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Brief Bird Notes from Kikori & Lake Kutubu, Papua New Guinea

K. David Bishop

February 2001

I'm just back from a truly wonderful expedition to the Kikori/Lake Kutubu region of southern PNG. Jared Diamond and I have been undertaking a series of bird surveys of this incredibly pristine area. Oil was discovered in the area, and Chevron are in charge of the operation there. Much to our continuing astonishment (we first surveyed there in 1998) Chevron have done an astonishingly good job of having minimal impact on the environment and wildlife whilst at the same time strictly controlling access and land use. Consequently, there is virtually no hunting, no gardens and very few people. Thus one has the privilege of regularly encountering the entire spectrum of New Guinea's fauna, including such mega-charismatic species as:

Both Dwarf and Southern cassowaries - both still moderately common and visible;
Megapodes and brush-turkeys - common;
Harpy Eagle - heard most days throughout the entire region;
All imperial pigeons and fruit-doves are notably common and approachable;
Southern Crowned Pigeon - moderately common;
Vulturine or Pesquet's Parrot - New Guinea's rarest parrot but in this region still common. We saw it daily including in groups of 15!!!
Palm Cockatoo - common;
All birds of paradise are common and completely unthreatened;
Our expedition in 1999 to Mt Sisa (an isolated extinct volcano) in the north-west of the region produced an important new distributional record for the localised Ribbon-tailed Astrapia as well as the very poorly known Yellow-breasted Bird-of-Paradise.

Other species of note include:

The rare and little known Thick-billed Ground-pigeon;
Shovel-billed Kingfisher - seen and heard at several localities;
Blue-black Kingfisher - a pair tape-recorded and seen in the huge Kikori Delta;
Long-billed Cuckoo;
Rufous Owl - seemingly very rare in NG, we obtained what we believe to be the first sound recording of this species outside Australia;
Feline Owlet-nighjar - common;
At least one other species of owlet-nightjar is present but as yet unidentified;
Hordes of Blyth's Hornbills, including several flocks of c. 30;
Greater Melampitta - locally common; and
Banded Yellow-Robin - locally common.

However, THE highlight for me this trip was seeing four New Guinea Flightless Rails wander across the trail in front of me and eventually give me 30 minutes of amazing sound-recordings.

Unfortunately for birders, access to the region is very restricted so the opportunity to explore this area is extremely limited. However, if birders can find their way in to what is effectively PNG's most valuable and viable national park they are in for a treat. Not only because the place is so pristine but because the few roads are bordered by totally untouched forest so that all the birding can be done along the excellent system of well maintained roads.


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