Are you trying to learn about the types of birds in Papua New Guinea?
There are tons of interesting species to observe. From tiny bee-eaters to large, colorful peacocks, there’s something to catch everyone’s attention!
Due to the sheer number of species, there was no way to include every bird found in Papua New Guinea in this article. So instead, I tried to focus on the birds that are most regularly seen and observed.
8 COMMON types of birds in Papua New Guinea!
#1. Black Kite
- Milvus migrans
- Adults are 48-60 cm (19-24 in) long with a wingspan of about 150 cm (59 in).
- Their coloring is dark brown to brownish red, with a white face.
- The legs are yellow, and the hooked beak is black with yellow at the base.
Although its name suggests a mostly black species, the Black Kite is generally dark brown to reddish. It’s easy to mistake this bird in Papua New Guinea for other birds of prey, so make sure to look closely when identifying!
Black Kites are graceful fliers, soaring over water and open land. They’re adept at catching their prey, such as frogs, mice, rats, small birds, snakes, salamanders, snails, and insects, but occasionally eat carrion (road-kill). This species can hunt on the ground as well as from the air and visits garbage dumps or beaches looking for edible trash.
Look for Black Kites near streams or rivers. They can hunt their favorite prey there and are adequate fish hunters, too. These clever birds will also soar around the fringes of forest fires, catching fleeing animals.
This species has a lonely, whistling call that might remind you of a red-tailed hawk.
#2. Common Kingfisher
- Alcedo atthis
- Adults are about 16 cm (6.2 in) long with a wingspan of 25 cm (10 in).
- This species has bright blue upper parts speckled in white, with a rufous chest and rusty cheeks.
- Its sharp black bill is roughly the same length as its head.
You might know this colorful bird in Papua New Guinea as the “River Kingfisher”.
As you can assume from their name, fish is a component of their diet. However, the truly fascinating thing about them is how they catch the fish! They have a third transparent eyelid for when they are underwater, one eye is suited for air, and the other is suited to seeing underwater. The “underwater eye” has binocular vision, which allows it to judge the distance to its prey with extreme precision.
They need to eat 60% of their body weight daily, so they will aggressively control a territory with enough food. If another kingfisher enters the territory, fights can ensue where the winner usually grabs the other’s beak and holds it underwater until it drowns. It might seem brutal, but it’s truly a matter of survival for these hungry birds.
Unfortunately, most juveniles don’t survive until adulthood. They’re often driven out of their parents’ territory before they learn to catch food, and many become waterlogged and drown. Only 25% of adults survive to breed the next year, and most adults only live for one year in the wild.
#3. Grey Heron
- Ardea cinerea
- Adults are 100 cm (39 in) tall with a 155–195 cm (61–77 in) wingspan.
- Their coloring is white overall with narrow bluish-black stripes on the front of the body and the head. A long, thin crest of dark feathers falls off the back of the head.
- The wings are light gray, with dark slate-gray wingtips.
- The sharply pointed bill is a faint yellow, and the legs are dark pink to brown.
The Grey Heron is a wading bird native to the temperate climates of Papua New Guinea.
Look for them in wetlands, lakes, reservoirs, rivers, and coastal areas by the sea. They’re comfortable around humans, sometimes visiting recreational fishermen on the shore looking for snacks. They even visit zoos to grab food left for the animals on display!
Grey Herons are the apex predator in their range, meaning they aren’t preyed upon by larger animals. They stand still with their necks coiled, ready to stab instantly when a fish or other prey comes into range. Additionally, they often stand on one leg to disguise themselves like a stick in the water.
Their sounds can be guttural and creaky or a sudden and startling “Gwack!”
#4. Olive-Backed Sunbird
- Cinnyris jugularis
- Adults are about 12 cm (5 in) long.
- Both sexes have bright yellow underparts, dull brown backs, black legs, and downward curved beaks.
- Males have flashy, blue-black throats and faces with a metallic sheen.
Although their original habitat is mangrove biomes, Olive-backed Sunbirds have adapted to humans and can be found everywhere in Papua New Guinea, even in dense cities. As a result, they often build their nests in or near human dwellings.
To recognize a nest, look for a pouch in the shape of a flask with a “front porch” at the entrance. It has trailing material hanging below the roof to conceal the entrance from passing predators, but it looks like a little decorative door. They’re really taking this “human” thing to heart!
