and wintering ground for water birds from both the Palearctic and Australia.
At the northern end of the Raja Ampat archipelago off New Guinea's westernmost tip, Waigeo and Batanta, once fused to a single landmass 'Waitanta', support a varied lowland and hill forest avifauna with a 'peculiar' endemism component, to say the least. In fact, every self-respecting world birder is bound to at least once in a lifetime undertake the pilgrimage to Waitanta's endemic avian delights, which include the endangered Bruijn’s Brush-turkey Aepypodius bruijnii, and the nearly mythical Wilson's Cicinnurus respublica and Red Bird of Paradise Paradisaea rubra. The brush-turkey only occurs on Waigeo, and then quite likely only east of the visually stunning Mayalibit Bay that divides the island in roughly two equal halves. Furthermore, Waigeo boasts the highest number of land and fresh water bird species of any island in the Raja Ampat group, including the delightful Western Crowned-Pigeon Goura cristata and mysteriously distributed Brown-headed Crow Corvus fuscicapillus.
Mrs. Like Wijaya
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* Field Guides & Bird Song
For a comprehensive list of recommended titles covering Indonesia as a whole - please see the Indonesia page of Fatbirder
Bird Recordings from Irian Jaya
Steve Smith Produced by the author 1992 ISBN: 34740
Birding in Irian Jaya
A Birding Trip in December 1991 Steve Smith and Keith Turner 73 pages, maps. Produced by the author 1992 ISBN: 53839
Birds of Irian Jaya and Halmahera
R Thomas and S Thomas - Frogmouth Publications 2007
ISBN: 162210Buy this book from NHBS.com
Guides & Tour Operators
Specialists in adventure birding and outdoors in Indonesian New Guinea, variously known as Papua, West Papua or Irian Jaya…
Tailor-made tours may be arranged to suit your birding interests plus other facets of natural history if you wish, including flowering plants, fungi, insects and other cold and warm-blooded animals. Tours are arranged and led by a professional ornithologist and natural historian of some 40 years experience in birdwatching and lecturing in UK and overseas. For further information on all aspects of Sicklebill`s tours contact Ian@sicklebill.demon.co.uk
Vacation Indonesia Tours
Vacation Indonesia Tours, owned by Nurlin Djuni & Darwin Sumang, is your gateway to Indonesia. We can immerse you in our culture, heritage and our extraordinarily diverse natural history. The Islands of Indonesia are justly famous for birdwatching. Over 372 species have been recorded and many are found nowhere else. Nurlin Djuni specialises in Birdwatching/Holidays Tours in Sulawesi, Halmahera, Papua, Java, Bali, Kalimantan, Lesser Sundas and Sumatera…
CloudBirders was created by a group of Belgian world birding enthusiasts and went live on 21st of March 2013. They provide a large and growing database of birding trip reports, complemented with extensive search, voting and statistical features.
2009 [05 May] - Ralf Jahraus
This report is based on a birding trip to Irian Jaya done by my wife Erma and myself. We entirly organized this trip on our own, with contact adresses in Sorong and Manokwari only. As we knew about a few sites, we just went and looked what we could organize. As Erma is native from Java and as I also speak Bahasa Indonesia O.K. this was usually possible, but time consuming. We found it very difficult to receive good and helpful information before leaving Germany…
2009 [09 September] - Christer Benktsson
This report covers a trip to Papua (Indonesia) that took place in September 2009 and was arranged through Birding Indonesia. The participants of the trip were Christer Benktsson (author of this report), Maria Fahlén and Mehd Halaouate (tour leader)…
2011 [05 May] - Nicolaas van Zalinge & Wim van der Schot
West Papua with its extensive forests and great variety of habitats is one of the most important areas for biodiversity in the world. It is particularly noted for its avifauna with numerous species of birds of paradise. However, it is not an easy destination….
