Birds and birdwatching

Fiji has around sixty breeding species of land birds and nineteen breeding sea birds

Birdwatching in Fiji

Across the archipelago, Fiji has around sixty breeding species of land birds and nineteen breeding sea birds. Remarkably, some two-thirds of the land birds are endemic to Fiji – meaning they are found nowhere else on the planet! On the other hand, eleven of the land species have been introduced and are now established, breeding in Fiji.  Another fifty-two species – mostly seabirds and shorebirds – visit Fiji but do not breed here.

Easy encounters with endemics.

For those who do not like to suffer too painfully to add species to their bird-list, some of the most colourful endemics may be seen around the resorts on all the main islands – for instance, the Collared Lory is often seen feeding around flowering palms and the Orange-breasted Myzomela on other ornamentals, while the Fiji Parrotfinch frequently comes out to eat grass seeds on a lawn or golf course. Harder to see but easy to hear, the Fiji Bush Warbler skulks in the hedges and shrubberies of many hotels and houses. Two other relatively conspicuous endemics, the Fiji Woodswallow and Fiji Goshawk can be seen on power lines along most of the main roads on Fiji’s larger islands, along with the Pacific Kingfisher, which is a more widespread species, albeit with distinct local subspecies.

Shorebirds and seabirds

For those who appreciate shorebirds, the silty flats around Suva Point, readily scanned in a short walk along the sea wall in Suva, Fiji’s capital city, offer some of the best opportunities – especially when the migrant species, such as the Wandering Tattler are passing through. And a good selection of seabirds, especially boobies (Masked, Brown and Red-footed) and frigatebirds can be seen from the inter-island ferries, for instance running from Natovi (on the eastern side of Viti Levu) to Nabouwalu (on the western tip of Vanua Levu), or from Savusavu (on the southern side of Vanua Levu) to Taveuni. Just check the schedules to make sure that you choose a daytime sailing!

Head to the forest

Most of Fiji’s endemic land birds, however, are forest species so to see them you will need to get out into the remnants of the rainforest that once covered all the islands. For a taste of this forest – and a sighting of the endemic Masked Shining-Parrot – you can walk the well-marked trails of the Colo-i-Suva forest park on the outskirts of Suva. However, although it looks beautiful enough, this is not a natural forest: the canopy consists mainly of planted mahogany trees (from South America) and bird diversity is relatively limited.

Much of Fiji’s remaining natural forest has been included in the fourteen Important Bird Areas (IBAs), designated by Birdlife International. For the most part, these forests are not formally protected and there is little in the way of tourist infrastructure. However, a handful of resorts and tour companies are beginning to offer birding excursions and an independent traveller, with a bit of patience and ingenuity, can see plenty of Fiji’s endemic birds.

Orange Dove

Silktail

Fiji Goshawk

Birding opportunities around Savusavu

Savusavu, the scenic harbour town on the southern side of Vanua Levu, provides a convenient base for exploring two IBAs: the Wailevu/Dreketi Highlands (which includes the mountainous ‘spine’ of the island – and is accessible via Waisali Amenity Reserve) and the Natewa/Tunuloa Peninsula (which is almost a separate island, joined by only a narrow isthmus, and with its own unique biodiversity). The Wailevu/Dreketi IBA highlights the recently rediscovered Long-legged Thicketbird but this is very hard to see. Other vulnerable species that can be seen here are the Shy Ground Dove and Black-throated Shrikebill. More easily seen endemics include the Orange Dove, Red Shining-Parrot and Azure-crested Flycatcher, along with more widespread forest species such as the Pacific Robin, Fiji Whistler, Island Thrush and Fiji Shrikebill.

The highlight of any birding visit to the Natewa Peninsula is a sighting of the unique Natewa Silktail – but the Orange Dove and Shy Ground Dove, along with several other forest species, may also be encountered along the way.

The ‘garden island’ Taveuni

A short boat-ride across the Somosomo Straight, Fiji’s ‘garden island’ of Taveuni provides an opportunity to encounter a similar but distinct species, the Taveuni Silktail. Because the destructive Indian mongoose has, so far, not reached Taveuni, the ground-nesting Buff-banded Rail can be widely seen – a reminder of the rich fauna of ground-nesting and even flightless birds that once inhabited many Pacific islands. The forested centre of the island can be accessed via the Bouma Heritage Park, which offers guides and well-established trails. And on Taveuni the Red Shining-Parrot and Orange Dove seem to be particularly tame and visible.