The curved beak is efficient at gathering the nectar they use for food. When they’re breeding, they will also take insects as an extra body-building protein source.
Their calling sound is a single “tweeeuu” spaced widely apart, but their song is more complex and melodic.
#5. Little Egret
- Egretta garzetta
- Adults are 55–65 cm (22–26 in) long with an 88–106 cm (35–42 in) wingspan.
- They are white with black bills and legs and yellow eyes and feet.
- Their necks have a strong “S” curve, and they have a thin tuft of long feathers on the head.
These aquatic birds in Papua New Guinea are almost always found near the water.
Look for Little Egrets along coastlines and larger inland waterways like lakes and rivers. They catch fish, crustaceans, and insects directly from the water while standing in the shallows or flying over the surface.
Little Egrets are very sociable and commonly form small flocks. However, despite their tendency to group together, they can be very territorial about food. Often, these small egrets will fight one another for prime hunting locations unless food is abundant.
The population of the Little Egret has been threatened by overhunting not once but twice throughout history. During the Middle Ages, this species was hunted for food to near extinction. Then in the late 1800s, Little Egrets were threatened once more by overhunting for their feathers.
This species is protected by conservation laws and considered a species of least concern. It’s got to be persistent to have survived all that!
#6. Rock Pigeon
- Columba livia
- A plump bird with a small head, short legs, and a thin bill.
- The typical pigeon has a gray back, a blue-grey head, and two black wing bars. But their plumage is highly variable, and it’s common to see varieties ranging from all-white to rusty brown.
Rock Pigeons are extremely common birds in Papua New Guinea but are almost exclusively found in urban areas.
These birds are what everyone refers to as “pigeons.” You have probably seen them gathering in huge flocks in city parks, hoping to get some birdseed or leftover food tossed their way.
These birds are easy to identify by sound. My guess is that you will already recognize their soft, throaty coos. (Press PLAY below)
Love them or hate them, Rock Pigeons have been associated with humans for a long time! Some Egyptian hieroglyphics suggest that people started domesticating them over 5,000 years ago. And because of these facts, scientists aren’t even sure where their original range was.
#7. Barn Swallow
- Hirundo rustica
- Small bird with a flat head, thin bill, pointed wings, thick neck, and fork-like tail.
- Both sexes are similar – striking royal blue back, rusty brown underparts, with a rufous colored forehead and throat. White spots on the tail are typically visible during flight.
These birds are typically found in Papua New Guinea in open fields, meadows, pond marshes, or coastal waters.
Barn Swallows prefer to eat larger insects rather than eating groups of smaller ones. They primarily feed close to water or the ground catching insects in mid-air. This bird doesn’t typically ever come to bird feeders. But you may get lucky if you leave out eggshells or oyster shells on a platform feeder. These foods aid in their digestion.
One interesting fact about Barn Swallows is sometimes, an unmated male will kill young birds in a nest to break up the parenting Barn Swallow couple. Then the unmated male gets together with the female. Talk about a complicated love triangle! 🙂
Both males and females sing a song of warbling notes and mechanical sounds. Listen below.
#8. Eurasian Tree Sparrow
- Passer montanus
- The wings and back are medium brown with black streaks, and the belly is pale tan to white.
- They have a black face, black eyes, and a blue-grey beak in summer that turns black during the winter.
- A chestnut brown cap runs down the nape of the neck.
Eurasian Tree Sparrows are often found in cities, urban centers, and neighborhoods. However, you can also find them in farmland, open woods, and large parks.
Interestingly, these little songbirds are not only found in Papua New Guinea, but across the world. Twelve individuals were released in North America where they quickly took up residence. Since the North American population descended from these twelve birds, there’s a lot less variety in their size, coloring, and shape than the birds in Papua New Guinea, where there are as many as 30 subspecies!
At first glance, Eurasian Tree Sparrows might look like any other small brown bird. But once you know what to look for, they are easy to identify! The top of the head and back of the neck on a Tree Sparrow is covered in a rich chestnut color. They have a bright white patch on the cheeks and a black throat, with distinctive brown patterns on the wings.
Their call is high and shrill and sounds like “tchee-TCHEE, tchee-TCHEE, tchee-TCHEE.”
Which of these birds in Papua New Guinea have you seen before?
Leave a comment below!
Check out these guides to other animals found in Papua New Guinea!
- The 2 MOST Common SPIDERS Found in Papua New Guinea!