christmas island Tourism Association

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Bird Guide

Christmas Island is a haven for birdwatchers.  It’s not only the variety and numbers, but their remarkable visibility.  Birds can be seen everywhere on the Island, at just about any time of the day.  many sightings are possible close to your accommodation and without ever leaving settled areas.  So you can arrive confident you’ll easily tick off a full list over a busy week, or a more relaxed fortnight.

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Christmas Island frigatebird  (Fregata andrewsii)

Christmas Island frigatebird
(Fregata andrewsii)

Voice:
Display call of male sounds like a police siren; a slow kow-wow-kow-wow...; male rattles bill during display. All ages give reeling screeches, and snap bill. Juvenile begs with repetitive screeching.
Status & distribution:
World’s rarest frigatebird, listed as critically endangered. Nest only on Christmas Island. About 1,200 breeding pairs. Nest in trees on shore terrace behind Chinese cemetery, Golf Course and Smith Point. Frequently seen flying over Settlement.
Breeding:
Colonial nester in tree canopy, with up to 40 nests in a single tree. Male display begins in late December and continues till May. Nests from late January through September. Single egg. Young fed near nest site until June-August of the following year.
Great frigatebird  (Fregata minor listeri)

Great frigatebird (Fregata minor listeri)

Voice:
Display call of male a fast warbling wow-wow-wow-wow..., faster and higher than Christmas Island frigatebird; male rattles bill during display. All ages give reeling screeches, and snap bill. Juvenile begs with repetitive rhythmic screaming.
Status & distribution:
Wide tropical distribution, breeding on remote islands. This endemic subspecies has perhaps 3,300 breeding pairs. Nests in trees on shore terraces (South Point, North West Point, Golf Course and Ethel Beach and some upper terraces (Drumsite).
Breeding:
Colonial nester in tree canopy, with up to 50 nests in a single tree. Male display begins in January and continues until May. Nests from late January through August. Single egg. Young fed near nest site until June-August of following year.
Lesser frigatebird  (Fregata ariel)

Lesser frigatebird (Fregata ariel)

Voice:
Display call of male a soft insect-like trilling; male rattles bill during display. All ages give reeling screeches, and snap bill. Juvenile begs with repetitive rhythmic screaming.
Status & distribution: Wide tropical distribution, breeding on remote islands. A recent colonist to Christmas Island, with 10-20 nests at North West Point in 2003-04; perhaps nesting at Ethel beach or elsewhere. Seen at drinking sites on Phosphate Hill, LB3 and Waterfall Cove.
Breeding:
Colonial nester in tree canopy. Male display begins in late December and continues until June. On the Island, season poorly known, but appears to be later than other frigatebirds, beginning in April or May, and not lasting as long.
Abbott’s booby (Papasula abbotti)

Abbott’s booby (Papasula abbotti)

Voice:
Adults - deep bellow; males and females duet in short bursts. Juveniles beg when parent near. More vocal in the late afternoon.
Status & distribution:
Listed as Endangered. Nests only on Christmas Island. Population reduced due to clearing of forest for mining. Estimated population of approx. 3,000 mature pairs.
Breeding:
Nest in tall rainforest trees on central plateau, May to November. Single egg. Young fed at nest site until July-September of following year.
Redfooted booby (Sula sula rubripes)

Redfooted booby (Sula sula rubripes)

Voice:
Grating metallic kar-uk, karr-uk, when landing. Noisey at nest, omitting hoarse growls. Chicks on nest sometimes click incessantly.
Status & distribution:
Wide tropical distribution. Nest mostly on shore terraces. Possibly 12,000 breeding pairs. Commonly seen flying over Settlement. Nesting birds may be seen in the trees behind the Chinese cemetery and at Ethel Beach.
Breeding: Colonial. Nest in trees, from March to September. Single egg. Bulky nest of sticks and leaves.any time of the year. Single egg.
Brown booby (Sula leucogaster plotus)

Brown booby (Sula leucogaster plotus)

Voice: Female - throaty honk. Male -a wheezy whistle.
Status & distribution: Wide tropical distribution. Perhaps 5,000-7,000 breeding pairs on Christmas Island. Nest on ground among pinnacles along sea-cliff and on edge of first inland cliff.
Breeding: Colonial ground nester. Lay one or two eggs but only rear one chick. Occupy nest site year round and may breed in any month. Adults and chicks at nest should not be approached more closely than 5-10 m.
Golden bosun (Phaethon lepturus fulvus)

Golden bosun (Phaethon lepturus fulvus)

