Territory of Norfolk Island

Spotless Crake Zapornia tabuensis ©Andy Walker Website

Norfolk Island is a small island in the Pacific Ocean located between Australia, New Zealand and New Caledonia. It and two neighbouring islands, Phillip Island and Nepean Island form one of Australia’s external territories. It has around 2,200 inhabitants living on a total area of about 35 km2 (15 square miles). Its capital is Kingston. The island’s highest point is Mount Bates reaching just 320 metres (1,000 feet) above sea level, located in the northwest quadrant of the island. The majority of the terrain is suitable for farming and other agricultural uses.

The coastline of Norfolk Island consists, to varying degrees, of cliff faces. A downward slope exists towards Slaughter Bay and Emily Bay, the site of the original colonial settlement of Kingston. There are no safe harbour facilities just loading jetties at Kingston and Cascade Bay. All goods not domestically produced are brought in by ship, usually to Cascade Bay. Emily Bay, protected from the Pacific Ocean by a small coral reef, is the only safe area for recreational swimming.

The climate is subtropical and mild, with little seasonal differentiation. Average annual precipitation is around 1,100 millimetres (43 inches), with most rain falling from April to August. Other months receive significant amounts of precipitation as well. The island is the eroded remnant of a basaltic volcano active around 2.3 to 3 million years ago, with inland areas now consisting mainly of rolling plains. The area surrounding Mount Bates is preserved as the Norfolk Island National Park. The park, covering around 10% of the land of the island, contains remnants of the forests which originally covered the island, including stands of subtropical rainforest. The park includes the two smaller islands too. Phillip Island was devastated by pest animals like pigs and rabbits but pest control is beginning to allow it to restore.

Norfolk Island has 174 native plants; 51 of them are endemic. At least 18 of the endemic species are rare or threatened. The Norfolk Island Palm Rhopalostylis baueri and the Smooth Tree-fern Cyathea brownii, the tallest tree-fern in the world, are common in the Norfolk Island National Park but rare elsewhere on the island. 150 bird species were originally present; 6 are extinct and three species and two subspecies are highly endangered. Norfolk Island has only one native mammal, Gould’s Wattled Bat Chalinolobus gouldii, which is very rare and may even be extinct.

Before European colonisation, most of Norfolk Island was covered with subtropical rain forest, the canopy of which was made of Araucaria heterophylla (Norfolk Island Pine) in exposed areas, and the palm Rhopalostylis baueri and tree ferns Cyathea brownii and Cyathea australia in moister protected areas. The understory was thick with lianas and ferns covered the forest floor. Only one small tract (5km²) of rainforest remains, which was declared as the Norfolk Island National Park in 1986. This forest has been infested with several introduced plants. The cliffs and steep slopes of Mt. Pitt supported a community of shrubs, herbaceous plants, and climbers. A few tracts of clifftop and seashore vegetation have been preserved. The rest of the island has been cleared for pasture and housing. Grazing and introduced weeds currently threaten the native flora, displacing it in some areas. In fact, there are more weed species than native species on Norfolk Island.

Birding Norfolk Island

As a relatively small and isolated oceanic island, Norfolk has few land birds but a high proportion of endemism among them. Many of the endemic bird species and subspecies have become extinct as a result of massive clearance of the island’s native vegetation of subtropical rainforest for agriculture, hunting and persecution as agricultural pests. The birds have also suffered from the introduction of mammals such as rats, cats, foxes, pigs and goats, as well as from introduced competitors such as common blackbirds and crimson rosellas. Although the island is politically part of Australia, many of Norfolk Island’s native birds show affinities to those of neighbouring New Zealand, such as the now extinct Norfolk kākā, Norfolk pigeon, and Norfolk boobook (the last female was cross bred with NZ birds to preserve the genome). Other endemic birds are the White-chested White-eye, which may be extinct, Norfolk Parakeet, Norfolk Gerygone, Slender-billed White-eye, Norfolk Robin and three endemic subspecies.

Nepean Island is also home to breeding seabirds. The Providence Petrel was hunted to local extinction by the beginning of the 19th century but has shown signs of returning to breed on Phillip Island. Other seabirds breeding there include the White-necked Petrel, Kermadec Petrel, Australasian Gannet and Grey Ternlet. The Sooty Tern (known locally as the whale bird) has traditionally been subject to seasonal egg harvesting by Norfolk Islanders. Over 1% of the world population of Wedge-tailed Shearwaters and Red-tailed Tropicbirds breed there.

Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 162

    162 birds have been seen... however, only 59 are resident or regular and a further 30 occasionally spotted the rest can be regarded as vagrant or acidental
  • Number of endemics: 5

    Norfolk Island Parakeet Cyanoramphus cookii
    Norfolk Island Gerygone Gerygone modesta
    Norfolk Robin Petroica multicolor
    Slender-billed White-eye Zosterops tenuirostris
    White-chested White-eye Zosterops albogularis
  • Number of endemics: 3 Subspecies

    Norfolk Golden Whistler Pachycephala pectoralis xanthoprocta
    Norfolk Island Sacred Kingfisher Todiramphus sanctus norfolkiensis
    Norfolk Island Grey Fantail Rhipidura fuliginosa pelzelni
  • Avibase - The World Bird Database

    PDF Checklist
    This checklist includes all bird species found in Norfolk Island , based on the best information available at this time. It is based on a wide variety of sources that I collated over many years. I am pleased to offer these checklists as a service to birdwatchers.
  • Norfolk Island National Park

    PDF Checklist
    Bird Checklist for Norfolk Island
Useful Reading

  • Norfolk Island - The Birds

    by Margaret Christian Green Eyes Publications | 2005 | Paperback | 108 pages, colour photos | ISBN: 0975821202 Buy this book from NHBS.com
Festivals & Bird Fairs
  • Norfolk Island Bird Week

    05 November 2024 - 13 November 2024 - Norfolk Island's premier event for bird watchers. Hear from the island's local bird experts, their wealth of knowledge will provide a fun-filled week of bird watching.
  • Norfolk Island Botanic Garden

    The Norfolk Island Botanic Gardens house a collection of specimens of plants endemic to Norfolk Island. The garden aims to develop and display a collection of Norfolk Island's unique flora with a strong emphasis on increasing knowledge, appreciation and enjoyment of Australia's plant heritage

Abbreviations Key

  • NP Norfolk Island

    WebpageSatellite View
    The island boasts a bird list of one hundred and sixteen species. Of these sixty-six are vagrants or non-breeding migrants. A number of the seabirds which nest on Phillip Island are subject to agreements which Australia has entered into with the Governments of Japan and the People's Republic of China…
  • Phillip Island

    WebpageSatellite View
    With the extermination of rabbits from the Island attention has turned to weed control, revegetation and monitoring of seabirds particularly Whale Birds. Continuing work to control African Olives around the endangered Hibiscus has been undertaken.
Guides & Tour Operators
  • Baunti Tours

    On Margaret’s Bird Finding Tour you’ll get to explore the world of Norfolk Island’s birds. This is a unique experience seeking out our rare and endemic bird life. Norfolk’s leading bird expert, Margaret Christian, will pick you up early for this personalised half day adventure...
  • Green- Eyes Bird Tour

    Margaret Christian is Norfolks' leading bird expert and she knows exactly where to find Norfolk's unique Native and Endemic bird species. Join her for a personalised 1/2 day tour Through the rain forest looking for shy and sometimes reclusive fauna and breath taking clifftops to see our migratory sea birds and their rookeries (in season). Departs Monday, Wednesday and Friday. (Other days by arrangement only) excluding some Norfolk Island public holiday's.
Trip Reports
  • 2021 [03 March] - Neil Broekhuizen

    PDF Report
    With continuing international travel restrictions in Australia, we decided to take a short trip to Norfolk Island to pick up the four endemic species there and have a short holiday. There are direct flights most days from Sydney, taking around two and a half hours to get to the Island. Although you don’t need passports if you are an Australian citizen, most people use them as a form of ID as you have to travel through the International Terminal at Sydney Airport. We stayed in a charming cottage, Tintoela, that came with a basic hire car.
  • 2022 [10 October]

    Norfolk’s large National Park is likely to be one of your first birding/nature destinations and is the best place to try to find the Norfolk Island Robin and the more elusive Norfolk Island Parakeet (also known as the “green parrot”). The Parakeet population was once down to an estimated 50 birds but has recovered to some several hundred due to conservation efforts.
Other Links
  • Norfolk Island National Park Birdwatching

    Norfolk Island is home to a fascinating mixture of land, water and seabirds. The island's isolation means that although Norfolk has relatively few land and forest bird species, a high proportion of these birds are found nowhere else in the world
  • Norfolk Island Parakeet Cyanoramphus cookii

    Full species profile
  • Norfolk Island White-eye Zosterops albogularis

    Full Species profile
  • Norfolk Island's Flora & Fauna

    Some Birds To Watch Out For

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