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New Caledonia is a mountainous, 400 x 50km island fringed by a coral reef. Habitats include remnants of tropical forest as well as large areas of mangroves, pinewoods, savanna and scrub. Most of the primary rainforest has now been lost but there are 14 parks and reserves on the island including one of the best marine conservation areas in Oceania.
The Loyalty Islands lie off the north coast and the main island of Lifou supports two endemic species of white-eye.
Parc Provincial de la Rivere Bleue
Although New Caledonia has a birdlist of only around 100 species some of these are now very rare and a high proportion can be seen nowhere else. The most notable of the endemics is the unique Kagu, a superficially heron-like bird in a family of its own and with a population numbering less than 500 birds. The best place to see this bird is the Parc Provincial de la Rivere Bleue about 40km east of Noumea off the main road to Yat�. Permits are required to visit this park and are available from Le Chef, Service des Forets et du Patrimoine Naturel, BP 256, Noumea.
To make arrangements to camp in the park (the Kagu is a most active at dawn) contact Serge Sirgouant, Societe Caledonienne d'Ornithologique, 21 Rue G. Clemenceau, BP 4338-98847 Noumea Cedex, Nouvelle-Caledonie.
Other birds found here include endemics such as White-bellied Goshawk, New Caledonian Imperial Pigeon, Cloven-feathered Dove and Horned Parakeet. There are also endemic honeyeaters such as Crow Honeyeater, New Caledonian Honeyeater, Barred Honeyeater and New Caledonian Myzomela as well as Yellow-bellied Robin, and New Caledonian Crow, New Caledonian Whistler and Cuckoo-Shrikes and Striated Starling, Green-backed White-eye and Red-throated Parrotfinch. In addition there is a good selection of more widespread species to be seen.
The island of Lifou supports both Loyalty Island endemic White-eyes: Large Lifou and Small Lifou as well as Cardinal Myzomela which does not occur on New Caledonia and Red-bellied Fruit-Dove which is rare on the main island. In addition there are endemic Lifou races of Sacred Kingfisher, New Caledonian Flycatcher, Long-tailed Triller, Striated Starling and Silver-eye.
Lifou can be visited on a day-trip by air from Noumea, or by sea. A number of scarce seabirds have been seen off New Caledonia including shearwaters, Gadfly-petrels such as Tahiti Petrel, Black-winged Petrel, Gould's Petrel and Cook's Petrel, boobies, frigatebirds, tropicbirds and terns including Brown Noddy, Black Noddy, Blue-grey Noddy, Common White Tern, Roseate Tern, Bridled Tern and Fairy Tern.
Birds you can see here include:
Australasian Little Grebe, Cook's Petrel, Gould's Petrel, Black-winged Petrel, Tahiti Petrel, Wedge-tailed Shearwater, Fluttering Shearwater, Tropical Shearwater, Red-tailed Tropicbird, White-tailed Tropicbird, Red-footed Booby, Masked Booby, Brown Booby, Little Pied Cormorant, Lesser Frigatebird, White-faced Heron, Eastern Reef-Heron, Green-backed Heron, Nankeen Night-Heron, Australasian Bittern, Grey Teal, Pacific Black Duck, Australian White-eyed Pochard, Osprey, Whistling Kite, Brown Goshawk, White-bellied Goshawk, Pacific Marsh Harrier, Peregrine Falcon, Red Junglefowl, Painted Buttonquail, (endemic race novaecaledoniae), New Caledonia Wood Rail, (none collected since 1890 but rumours of its survival persist), Buff-banded Rail, Sooty Crake, White-browed Crake, Australasian Swamphen, Kagu, Beach Thick-knee, Pacific Golden Plover, Sanderling, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Bristle-thighed Curlew, Whimbrel, Bar-tailed Godwit, Grey-tailed Tattler, Wandering Tattler, Ruddy Turnstone, Silver Gull, Roseate Tern, Black-naped Tern, Bridled Tern, Sooty Tern, Fairy Tern, Greater Crested Tern, Brown Noddy, Black Noddy, Common White Tern, Metallic Dove, Spotted Dove, Pacific Emerald Dove, Red-bellied Fruit Dove, Cloven-feathered Dove, Pacific Imperial Pigeon, New Caledonian Rainbow Lorikeet, New Caledonian Lorikeet, (two collected in 1859 and one seen in 1913 but reported in 1980), Horned Lorikeet, Red-fronted Lorikeet, Fan-tailed Cuckoo, Golden Cuckoo, Long-tailed Cuckoo, Barn Owl, Australian Grass Owl, New Caledonian Owlet-Nightjar, (known from only two specimens taken in 1880 and 1960), White-throated Nightjar, (endemic race exul), Uniform Swiftlet, White-bellied Swiftlet, Sacred Kingfisher, New Caledonian Cuckoo-Shrike, South Melanesian Cuckoo-Shrike, Long-tailed Triller, Island Thrush, New Caledonian Grass-Warbler, Fan-tailed Gerygone, New Caledonian Flycatcher, Spotted Fantail, Grey Fantail, Yellow-bellied Robin, Rufous Whistler, New Caledonian Whistler, Green-backed White-eye, Grey-backed White-eye, (melanops on Lifu and nigrescens on Mare and Uvea), Large Lifu White-eye, Small Lifu White-eye, Silver-eared Honeyeater, (mareensis on Mare and poliotus on the rest of the Loyalty Islands), Scarlet Myzomela, New Caledonian Friarbird, New Caledonian Crow, Barred Honeyeater, Common Waxbill, Red-browed Waxbill, Red-throated Parrotfinch, Chestnut-breasted Manakin, House Sparrow, Striated Starling, (striata on New Caledonia and atronitens on the Loyalty Islands), Common Mynah
History and Use
Areas of Interest
Many of the island's endemics can be seen at Mont Koghi in the hills behind Noumea reached by turning east off the main road to Dumb'a airport about 14km north of Noumea.
Endemics such as White-bellied Goshawk and Cloven-feathered Dove are easier to see here than at the Parc Provincial de la Rivere Bleue and this is by far the best site for the endemic New Caledonian Grassbird.
Access and Facilities
New Caledonia is expensive to visit and hotel accommodation and food in Noumea can be astronomical. However, the island can be visited on package-deals from Australia and New Zealand and inexpensive accommodation can be found away from the capital for independent travellers.
Public transport is unreliable at best and car-hire is generally necessary in order to get to the best sites although in the wet season many roads become impassable to all but 4WD vehicles.
- New Caledonia Tourism
- New Caledonian Rain Forests
- Parc Provincial de la Rivere Bleue, English Translation
Content and images originally posted by Steve