Voice:
High-pitched, harsh squawks and chatters. Status & distribution:
White morph has wide tropical distribution. The endemic subspecies on Chrismas Island has unique golden morph, but about 10 per cent are white morph. Perhaps 6,000-12,000 breeding pairs. Also seen in plateau forest.
Breeding: Nest in holes in sea cliff, inland cliff and holes in trees. Nest at any time of the year. Single egg.
Red-tailed Tropicbird  (Phaethon rubricauda westralis)

Red-tailed Tropicbird
(Phaethon rubricauda westralis)

Voice:
Sharp, crackling kerek-kerek...with rolling ‘rs’ and sharp ‘ks’ during aerial display. Also various high-pitched barks and screeches.
Status & distribution:
Wide tropical and sub-tropical distribution. Possibly 1,400 breeding pairs on the island.
Breeding:
Extended nesting season over most of the year. Nest on ground under ledges or vegetation on coast and first inland cliff. Single pinkish egg laid in shallow scrape on ground. Both parents share parental duties.
Common noddy  (Anous stolidus)

Common noddy (Anous stolidus)

Voice: Low-pitched, guttural croaks and harsh croaks. Chicks beg with soft rising whistle.
Status & distribution:
Wide tropical distribution. Possibly 5,000 breading pairs on island.
Breeding:
Nest in crevices on the sea cliff, and in trees on the coastal terrace at some places. Most members of the population are migratory and nest from April to September. Small numbers appear to be sedentary and nest on the north coast from November to March. Single egg.
Emerald dove (Chalcophaps indica natallis)

Emerald dove (Chalcophaps indica natallis)

Voice:
Low, soft, mournful coo, drawn out and monotonous: uuuut, uuuut.
Status & distribution:
Widely distributed species in Southeast Asia and along the northern and eastern coasts of Australia. The endemic subspecies on Christmas Island is listed as vulnerable. On Christmas Island, frequently seen foraging on lawns and forest tracks. Population size unknown but quite common.
Breeding:
Probably nest mainly in the wet season, November to March. Lay two eggs.
Christmas Island imperial pigeon  (Ducula whartoni)

Christmas Island imperial pigeon
(Ducula whartoni)

Voice:
Generally silent. Short, soft chirr sometimes given in flight.
Status & distribution:
Endemic subspecies is common on Christmas Island. Hawk for insects over roads and clearings and over forest canopy.
Breeding:
Nest in canopy and understory trees, mainly in the wet season, November to April, usually 2-3 eggs.
Nankeen kestrel  (Falco cenchroides)

Nankeen kestrel (Falco cenchroides)

Voice:
Rapid, shrill ki-ki-ki-ki and slower tek-tek-tek…. More frenzied than goshawk.
Status & distribution:
Australia to New Guinea. Colonised Christmas Island between 1940-1950. Very common in settled areas, mining fields and beside roads. Perch on high vantage points dropping onto grasshoppers and lizards.
Breeding:
Nest in coconut palms, on power pylons and buildings around settled areas.
Christmas Is. goshawk (Accipiter fasciatus natalis)

Christmas Is. goshawk
(Accipiter fasciatus natalis)

Voice:
Slow, high-pitched and piercing ki-ki-ki …
Status & distribution:
Distinctive sub species or (probably) species only in Christmas Island. Listed as endangered. In both plateau and terrace forest. Not usually seen near settled areas. Often seen at roadside edges on the plateau. Numbers unknown, perhaps a few hundred individuals. Mostly eat other birds but also take grasshoppers from road sides.
Breeding:
Build a large and untidy nest platform of sticks in forest trees. Season spread. Raise one or sometimes two chicks.
Christmas Is. hawk-owl (Ninox natalis)

Christmas Is. hawk-owl (Ninox natalis)

Voice: Very vocal, and frequently duet. Two or three note boo-book or book-book-book. Short growling notes repeated monotonously. Male’s voice slightly higher than female’s, and he tends to lead duets.
Status & distribution:
Endemic to Christmas Island. Listed as vulnerable. Approximately 500 pairs. Hold territories in both plateau and terrace forest.
Breeding:
Nest in hollows high in rainforest trees. Only a handful of nests located, all in Syzygium trees, but they also hold territories where these trees are absent.
Island thrush (Turdus poliocephalus erythropleurus)

Island thrush
(Turdus poliocephalus erythropleurus)

