New Guinea Birding Tours
New Guinea is the second-largest island in the world at 303,381 square miles (785,753 square kilometers) and is located in Melanesia, one of the regions within Oceania. The island is located just to the south of the equator, north of Australia, separated from the tip of the Cape York Peninsula (in the Australian state of Queensland) by the Torres Strait by a distance of 93 miles (150 kilometers) and the Top End (of the Australian Northern Territory) by 370 miles (595 kilometers). The island is practically split in half with the eastern half being the Independent State of Papua New Guinea (“Papua New Guinea” or “PNG” hereafter) and the western half being Indonesia (the provinces of West Papua and Papua). There are numerous smaller islands to the east and west of New Guinea. To the east is the Bismarck Archipelago and Solomon Islands, dropping down to Vanuatu, Fiji and New Caledonia, to complete Melanesia. Micronesia is located north of New Guinea with Indonesian islands (The Moluccas) and the Philippines to the west.
The island of New Guinea has had a human presence for a remarkable 40,000-50,000 years, sourced from the oldest human migrations out of Africa and there is evidence of agriculture dating back 10,000 years. Due to the landscape of the country (summarized below) a huge number of tribes occur, and as a result a huge number of languages are spoken (over 1,000), which is more than most continents! Over recent centuries, the peoples of New Guinea have been in contact with, and under the control of the kingdoms of modern-day Indonesia, and various European powers believed to have started with Spain and Portugal in the 16th century, followed by the Dutch, British, and German. Control of some areas was passed from British to Australian rule and during the Second World War Japan invaded the island. In the 30 years following the war the eastern half of the island became independent and called Papua New Guinea (eventually) and the western half became part of Indonesia (being called West Irian and then Irian Jaya).
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The island of New Guinea has an interesting shape which is often compared to that of a bird-of-paradise! The northwest of the island is known as the Bird’s Head (or Vogelkop or Kepala Burung in Dutch and Indonesian respectively) Peninsula. The southeast of the island, the Papuan Peninsula, is also known as the Bird’s Tail Peninsula. The island is dominated by a 1,000 mile-long (1,600 kilometer) mountain chain running east-west from the ‘Bird’s Head’ to the ‘Bird’s Tail’. There are many high mountains of over 13,100 feet (4,000 meters) with the highest being Puncak Jaya (Carstensz Pyramid) at 16,024 feet (4,884 meters). Most of New Guinea (excluding the high elevation areas) are of a warm humid climate with a degree of seasonal variation due to the monsoon season. New Guinea supports a huge number of different ecosystems, from glacial, montane rainforests, and alpine tundra in the mountains to lowland rainforest, mangroves (some of the largest mangrove forests in the world), savanna, and wetlands in the lowlands, as well as some of the richest coral reefs anywhere in the world.
Following International Ornithological Congress (IOC) taxonomy, v10.2 (September 2020), the island of New Guinea is considered to have a bird list of 858 bird species, with a staggering 356 endemic birds (including several endemic families, some monotypic), and 33 globally threatened species. There are many stupendous birds in New Guinea, such as paradise kingfishers, kingfishers, pittas, fruit doves, honeyeaters, whistlers, parrots, jewel-babblers, bowerbirds, melampittas, satinbirds, ifrit, ploughbill, berryhunter, Australasian robins, and pitohuis. However, there is one family that stands head and shoulders above the rest, the birds-of-paradise. New Guinea is home to 39 of the world’s 43 species of birds-of-paradise, these are some of the best-looking, unique, and most highly sought-after birds on the planet and is definitely one of the main draws for world birders.
We have two extremely exciting tours covering New Guinea:
This PNG birding tour searches for over half of the birds-of-paradise found in New Guinea. We will look for 20 species of bird-of-paradise, such as Blue Bird-of-paradise, King of Saxony Bird-of-paradise, Princess Stephanie’s Astrapia, Ribbon-tailed Astrapia, Queen Carola’s Parotia, Brown Sicklebill, Twelve-wired Bird-of-paradise, Raggiana Bird-of-paradise (the national bird of PNG), and numerous others. Additionally, we will seek Wattled Ploughbill, Blue-capped Ifrit, Mottled Berryhunter, Greater Melampitta, Loria’s Satinbird, Papuan Pitta, Sclater’s Crowned Pigeon, Flame Bowerbird, Shovel-billed Kookaburra, Brown-headed Paradise Kingfisher, Papuan Eagle, Blue Jewel-babbler, and many more. This is definitely a trip of a lifetime with more wonderful birds than you can imagine, or we can list here. See our PNG blog post here for more discussion of this great tour or click the link above to see the detailed itinerary.
This exiting, short, small-group, West Papua birding tour complements the above tour with a different and large set of birds-of-paradise (up to 15 species possible on this tour), with such dream birds as Wilson’s Bird-of-paradise, Red Bird-of-paradise (both endemic to the island of Waigeo – Wilson’s is considered one of the best-looking birds in the world by many people), King Bird-of-paradise, Black Sicklebill, Arfak Astrapia, Long-tailed Paradigalla, Crescent-caped Lophorina (formerly Superb Bird-of-paradise), Western Parotia, Trumpet Manucode, and Lesser Bird-of-paradise (along with many more). Other quality birds possible on this tour include Common Paradise Kingfisher, Red-breasted Paradise Kingfisher, Western Crowned Pigeon, Vogelkop Bowerbird, Masked Bowerbird, Arfak Catbird, Spotted Jewel-babbler, Lesser Melampitta, Pesquet’s (New Guinea Vulturine) Parrot, White-striped Forest Rail, Mottled Berryhunter, Papuan Pitta, Blue-black Kingfisher, and lots more! Full details at the link above.