The Ultimate In Birding Tours

Australia & The Pacific Islands

BEST OF PAPUA NEW GUINEA – Birds of Paradise, Crowned Pigeons and so much more


Birdquest’s Best of Papua New Guinea birding tours are a classic shorter birding tour to the country. Our Best of Papua New Guinea birding tour visits Port Moresby, Kiunga, Tabubil and Mount Hagen, producing a fantastic array of birds, including up to 20 species of birds-of-paradise and a large number of other endemics, in less than two weeks in this fascinating land where the Stone Age co-exists with the 21st Century.

From high in an ancient, gnarled and epiphyte-bedecked tree a strange, static electric crackling reveals the presence of a displaying King of Saxony Bird of Paradise sitting on a snag and waving its extraordinary head-plumes like some strange antennae. A cacophony of yelping reaches a crescendo in the foothill forest and an arching, flaming mass of shivering yellow and orange-pink resolves itself into a Raggiana Bird of Paradise. A pinprick of blood-red against an emerald canopy is a King Bird of Paradise. A glint of iridescent viridian, illuminated by a shaft of sunlight that pierces the lead-grey, rumbling heavens, is followed by a rippling wave of white tail-streamers as a Ribbon-tailed Astrapia takes to the air.

There is no need to say that we are on the island of New Guinea, for these extraordinary birds are amongst the most famous in the world. Indeed, their wondrous variations in form and colouration, that defy simple description, are so ‘out-of-this-world’ that when the first skins (which lacked feet) reached Europe they were thought to be faked constructs or even heavenly species that had somehow fallen to earth!

New Guinea is the second-largest island in the world and to this day remains one of the wildest, most sparsely settled regions on earth. Over 700 species of birds are found here, the world’s richest island avifauna, and nearly half of these are found nowhere else! Whilst the extraordinary birds of paradise are the finest jewels in New Guinea’s ornithological crown, there is so much else to attract the birdwatcher – huge but secretive cassowaries, strange mound-builders, a gorgeous array of doves, pigeons, parrots and kingfishers (all of which reach their greatest diversity here), sinister-looking frogmouths, skulking jewel-babblers, exquisite fairy-wrens, brightly coloured flycatchers, confusing honeyeaters and fascinating bowerbirds to mention just some of the highlights.

The island of New Guinea holds no fewer than seven endemic bird families, including the monotypic Wattled Ploughbill (family Eulacestomatidae), the monotypic Blue-capped Ifrit (family Ifritidae), the longbills and berrypeckers (family Melanocharitidae), the painted berrypeckers (family Paramythiidae), Mottled Berryhunter (formerly Mottled Whistler, family Rhagologidae), the satinbirds (family Cnemophilidae) and the melampittas (family Melampittidae), making it an absolutely key destination for anyone wanting to see all the world’s bird families.

This classic tour explores the eastern half of the island, Papua New Guinea (or ‘PNG’), where we shall travel from modern towns to regions almost untouched by the twentieth century (or even the last millennia) and still inhabited by stone-age tribes whose warriors dress in bark belts, loincloths and headdresses decorated with bird of paradise plumes.

While much of New Guinea is still primitive and undeveloped, conditions for visitors in Papua New Guinea often amaze first-timers: standards of accommodation often being good or excellent, and vehicles modern and comfortable. The only downside is that it is a surprisingly expensive place.

We shall start our travels at Port Moresby on the southeast coast. This excellent area possesses one of the richest avifaunas in Papua New Guinea due to its unusual diversity of habitats ranging from dry, Australian-like eucalypt savanna and grassland to lowland rainforest and hill forest. Here we will look for flamboyant Raggiana Birds of Paradise and Growling Riflebirds, as well as many other exciting birds.

Next, we will travel far to the west, first to the town of Tabubil in the foothills of the Star Mountains, where Salvadori’s Teal, Pesquet’s (or Vulturine) Parrot, the handsome Queen Carola’s Parotia and Obscure Berrypecker will attract our attention. If we are fortunate, we will also find the amazing Shovel-billed Kookaburra and the strange Greater Melampitta.

From here we will move on to the frontier town of Kiunga on the great Fly River of southwestern Papua New Guinea. In this remote area, many large species that have been extirpated by hunting elsewhere can still be seen, as well as some exciting western specialities. Star attractions include the huge Sclater’s Crowned Pigeon, Little Paradise Kingfisher, Flame Bowerbird and the gorgeous Greater, Twelve-wired and King Birds of Paradise.

From the southwestern lowlands and foothills, we will fly up to Mount Hagen in the central highlands, seeming to travel back in time as we do so. The New Guinea highlands are surely the major highlight of any Papua New Guinea birding tour.