2013 [07 July] - Mark Van heirs
…The splendid Biak Paradise Kingfisher performed very well, after some rather frustrating minutes. This mega endemic is the most endearing of the Geelvink specials and its calls emanated everywhere from the forest. A Great Cuckoo- Dove displayed its aerobatics and several colourful Biak Red Lories presented themselves well…
2013 [08 August] - Frank Lambert
…Other birds seen that first day included small numbers of the beautiful Claret-breasted Fruit-Dove, Biak Hooded Pitta and Black-browed Trillers, but some of the endemics we were searching for proved elusive and we had to await for the following morning, and the arrival of Wendy (who unfortunately missed her original flight), before we finally found Biak Monarch, Biak Black Flycatcher, and Biak Megapode, all of which gave us fantastic views…
2013 [08 August] - Julian Thomas
…Brown and the rather striking Great Cuckoo Doves perched up in regenerating low forest. Parrots included more Eclectus. as well as Black-capped and Black-winged Lories and Rainbow Lorikeets….
2015 [08 August] - Rob Hutchinson - West Papua
This proved a fabulous start to the trip with stunning view of undoubtedly one of the best birds in the world; Wilson’s Bird-of-Paradise. Other treats were amazing displays from Red Bird-of-paradise, Raja Ampat Pitohui and the immense Western Crowned Pigeon.
2015 [11 November] - Gareth Knass
The Arfak Mountains, Nimbokrang, Sorong Lowlands and Waigeo Island
2016 [03 March] - Dominic Chaplin - Nimbokrang
...Here we also saw Blyth's Hornbills, 12 Wired Birds of Paradise and Lesser Birds of Paradise (common and vocal, here as at most locations around Nimbokrang)....
2016 [07 July] - Rob Hutchinson - 'Easy' West Papua
...Two outings near Sorong gave us some of our targets including Spotted Honeyeater and Ruby-throated Myzomela, both of which were completely eclipsed by a magnificent New Guinea Harpy-Eagle...
2016 [11 November] - K David Bishop - West Papuan Island Cruise
...Rockjumper’s inaugural exploration of the Raja Ampats and eastern Wallacea, Indonesia was arguably the finest tour I have ever had the privilege of leading in forty wonderful years of tour leading....
Papua Bird Club
Papua Bird Club is the only organization located in West Papua (Irian Jaya, now Papua); Indonesia that offers customized tours for bird lovers as well as conservation activity for the purpose of conserving the Papuan birds and its nature in their original habitat. Papua offers some of the best birding in the world. Located on the western half of the island of New Guinea, the world`s second largest, Papua still has areas that are waiting to be explored. The province contains several endemic species of Birds of Paradise, Bowerbirds, Cassowaries, Cockatoos, Parrots, etc.The land is also rich in plant and other wildlife, such as the Tree Kangoroo, the giant Leatherback sea turtle, Dugong and the longest varanid species on the planet. West Papua regions also offers the best underwater marine life in the world, according to the recent CI marine survey around the Raja Ampat Island.
Wasur National Park
The Wasur National Park forms part of the largest wetland in Papua province of Indonesia and has been the least disturbed by human activity. The high value of its biodiversity has led to the park being dubbed the "Serengeti of Papua". The vast open wetland, in particular Rawa Biru Lake, attracts a very rich fauna…
Birding in Papua – Burung-Nusantara / Birds-Indonesia
Information about birding sites in West Papua (Irian Jaya), including key species, maps, access, local guides and resources. Birdwatching in Papua is on many people’s dream wish list. It is also some of the best birding in Indonesia. From steamy lowland swamp forest, to snow capped mountains, to remote islands, Papua has a great variety of habitats and a great variety of birds to match. Birding in Papua is also not as hard as you might imagine. The access to many of the sites listed here is straightforward, and there are some great local guides to help you. If you’d rather not try birding independently there are also several excellent tour companies offering trips to Papua. Browse sites from the map or the table. Each site page will show links to birding trip reports, guides and other content that is relevant. Help us keep this information up to date by posting your experiences back here as comments…