When Sir David Attenborough’s nature documentary about birds of paradise first wowed television audiences in the mid-1990s it put Papua New Guinea on the map as a world-class birding destination.
The statistics surrounding Papua New Guinea’s ornithological treasures are almost as mind-blowing as the exotic plumage on show. Almost 800 species of birds are resident on the island of which 10% are endemic.
The top draw for birdwatchers is of course the birds of paradise and Papua New Guinea boasts 38 of the known 43 species of this fantastically showy bird. Yet there is a plethora of other truly unusual species awaiting ornithologists and nature photographers.
Believe it or not the island has the world’s only poisonous bird, the hooded pitohui. They have ground-dwelling megapodes that build enormous nests of decaying vegetation to incubate their eggs, diminutive pygmy parrots, crowned pigeons with ethereal crests resembling a Vivienne Westwood creation, and cassowaries you wouldn't want to bump into at night as they stand nearly 2-metres tall.
The secret to this abundance is a lack of predators and inaccessible habitats that once might have presented logistical challenges for birdwatchers. Yet nowadays a plethora of specialist tour-operators offer birdwatching holidays to Papua New Guinea’s remotest corners throughout the main birding season in the drier months of June-to-October.
Getting around is straightforward enough using internal flights on PNGAir and Air Niugini while there is plenty of accommodation dedicated to nature tourism so birdwatchers can enjoy in comfort the spectacle of the greatest avian show on Earth.
Remarkably some 400 species of birds can be found within a few hours’ drive of the capital Port Moresby. One of the region’s prime birding spots is a short ride to the Sogeri Plateau to visit Varirata National Park. It has fine bushwalking trails including access to upland forests that host the sublime long-tailed Raggiana bird of paradise.
Where to stay? Port Moresby’s fabulous Airways Hotel
Don’t Miss: Raggiana bird of paradise’s wing-clapping and head-shaking courtship display.
- Raggiana bird of paradise
- Dwarf Cassowaries
- Hooded Pitohui