Buff-banded Rail Gallirallus philippensis ©Tom Tarrant Website
Birding Tuvalu

Tuvalu, formerly known as the Ellice Islands, is a Polynesian island nation located in the Pacific Ocean midway between Hawaii and Australia. Its nearest neighbours are Kiribati, Samoa and Fiji. It is comprised of four reef islands and five true atolls. Its population of 11,992 makes it the third-least populated independent country in the world, with only Vatican City and Nauru having fewer inhabitants. It is also the second-smallest member by population of the United Nations. In terms of physical land size, at just 26 square kilometres (10 sq mi) Tuvalu is the fourth smallest country in the world, larger only than the Vatican City, Monaco and Nauru.

Tuvalu consists of four reef islands and five true atolls. Its small, scattered group of atolls has poor soil and a total land area of only about 26 square kilometres (less than 10 sq. mi.) making it the fourth smallest country in the world. The land is very low lying with narrow coral atolls. Funafuti is the largest atoll of the nine low reef islands and atolls that form the Tuvalu volcanic island chain. It comprises numerous islets around a central lagoon that is approximately 25.1 kilometres (15.6 mi) (N-S) by 18.4 kilometres (11.4 mi) (W-E), centred on 179°7’E and 8°30’S. An annular reef rim surrounds the lagoon, with several natural reef channels.

The highest elevation is five meters (16 ft) above sea level, which gives Tuvalu the second-lowest maximum elevation of any country (after the Maldives). Because of this low elevation, the islands that make up this nation may be threatened by any future sea level rise. Under such circumstances, the population may evacuate to New Zealand, Niue or the Fijian island of Kioa. Additionally, Tuvalu is affected by what is known as a King Tide, which can raise the sea level higher than a normal high tide. In the future, this may threaten to submerge the nation entirely.Tuvalu has very poor land and the soil is hardly usable for agriculture. There is almost no reliable supply of drinking water.Weather: Tuvalu has westerly gales and heavy rain from November to March and tropical temperatures moderated by easterly winds from March to November.Climate Change At its highest, Tuvalu is only 5 m above sea level, and could be one of the first nations to experience the effects of climate change and sea level rise. Not only could parts of the island be flooded, the rising saltwater table could destroy deep rooted food crops such as coconut and taro, and destroy the coral reefs which provide shelter to local marine life. In 1978, a tide gauge was installed at Funafuti by the University of Hawaii and measured a sea rise of 1.2 millimetres per year over 23 years, a figure consistent with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimate of 1-2 mm per year over the twentieth century. The collapse of the Greenland ice sheet due to global warming would result in approximately 5 metres of global sea level rise, and the West Antarctic ice sheet collapse would result in 5-15 metres of rise. Putting aside these catastrophic events, the IPCC still predicts a median 40 cm rise in sea level by the end of the twenty-first century, which would undoubtedly have significant effects for Tuvalu.

Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 34

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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 | 272 pages, 16 col plates, figs, tabs, maps | ISBN: 9789829030047 Buy this book from NHBS.com
Other Links
  • Birds of Tuvalu

    A list…

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