Voice:
Highly varied. Thin, nasal, drawn-out whistle: tseeeeeet. Song (at dawn and dusk) reedy, reeling, musical jingle.
Status & distribution:
Endemic subspecies on Christmas Island, listed as vulnerable. Common throughout the forest and settled areas. Feed on ground; often tame and curious.
Breeding:
Nest in wet season in low shrubs and on ledges of buildings. May raise several broods in succession Usually two, sometimes three eggs. Territorial.
Feral chicken  (Gallus gallus)

Feral chicken (Gallus gallus)

Voice:
Crowing and clucking.
Status & distribution:
Descended from red jungle fowl. Introduced by man worldwide. Cockerels are territorial and maintain a harem of 3-5 females. Including juveniles, the group can be as many as 20. Widespread on the island.
Breeding:
Nest on ground year round. Clutch size varies, multiple hens laying in same nest.
Christmas Island white-eye (Zosterops natalis)

Christmas Island white-eye
(Zosterops natalis)

Voice:
Thin high song, not often heard. Feeding flocks emit continuous contact chirps and short warbles, and high-pitched tseep. Alarm call a sharper ticking, which sometimes betrays presence of a goshawk or hawk-owl.
Status & distribution:
Found only on Christmas Island. Related species occur in Asia, the Pacific and Australia. Common in all habitats.
Breeding:
Nest mostly in wet season. Nest is small open cup in bushes. Usually 2-3 eggs.
Java sparrow  (Padda oryzivora)

Java sparrow (Padda oryzivora)

Voice:
In flight, give a sweet, tinkling chup or twit contact call.
Status & distribution:
Introduced between 1908 and 1923 from Java. Restricted to settled areas and roadsides, principally where grass seeds available. Probably 200-300 birds. Travel in large flocks.
Breeding:
Nests have been found in May-July and August. Sites vary: hollows in trees, cavities in buildings, in dense creepers and bushes, 2-5 m high. Nests in vegetation globular with side entrance but those in cavities lack a roof. Newly fledged juveniles join flocks in June to August.
Tree sparrow  (Passer montanus)

Tree sparrow (Passer montanus)

Voice:
A great variety of simple, dry chirping and chattering sounds.
Status & distribution:
A ship assisted introduction in the early 1980s.
Has spread to all main settled areas of the island. Native to Europe and Asia.
Breeding:
Nest in cavities in roof spaces, poles and buildings. Apparently nest after dry season, and juveniles join flocks in June-August.
White-faced heron  (Egretta Novaehollandiae)

White-faced heron (Egretta Novaehollandiae)

Voice:
A guttural croak when flushed.
Status & distribution:
Australasia and eastern Indonesia. Self introduced to Christmas Island in the 1960s. Can be found anywhere along coast or in open areas. Previously up to 100 birds on island but less than 20 now.
Breeding:
Breeding not confirmed on Christmas Island. Birds have been seen carrying nesting material and newly fledged juveniles appear at times. Elsewhere, nests inconspicuously in dense foliage of trees.
White-breasted waterhen (Amaurornis phoenicurus)

White-breasted waterhen
(Amaurornis phoenicurus)

Voice:
Loud kor-wak-wak kor–wak-wak...; slow, loud wok, wok, wok...., often in duets and repeated incessantly, especially at dusk and early evening.
Status & distribution:
Widely distributed in southern Asia. Colonised Christmas Island in 1991-92. About 20 pairs now present, gradually spreading. Live here in weed thickets.
Breeding:
Nest in dense vegetation on the ground or in pandanus crowns. Chicks leave the nest on hatching.
Eastern reef egret  (Egretta sacra)

Eastern reef egret (Egretta sacra)

Voice:
Occasionally a guttural croak.
Status & distribution:
Widespread throughout Indo-Pacific, including Australasia. Mostly on rocky platforms and beaches anywhere along the coast. Sometimes at golf course, Chinese cemetery or in the Dales. Dark grey morph also present.
Breeding:
Nests found near Dolly and Ethel beaches. Probably breeds at many spots on Island, but few nests have been found.
Christmas Island glossy swiftlet  (Collocalia natalis)

Christmas Island glossy swiftlet
(Collocalia natalis)

Voice:
Generally silent. Short, soft chirr sometimes given in flight.
Status & distribution:
Endemic species is common on Christmas Island. Hawk for insects over roads and clearings and over forest canopy.
Breeding:
Nest in caves e.g. in inland cliff opposite Seaview Lodge. Nest a half cup of mosses and saliva cemented to cave wall. Two eggs.

See more:

Christmas Island Bird N Nature week
Christmas Island Bird Guide
Christmas Island Bird Watching Tours
Christmas Island Bird Guide App

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