Fairy Tern Sternula nereis ©Gary B Edstrom (Commons Wikipedia) Website
Birding Niue

Niue is an island nation located in the South Pacific Ocean. It is commonly known as the ‘Rock of Polynesia’. Natives of the island call it ‘the Rock’. Though self governing, Niue is in free association with New Zealand, and thus lacks full sovereignty. Queen Elizabeth II is also Niue’s head of state. Most diplomatic relations are conducted by New Zealand on Niue’s behalf. Niue is 2,400 kilometres northeast of New Zealand in a triangle between Tonga, Samoa, and the Cook Islands. The Niuean language and the English language are taught in schools and both are used in day-to-day business and communications. The people are predominantly Polynesian.It is a 269 km² island located in the southern Pacific Ocean, east of Tonga. There are three geographically outlying coral reefs within the Exclusive Economic Zone that do not have any land area:

Beveridge Reef is a submerged atoll drying during low tide, it measures 9.5 km North-South by 7.5 km East-West, with a total area of 56 km², with no land area. The lagoon is 11 meters deep. Antiope Reef is a circular plateau approximately 400 meters in diameter, with a depth of at least 9.5 meters. Haran Reef (Harans Reef) is reported to break furiously. Albert Meyer Reef is almost km long and wide, with a depth of at least 3 meters, and is not officially claimed by Niue. Haymet Rocks may not even exist. Niue is one of the world’s largest coral islands. The terrain of Niue consists of steep limestone cliffs along the coast with a central plateau rising to about 60 metres above sea level. A coral reef surrounds the island, with the only major break in the reef being in the central western coast, close to the capital, Alofi. A notable feature of the island is the number of limestone caves found close to the coast. The island is roughly oval in shape (with a diameter of about 18 kilometres), with two large bays indenting the western coast (Alofi Bay in the centre and Avatele Bay in the south). Between these is the promontory of Halagigie Point. A small peninsula, TePā Point (or Blowhole Point), is located close to the settlement of Avatele in the southwest. Most of the island’s population resides close to the west coast, around the capital, and in the northwest.The island has a tropical climate, with most rainfall occurring between November and April. Some of the soils on the island are geochemically very unusual. They are extremely highly weathered tropical soils, with high levels of iron and aluminium oxides (oxisol), and mercury, but as established by the research of New Zealand scientists starting with Sir Ernest Marsden, they contain surprisingly high levels of natural radioactivity. There is almost no uranium. This is the same distribution of elements as found naturally on very deep seabeds, but the geochemical evidence suggests that in the case of Niue the origin is extreme weathering of coral and brief sea submergence 120,000 years ago. A process, ‘endothermal upwelling’ in which mild natural volcanic heat entrains deep seawater up through the porous coral may also contribute. No adverse health effects from the radioactivity or other trace elements have been demonstrated and calculations show that level of radioactivity would probably be much too low to be detected in the population. These unusual soils are very rich in phosphate, but it is not accessible to plants, being in the very insoluble form of iron phosphate, or crandallite. It is thought that rather similar radioactive soils may exist on Lifou and Mare (island) near New Caledonia, and Rennell in the Solomon Islands, but no other locations are known.The time difference between Niue and mainland New Zealand is 23 hours during the Southern Hemisphere winter and 24 hours when the mainland uses Daylight Saving Time. So the watch at Niue and Auckland show the same time, although Niue is one day behind.

Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 31

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Useful Reading

  • A Guide to the Birds of Fiji and Western Polynesia including American Samoa, Niue, Samoa, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu and Wallis & Futuna

    By Dick Watling | Dick Watling | 2004 | Paperback | 16 Full Colour Plates; Figures, Tables & Maps; 272 pages | ISBN: 9829030040 Buy this book from

Abbreviations Key

  • Huvalu Conservation Area

    WebpageSatellite View
    he Huvalu Forest Conservation Area and is situated on the eastern part of the island. The Conservation Area was established in 1992 and covers an area of approximately 54 square kilometres (5,400 ha) surrounding the largest area of primary forest in Niue. It also includes an area of reef platform about 15 to 20 metres from the high tide mark.

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