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A guide to birdwatching in Vanuatu

A guide to birdwatching in Vanuatu

There are 121 bird species spread throughout Vanuatu's islands and nine of those are endemic, which means there are plenty of reasons to go birdwatching in Vanuatu.

Vanuatu is a unique and mostly undiscovered birdwatching destination. The diversity of the terrain, from cloud forests to grasslands and rocky coastlines mean there are a range of species to look out for. 

Get out your binoculars and notebook - after reading our guide to birdwatching in Vanuatu, you'll be ready to go! 

Where to spot birds in Vanuatu

In general, the larger islands in Vanuatu have a greater diversity of habitats and bird species, with the central islands offering the greatest bird spotting opportunities.

There are no specialist birdwatching tours operating in Vanuatu, so to get a look at Vanuatu's birds, you will need to get to the best locations on your own, then hire a local guide.

This activity is still up-and-coming and many of Vanuatu's islands are remote and largely undeveloped, so birdwatching in Vanuatu can be challenging - but that just means the rewards are even sweeter! 

Here are some of the best and most accessible places to spot birds in Vanuatu. 

Vatthe Conservation Area, Espiritu Santo

On the northern coast of Espiritu Santo, the Vatthe Conservation Area is thought to be the only large expanse of alluvial and limestone forest remaining in Vanuatu, according to UNESCO.

Between the black sand beaches and limestone cliffs is a forest harbouring the most diverse collection of bird species in Vanuatu. There are 48 species of land and water birds, 75 per cent of the total bird species found in Vanuatu. 

Nagha mo Pineia Protected Area, Malekula

Sometimes called Nabi Protected area for short, this birdwatching nirvana is in the northwest of Malekula. The protected area covers 1,000 hectares that includes savannah, semi-deciduous forests and jungle. There are more than 35 bird species recorded in the area 

You can hire a birdwatching guide for the day, which is undoubtedly the best way to explore the area. 

Duviara Conservation Area, Ambae

Ambae's mountain forests are ideal for birdwatching, with 25 species hiding in the foliage. 

The Duviara Conservation Area is relatively small - at a modest 26 hectares. However, as it's surrounded by other expanses of pristine rainforest, the area still harbours many birds.

You can ask about hiring a guide at the Duviara Guesthouse. 

Loru Rainforest, Espiritu Santo

Comprising 220 hectares of lowland rainforest on Espiritu Santo, Loru Rainforest is a great spot for birdwatching, as there are 28 bird species found there, including five endemic varieties such as the Tanna fruit-dove and Vanuatu scrubfowl.

The Loru Protected Area Committee are in charge of the protected area and you will need to pay a small fee to enter. The committee can also help to arrange a birdwatching guide. 

Vanuatu's birds

It helps if you know what you're looking for when hiking through the jungle. Vanuatu has a number of fascinating bird species and although they are not always the flashiest or the most easily-spotted, the following endemic birds are well worth including on your birdwatching bucket list. 

Chestnut-bellied kingfisher

Also known as the Vanuatu kingfisher, this pretty bird is found only on Espiritu Santo, Malekula and Malo. You'll recognise its dark blue plumage and bright orange underpants. 

Santo mountain starling

The Vanuatu starling is notable for its comeback from extinction. After sightings dropped off, it wasn't until an expedition into Santo's mountains in 1991 that the bird was confirmed to be alive. The medium-sized starling lives only in the cloud forests on Espiritu Santo. 

Royal parrotfinch

The royal parrotfinch is one of the flashiest of Vanuatu's endemic bird species. Their red heads, blue breasts and green wings are most often spotted in pairs or small groups in the forest canopies on Espiritu Santo, where they feed on figs.

Vanuatu honeyeater

Sometimes called the white-bellied honeyeater, this long-beaked, vocal bird is found in Espiritu Santo, Ambae, Pentecost and Malekula. 

Buff-bellied monarch

This bird lives in subtropical or moist lowland forests. It's only a small creature, but you are likely to spot its bright yellow breast and white head with its black crown. 

Vanuatu white-eye

This is one of the most commonly-sighted birds in Vanuatu. There are seven subspecies and they are spread throughout almost all of Vanuatu, so you have a very good chance of seeing this little chap. 

Before you catch sight of any feathered critters, you'll need to catch a flight to Vanuatu. Give the team at Hoot Holidays a call for help with planning your trip!