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Pitcairn, Henderson, Ducie and Oeno Islands

Henderson Crake Porzana atra ©Pete Morris Website

Birding The Pitcairns

The Pitcairn Islands, officially named the Pitcairn, Henderson, Ducie and Oeno Islands, are a group of four volcanic islands in the southern Pacific Ocean. The islands are a British overseas territory (formerly a British colony), the last remaining in the Pacific. Only Pitcairn Island, the second largest, is inhabited.

The islands are best known for being the home of the descendants of the Bounty mutineers and the Tahitians who accompanied them, an event retold in numerous books and films. This story is still apparent in the surnames of many of the islanders. With only 48 inhabitants (from nine families), Pitcairn is also notable for being the least populated jurisdiction in the world (although it is not a sovereign nation). The United Nations Committee on Decolonisation includes the Pitcairn Islands on the United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories.

The Pitcairn Islands form the southeasternmost extension of the geological archipelago of the Tuamotus of French Polynesia and consist of five islands: Pitcairn Island, Sandy Island (the last one found), Oeno Island (atoll with five islets), Henderson Island and Ducie Island (atoll with four islets). The only permanently inhabited island, Pitcairn, is accessible only by boat through Bounty Bay.

Henderson Island, covering about 67% of the territory's total land area and supporting a rich variety of animals in its nearly inaccessible interior, is also capable of supporting a small human population, but access is difficult, its outer shores comprising steep limestone cliffs of sharp coral.

The Pitcairn Islands were formed by a centre of upwelling magma called the Pitcairn hotspot. The other islands are at a distance of more than 100 km (60 miles) and are not habitable. The Pitcairn Islands are one of two places in the world in which the plant species Glochidion pitcairnense occurs.



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Number of Species

Number of bird species: 43


Number of endemics: 5

Henderson Crake Porzana atra
Henderson Fruit-dove Ptilinopus insularis
Henderson Lorikeet Vini stepheni
Henderson Reed-warbler Acrocephalus taiti
Pitcairn Reed-warbler Acrocephalus vaughani


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Useful Reading

Birds of Eastern Polynesia: A Biogeographic Atlas

by Jean-Claude Thibault & Alice Cibois | Lynx Edicions | 2017 | Hardback | 438 pages, 200 colour photos and illustrations, 70 b/w illustrations, 142 colour distribution maps |

ISBN: 9788416728053

Buy this book from NHBS.com


Abbreviations Key

Henderson Island


Satellite View

Henderson Island is an unihabitated raised reef island, 9.6 km long by 5.1 km wide with an area of 36 square km, in the Pitcairn Island group of the SE Pacific. The island's perimeter is 26.4 km; of this, 16.5 km is encircled by a fringing reef. It is 168 km ENE of Pitcairn. Henderson Island is the largest island in the Pitcairn Island group, one of the remotest groups of islands in the South Pacific, with no major land mass within a 5,000km radius. The group comprises four islands, with Henderson lying 200km east-north-east of Pitcairn, 200km east of Oeno and 360km west of Ducie. Only Ducie, and the Chilean islands of Rapa Nui (Easter Island) and Sala y Gomez lie further to the east within Polynesia. The Pitcairn group is a Dependent Territory of the United Kingdom governed by the British High Commissioner in New Zealand, and a 10 member island council of H.M.S. Bounty descendants on Pitcairn Island. Henderson Island is (British) Crown Land.

Trip Reports

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Trip Report Repository

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.

2014 [10 October] - Derek Scott

PDF Report

...As was to be expected, the friendly and inquisitive Tuamotu Sandpipers on Tenararo Atoll were voted the most popular bird of the trip, but the cute little Henderson Crakes on Henderson, the amazingly confiding Polynesian Ground Doves on Tenararo and the colourful Ultramarine Lorikeets on Ua Huka in the Marquesas were also much admired. Other great birds included Murphy’s, Juan Fernandez, Kermadec, Herald, Henderson, Phoenix and Tahiti Petrels, White-bellied and Polynesian Storm Petrels, Bristle-thighed Curlew, Blue and Grey Noddies, Grey-green, Atoll, White-capped and Henderson Fruit Doves, Marquesan Imperial Pigeon, Pacific Long-tailed Cuckoo, Tahiti and Marquesan Swiftlets, Society and Marquesan Kingfishers, Kuhl’s and Stephen’s Lorikeets, and Tahiti, Iphis and Fatu Hiva Monarchs...

2014 [11 November] - Chris Collins

PDF Report

The star bird was surely the endearing Tuamotu Sandpiper and we were privileged to see this charismatic species on Tenararo and Morane Islands. Although it is believed that the world population is about 1,300 birds which are found across just five atolls, we saw good numbers on both islands....

2017 [10 October] - Pete Morris & Mark Beaman

PDF Report

...After a warm welcome from the islanders, we headed up hill towards Adamstown, soon finding the local ‘sparrow’ – Pitcairn Reed Warbler, the only landbird on the island. They proved to be common, most being leucistic to some extent, but endearing nevertheless...