Papua New Guinea: Birds of Paradise & more
With over 700 species, almost half of which are found nowhere else on earth, New Guinea hosts the world’s richest island avifauna. The unequivocal highlights are the spectacular birds-of-paradise, almost all of which occur here. Of these up to 21 are available in Papua New Guinea, the eastern half of the island, together with members of all seven endemic bird families in the rainforest and swamp forest of one of the most unspoilt places on earth.
Our tour begins on the southeast coast at the capital Port Moresby where we will explore the lakes and grasslands of the Pacific Adventist University campus, an excellent introduction to the island’s birds and where we will look for some of our key targets including Papuan Frogmouth. From here we fly into the central highlands to Mount Hagen, where patches of native forest and grassland amidst the intensive cultivation host restricted-range montane specialities, including Blue, Superb and Lesser Birds-of-paradise, Crested Satinbird, Lesser Melampitta and Blue-capped Ifrit and with excellent views of Brown Sicklebill, Ribbon-tailed Astrapia and Crested Berrypecker at busy lodge feeder stations. We also explore the more extensive highland forests of remote Sirunki, looking for King of Saxony Bird-of-paradise, Wattled Ploughbill, Black Sicklebill and Princess Stephanie’s Astrapia. Next we fly west to Tabubil in the Star Mountains, birding pristine foothill forests as well as fast-flowing montane streams in search of New Guinean torrent specialists including Torrent Flyrobin and Salvadori’s Teal. From here we move on to Kiunga in extreme western PNG, allowing us access to one of the largest expanses of tropical lowland forest in the world, home to Flame Bowerbird, Greater and King Birds-of-paradise, New Guinea Bronzewing and Papuan Eagle. We will also explore the mighty Fly River and its tributary the Elevala, spending one night upriver at Kwatu in search of Twelve-wired Bird-of-paradise, Little Paradise-kingfisher, Scheepmaker’s Crowned Pigeon, Papuan Pitta and New Guinea Flightless Rail and nocturnal species including Papuan Hawk-owl and Wallace’s Owlet-nightjar. Finally, back in Port Moresby, we explore the hill forest and eucalypt savanna of Varirata National Park, looking for Raggiana Bird-of-paradise, Brown-headed Paradise-kingfisher and Hooded Pitohui among a good selection of New Guinean and wider Australasian species.
This tour provides thorough coverage of New Guinea’s varied habitats across the eastern half of the island, from lowland rainforests to hill forests at over 2800m in the central highlands. 21 birds-of-paradise occur here alongside members of all seven endemic bird families, and among a wider selection of more Australasian species including fascinating bowerbirds, enchantingly named jewel-babblers and fairy-wrens, and a host of colourful doves, pigeons and parrots.
11 July - 28 July 2020
(also available as a custom tour)
Ground price: £ tba
Single room supplement: £ tba
Deposit: £ tba
The price includes: Accommodation, all meals, bottled drinking water, internal flights, all ground transport, all birding/wildlife activities as described, entry fees, guiding, pre-tour information, species checklists.
The price excludes: International flights, PNG visa fees, travel insurance, drinks other than water, tips and any expenses of a personal nature.
Maximum group size: 8
Accommodation: Rooms in a basic log cabin at Kwatu (shared bathrooms), comfortable rooms with private facilities elsewhere.
Tour grading: Moderate. Most birding will be on foot along quiet, paved roads, with some steep/muddy forest trails; the tour is intensive in terms of time spent in the field. Note we bird to 2861m where altitude makes walking more strenuous.
Key species: King, King of Saxony, Superb, Magnificent and Blue Birds-of-paradise, Flame Bowerbird, Crested Satinbird, Growling Riflebird, Princess Stephanie's Astrapia, Black sicklebill, Greater Melampitta, Scheepmaker's Crowned Pigeon, Wattled Ploughbill, Blue-capped Iftit, Hooded Pitohui, Papuan Pitta, Papuan Frogmouth and up to 24 species of kingfisher.
Day 1: Port Moresby
Arrivals into Port Moresby international airport this morning for a one-night stay in the outskirts of the city. Spend the reminder of the day exploring the quiet grounds of the Pacific Adventist University (PAU), where lakes, grasslands and scattered trees host Comb-crested Jacana, Plumed Whistling-duck, Pied Cormorant, Black-backed Butcherbird, Fawn-breasted Bowerbird and Papuan Frogmouth.
Day 2: Port Moresby to Mount Hagen
This morning we fly from Port Moresby to Mount Hagen in the central highlands of PNG’s remote interior for the night. From here we will visit Murmurpass in search of King of Saxony Bird-of-paradise with its elaborate head plumes, and later explore the extensive trails and feeder stations of our lodge at 2861m, which will provide good views and photographic opportunities of a selection of montane species including Brown Sicklebill, Belford’s Melidectes, Brehm’s Tiger-parrot, Ribbon-tailed Astrapia, Blue-capped Ifrit, Crested Satinbird, Crested Berrypecker, Red-collared Myzomela, Lesser Melampitta and Island Thrush.