Here we will search for the area’s remarkable selection of birds of paradise and many other montane specialities, including such great birds as New Guinea Woodcock, Mountain Owlet-Nightjar, the superbly elegant Ribbon-tailed Astrapia, the strange King of Saxony Bird of Paradise, the striking Blue Bird of Paradise, Lesser Bird of Paradise, Loria’s and Crested Satinbirds, and Lesser Melampitta (one of only two members of its family, both restricted to New Guinea)

Here also we will be on the lookout for the representatives of no fewer than three monotypic bird families; Wattled Ploughbill, Blue-capped Ifrit and Mottled Berryhunter, as well as a variety of berrypeckers and painted berrypeckers, members of two other bird families that are restricted to the island of New Guinea.

Birdquest has operated Papua New Guinea birding tours since 1986.

What makes the Birdquest Best of Papua New Guinea tour special? The Birdquest group size limit is lower than most other Papua New Guinea tours (and significantly lower than some). Birds are often shy in PNG, so we regard keeping the group size small as a key benefit to our group members.

Birding in Papua New Guinea: New Guinea has a rich, fantastic and world-renowned avifauna, but many birds here are shy and, although one does see some bird of paradise display, visitors should not expect to see the quantity and intensity of display that takes film-makers many months or even years to gather.

Accommodation & Road Transport: The hotel in Port Moresby and Kumul Lodge are of a good standard. At Kiunga the hotel is of medium quality but is comfortable. At the Elevala River, we will spend one night in a very basic lodge with two beds in each partitioned area in the building and shared outdoor bathroom facilities. Road transport is by small coach or minibus. Roads range from reasonable to poor, but then we do not have to travel long distances on them.

Walking: The walking effort during our Best of Papua New Guinea tours is easy to moderate.

Climate: Generally warm or hot, dry and sunny at lower altitudes, but cool in upland areas. Overcast weather is quite regular and there is very likely to be some rain, perhaps heavy and prolonged at times. It will be rather humid in the lowlands.

Bird Photography: Opportunities during our Best of Papua New Guinea tours are worthwhile.


  • See 17 bird-of-paradise species, including Growling Riflebird, Queen Carola’s Parotia, King Bird-of-paradise, and Ribbon-tailed Astrapia.
  • Find six or even all seven endemic bird families of New Guinea, including the tricky Mottled Berryhunter, Blue-capped Ifrit and Wattled Ploughbill.
  • See evolutionary oddities like the exquisite Crested Satinbird and poisonous Lesser Melampitta.
  • The extravagant Blue Bird-of-paradise is the must-see species in Papua New Guinea - the best bird in the world?
  • Unrivalled experiences with King of Saxony Bird-of-paradise waving their 'antennae'.
  • Early morning vigils to see Twelve-wired Bird-of-paradise and Raggiana Bird-of-paradise in display.
  • Visit the tree that David Attenborough ascended to film a Greater Bird-of-paradise lek in The Life of Birds.
  • Use hides to observe the incandescent Flame Bowerbird at his bachelor pad.
  • Watch the secretive New Guinea Flightless Rail visit an improvised feeding station.
  • Exploring the tranquil Fly River by boat, searching the banks at dawn for magnificent Sclater’s Crowned Pigeon.
  • Forest kingfishers include Little Paradise Kingfisher, Brown-breasted Paradise Kingfisher and Hook-billed Kingfisher.
  • Search for the retiring Shovel-billed Kookaburra, and bizarre Pesquet’s Parrot.
  • Stay at Kumul Lodge where birds-of-paradise feed in the gardens
  • Visit PNG’s only national park behind Port Moresby, where we try to find several difficult ground-dwellers.
  • Spotlight for some of the least-known nocturnal birds in the world, such as the bizarre Spangled Owlet-nightjar.


  • Day 1: Morning tour start at Port Moresby.
  • Day 2: Varirata National Park. Overnight at Port Moresby.
  • Day 3: Morning flight to Kiunga. Drive to Tabubil.
  • Day 4: Tabubil area.
  • Day 5: Tabubil area, then return to Kiunga.
  • Day 6: By boat to Fly and Elevala Rivers. Overnight Elevala River.
  • Day 7: Elevala River, then return by boat to Kiunga.
  • Day 8: Kiunga, then flight to Mount Hagen. Drive to Kumul Lodge.
  • Days 9-11: Kumul Lodge area.
  • Day 12: Kumul Lodge area, then return to Mount Hagen and fly to Port Moresby.
  • Day 13: Morning tour end at Port Moresby. Possibly some birding depending on flight timings.

To see a larger map, click on the square-like ‘enlarge’ icon in the upper right of the map box.

To see (or hide) the ‘map legend’, click on the icon with an arrow in the upper left of the map box.

To change to a satellite view, which is great for seeing the physical terrain (and for seeing really fine details by repetitive use of the + button), click on the square ‘map view’ icon in the lower left corner of the ‘map legend’.


