Trip report: West Papua – August 2019 by Tropical Birding

Guided by Ken Behrens. This was a SET-DEPARTURE TOUR, which included the Biak Extension.

A quick look through a field guide should suffice to convince any traveling birder that New Guinea does indeed have “the best birds on Earth”. There are dozens of spectacular birds-of- paradise, most of which have an absurdly cool display, and fabulous arrays of pigeons, doves, parrots, and kingfishers. The gaudy marquee birds are supported by several great island-endemic and regional endemic families like owlet-nightjars, bowerbirds, Australasian warblers and robins, berrypeckers, jewel-babblers, bellbirds, Ifrita, and Ploughbill. There are dozens and dozens of birds on our list from this tour that could EASILY be picked as the top bird of a tour anywhere else in the world. The quality of birds on this island is that high. The “top ten” sightings below give a taste of the wonders of Papuan birding, but neglect dozens of other world-class spectacular birds that we saw on this tour.

On this trip, we racked up 371 species, a great total for a three-week trip that didn’t include any difficult treks or camping. Although the birding was challenging at times, every member of the group went home having enjoyed excellent views of dozens of the world’s best birds. One of the great things about West Papua is that there are good local guides and community conservation efforts, which find bird-of-paradise display grounds and set up hides to view them. This is a wonderful way to really experience the BoPs, and one respect in which West Papua is much better than Papua New Guinea. The group recorded up sightings of 15 different species of Birds-of-Paradise, several of which were in full display. We also recorded 33 species of pigeons and doves, 14 kingfishers, and 28 parrots!

As tough-to-see as the birds are, the mammals of Papua are on another level of shyness and difficulty, and most birding trips see few if any mammals. But our trip was truly exceptional in that regard: we recorded TEN mammal species, including a couple species of Cuscus, a Speckled Dasyure, a wonderful Sugar Glider, and one of the largest bats on Earth.

Full West Papua 2019 report in PDF format.(HIGH RES version 16.3 MB)

Full West Papua 2019 report in PDF format. (LOW RES version 5 MB)