Day 3-5: Sirunki
Today, after a final few hours around Kama in search of Lesser Bird-of-paradise, we make our way northwest to the remote village of Sirunki for a three-night stay. At Sirunki, the surrounding hills are cloaked in more extensive primary forest than exists around Mount Hagen, where potential species include some of the most sought-after New Guinean highland specialities, such as Wattled Ploughbill, Black Sicklebill, Rufous-backed Honeyeater, Black-breasted Boatbill and Princess Stephanie’s Astrapia.
Day 6-7: Mount Hagen
After a final morning around Sirunki we drive back to Mount Hagen for a two-night stay, focusing on regional specialities we may so far have missed at various local sites, including Blue and Superb Birds-of-paradise at Tonga. At dusk, we have a good chance of finding New Guinea Woodcock plus a good variety of night birds that includes Mountain and Feline Owlet-nightjars and Archbold’s Nightjar.
Day 8-10: to Kiunga and Tabubil in the Star Mountains
On day 8, a morning flight takes us out of the Papuan Highlands to Kiunga in the humid lowlands of extreme western PNG, at the border with neighbouring Irian Jaya (Indonesian West Papua). On arrival, we make our way into the foothills of the Star Mountains to the mining township of Tabubil. This remote area holds one of the largest expanses of lowland tropical rainforest in the world, offering us the chance to find many of New Guinea’s most sought-after birds during our three-night stay, including those with a patchy of highly localised distribution. Our key targets in this area include Queen Carola’s Parotia, Magnificent Bird-of-paradise, Magnificent Riflebird, Obscure Berrypecker and Shovel-billed Kingfisher, with Torrent Flyrobin, Torrent-lark and Salvadori’s Teal in fast-flowing mountain streams.
Day 11: Kiunga
Today we will make our way back into the humid lowlands to Kiunga for the night. We will spend the remainder of the day exploring the dense lowland rainforests of the surrounding areas, looking for a new selection of species that includes Flame Bowerbird, Trumpet and Glossy-mantled Manucodes, New Guinea Bronzewing, Eastern Ornate Fruit-dove, Pinon’s Imperial Pigeon, Thick-billed Ground Pigeon, Double-eyed Fig-parrot, Blue Jewel-babbler, Emperor Fairy-wren, Lowland Peltops, Papuan Babbler and Papuan Eagle.
Day 12: Fly and Elevala Rivers
An early start will take us by motorised canoe up the Fly and Elevala Rivers and their tributaries as we make our way to Kwatu for the night. Accessible only by boat, this in one of PNG’s greatest areas of wilderness where lowland swamp forests hold a good selection of New Guinean specialities. Our boat will travel at a slow pace, allowing us to scan riverbank vegetation for species such as Blyth’s Hornbill, Palm Cockatoo, Channel-billed Cuckoo, Collared Imperial Pigeon, the rare and localised White-bellied Pitohui, Shining Flycatcher, Hook-billed Kingfisher, Little Paradise-kingfisher, Great-billed Heron and displaying Twelve-wired Bird-of-paradise. We will also explore a series of trails into the otherwise impenetrable forest, in search of reclusive residents including Scheepmaker’s Crowned Pigeon, New Guinea Flightless Rail and the secretive Papuan Pitta, with the chance of Papuan Hawk-owl and Wallace’s Owlet-nightjar at dusk.
Day 13-14: Kiunga
We make our way back to Kiunga in the afternoon of day 13 for a two-night stay. On day 14 we have a further day to explore the productive lowland rainforest of the area, focusing in particular on two of our key targets, Greater and King Birds-of-paradise.
Day 15-16: Port Moresby and Varirata National Park
After a morning around Kiunga we fly back to Port Moresby for our final two nights of the tour, with time for a return visit to PAU in the afternoon. We will spend day 16 at Varirata National Park, occupying a ridge of the Sogeri plateau and easily accessible from a network of trekking trails. The dry eucalypts and evergreen hill forests host a selection of New Guinea endemics and species shared with Australia, and we can still expect to find some new birds for the tour. Key among these may be Raggiana Bird-of-paradise, Growling Riflebird, Hooded Pitohui, White-throated and Green-backed Honeyeaters, Red-cheeked Parrot, Cinnamon Ground-dove, Yellow-billed Kingfisher, New Guinea Dwarf Kingfisher, Brown-headed Paradise-kingfisher, Grey-naped Pheasant-pigeon and Barred Owlet-nightjar.
Day 17: depart Port Moresby
We will have time for some final birding at either Varirata National Park or the PAU this morning, focusing on any species we may so far have missed. Departures from Port Moresby international airport this afternoon.