Birds of Christmas Island

A valuable nesting location in a vast expanse of open ocean, Christmas Island is home to large numbers of seabirds: frigatebirds (two species), boobies (three species) and spectacular tropicbirds (two species). Visitors don’t even need to leave the settled areas to get good sightings at close range of endemic Christmas Island Frigatebirds wheeling overhead and the graceful undulating flight of the Golden Bosun, an especially elegant Christmas Island form of tropicbird .

The island is large enough to have developed its own unique rainforest ecology, with seven of the 13 land birds being endemic to the island, including the inquisitive Christmas Island Thrush, whose melodious evening song lends a wonderful musical quality to the tropical, palm-fringed sunsets.

Many species are quite inquisitive and birdwatchers can be rewarded with some truly special sightings. With some little effort is it quite easy to tick off a full list of residents in a busy week or more relaxed fortnight, though the elusive Christmas Island Hawk Owl keeps many coming back for more!

Seabirds                        

Abbott’s Booby Papasula abbotti

Abbotts.gif (49291 bytes) Rarest of all boobies, this large bird nests precariously on the lateral branches of emergent trees on the Christmas Island plateau. Its long slender wings and gliding flight resemble an albatross. The black tail, black topped wings and larger size distinguish it from the more common Red-footed Booby. Most of its breeding habitat is protected in the Christmas Island National Park. Park authorities have a rainforest rehabilitation programme funded by the mining royalties from Christmas Island Phosphates. Thisproject revegetates areas where nesting areas have been affected by the wind turbulence resulting from land clearing.

Red-footed Booby Sula sula rubripes

This locally common booby nests in the trees of the lower shore terraces. Its white tail and red feet distinguish it from the rare Abbott’s Booby

 

Brown Booby Sula leucogaster plotus 

A common tropical booby, nesting on the ground amongst pinnacles and inland cliff edges. Chocolate brown plumage with white breast and powder blue beak and feet.
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Great Frigatebird Fregata minor minor

This large black bird is widely distributed in the tropics and is easily identified as a frigatebird by the angular wings and deeply forked tail. Females have a white chin and breast and males are all black. Males  display an inflated red throat sac during courting. Frigatebirds feed by harassing boobies and other seabirds with fish, forcing them to drop their catch.  This aggressive behaviour presumably gave rise to the naming of Frigatebirds after the early frigate war ships.

 

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Christmas Island Frigatebird Fregata andrewsi

The world’s rarest frigatebird nesting only on Christmas Island. Slightly larger than the Greater Frigatebird with a length up to 100cm and distinguishable by the white collar of the female and white belly of the male. All males can inflate their dramatic red throat pouch during the breeding season from December to June

 

Silver Bosun or Red-tailed Tropicbird Phaethon rubricauda westralis  Silver Bosun.jpg (25836 bytes)

This medium sized white bird with its black eye marking and elegant long red tail streamers is common along the coastal cliff. Groups of up to twenty birds can be seen in spectacular aerial displays off the sea cliffs. Birds nest on the ground under coastal bushes or on cliff ledges.

 

Golden Bosun or White-tailed Tropicbird Phaethon lepturus fulvus

A golden population of the widely distributed White-tailed Tropicbird, the Golden Bosun is unique to Christmas Island. A smaller bird than the Silver Bosun, it is distinguished by prominent black bars on the upper wing, a golden tinge to the plumage and golden tail streamers.

The Golden Bosun’s undulating flight and delicate looks give it a special place in the hearts of island residents. Commonly seen around the settled areas near Flying Fish Cove and flying over the rainforest canopy.

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Brown (Common) Noddy Anous stolidus pileatus

The Brown Noddy is a common tropical seabird nesting on the seacliffs and shore terrace trees, though not as common as the Red-footed Booby on Christmas Island. Sooty brown with a bright white cap and lower eyelid fading to grey on the nape of the neck. These small birds are found on the cliffs overlooking many of Christmas Islands small beaches

 

Land Birds

Christmas Island Thrush Turdus poliocephalus erythropleurus

Common throughout gardens and settled areas as well as through the forest, this unassuming little bird with the dusting of orange on its belly and yellow bill has a wonderful inquisitive nature and beautiful burbling song. Although not as spectacular as some of the other island birds, it is certainly full of character. Its confident nature and the open plan of many buildings mean it is a frequent visitor to many homes, perching on window sills and nesting in the eaves. Endemic to Christmas Island.

Christmas Island Imperial Pigeon Ducula whartoni

The eerie, soft booming call of this large endemic bird in the rainforest alerts you to its presence. Common in the canopy of the rainforest, it is a fruit eater and may be seen feeding on the Japanese Cherry, introduced for rainforest rehabilitation purposes.

 

Christmas Island Emerald Dove or Green-winged Pigeon Chalcophaps indica natalis

Mainly seen on the forest floor and lawns in settled areas, this pretty iridescent bird brings the familiar cooing of a dove to this remote outpost island. This particular subspecies is endemic to Christmas Island.

 

Christmas Island Hawk Owl Ninox natalis 

This shy bird can be heard along the golf course road and on the fringes of the Settlement area at night, but takes a little effort to see. About the size of a  common pigeon but with a barred breast, it can be found by using a good torch and pursuing its unmistakeable boo-book call.

 

Christmas Island Goshawk Accipiter fasciatus natalis

An endemic subspecies of the Brown Goshawk, this is the largest raptor on the island and distinguished from the smaller Australasian Kestrel by its barred chest and relatively long legs. Seen mostly in the forested areas, goshawks are sometimes curious enough to tolerate very close approaches.

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Australian Kestrel (previously Nankeen Kestrel) Falco cenchroides

This small raptor is commonly seen on lamp-posts and vantage points beside roads in open areas.

 

Christmas Island White-eye Zosterops natalis

Similar to white-eyes or silver-eyes elsewhere, Christmas Island has its own species seen in small foraging flocks.

 

Christmas Island Glossy Swiftlet Collocalia esculenta natalis

A small black swiftlet usually seen in flight chasing insects.

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Christmas Island is also host to many visiting and vagrant birds as well as a few introduced species.

           

Calendar for Bird Breeding on Christmas Island

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec

Breeding season for Christmas

& Great Frigatebirds

Brown Boobies nest year round

Abbott’s Booby nesting

Abbott’s chicks on nests year round as breeding is biennial

Red-foots nesting

Silver Bosuns

nesting

Golden Bosuns nest year round

Brown Noddies nesting

CI Imperial Pigeon nesting
CI Emerald Dove nesting
CI Thrush nesting