Papua New Guinea Tour Prices: Prices in Papua New Guinea are high by any standards, but there are reasons for this. In the first place accommodations in Papua New Guinea, whatever their standard, are mostly expensive, as is transport for tourism purposes. Papua New Guinea is a country with only a thin ‘meniscus’ of development that sits on an otherwise very undeveloped part of the world. The very limited but often comfortable layer of infrastructure that tourism uses is also used by oil and gas development staff, miners, lumber extractors and many other expatriates, with the result that prices have risen very high. Furthermore, there are only a very limited number of local agents that specialize in eco-tourism, so they can dictate price levels. This combination makes for high prices.

Birdquest Inclusions: Our tour prices include surface transportation, accommodations, meals and entrance fees.

We also include all tipping for local guides, drivers, boatmen and accommodation/restaurant staff.

We also include these flights: Port Moresby-Kiunga, Kiunga-Mount Hagen and Mount Hagen-Port Moresby.

Deposit: 20% of the total tour price. Our office will let you know what deposit amount is due, in order to confirm your booking, following receipt of your online booking form.

TO BOOK THIS TOUR: Click here (you will need the tour dates)

Please note that the price quoted includes the internal flights providing you book your international flights into and out of Port Moresby with Air Niugini (via Singapore, Hong Kong or Manila) and through our office. Higher rates for internal flights will apply if you travel into and out of Port Moresby with another carrier, or by another Air Niugini route, or you book your flights in and out with Air Niugini separately from the internal flights.

The single supplement will not apply if you indicate on booking that you prefer to share a room and there is a room-mate of the same sex available.

The single room supplement excludes the night at the Elevala River.

This tour is priced in US Dollars. Amounts shown in other currencies are indicative.

Air Travel To & From The Tour: Our in-house IATA ticket agency will be pleased to arrange your air travel on request, or you may arrange this yourself if you prefer.


Best of Papua New Guinea: Day 1  Our tour begins this morning at Port Moresby, where we will stay for two nights. Later we will begin our exploration of the surrounding area.

Best of Papua New Guinea: Day 2  The eucalypt savanna of the Port Moresby region is an ecological ‘island’ with strong affinities to northern Australia, and beyond lies the tropical rainforest that covers so much of New Guinea, rising steadily from the lowlands up into the Astrolabe range.

Small ponds on the edge of the city hold such species as Australasian Grebe, Little Black and Little Pied Cormorants, Eastern Cattle, Great, Intermediate and Little Egrets, the attractive Pied Heron, Nankeen (or Rufous) Night Heron, Wandering and Plumed Whistling Ducks, Raja (or White-headed) Shelduck, Pacific Black Duck, Dusky Moorhen, Australasian Swamphen, the pretty Comb-crested Jacana and Masked Lapwing. If we are fortunate we will also see one or more of the more uncommon visitors, such as the rare and crepuscular Spotted Whistling Duck, Grey Teal, the pretty Green Pygmy Goose, Australian White Ibis or Australasian Darter.

The adjacent eucalypt savanna, ‘kunai’ grassland and gardens hold a broad range of species including Black, Whistling and Brahminy Kites, Peaceful and Bar-shouldered Doves, Orange-fronted Fruit Dove, Torresian Imperial Pigeon, Pheasant Coucal, the impressive and vociferous Blue-winged Kookaburra, Sacred Kingfisher, Rainbow Bee-eater, Australian Hobby (uncommon), Coconut Lorikeet, New Guinea Friarbird, Yellow-tinted and Rufous-banded Honeyeaters, White-breasted Woodswallow, Black-backed Butcherbird, Black-faced Cuckooshrike, Grey Shrikethrush, the entertaining Willie Wagtail, Australasian Figbird, Torresian Crow, Singing Starling, Pacific Swallow and Grey-headed Mannikin.

We also have a good chance of finding the huge, reptilian-looking Papuan Frogmouth at its daytime roost. Fawn-breasted Bowerbirds are quite common in the area and if we find one of their remarkably complex bowers we may be rewarded by hearing the bird’s strange repertoire of hisses, gurgles, pops and burps.

We will spend much of our time in the Port Moresby region exploring Varirata National Park, which is situated in the foothills above the city. The park is dominated by dry eucalypt forest and moister evergreen hill forest, and a good system of trails allows easy access to this excellent area.

Varirata holds many widespread lower altitude species that we will see elsewhere during the tour, so we shall be concentrating on birds that we are only likely to see here, or which are typically easier at Varirata than elsewhere.

Varirata will give us our first chance to see some of New Guinea’s fabulous birds of paradise. The exotic Raggiana Bird of Paradise, one of the ‘classic’ birds of paradise, is quite common here and we may find them displaying. Growling (or Eastern) Riflebirds are very vocal, but quite shy, and can sometimes be seen flying between ‘song’ perches.

With persistence we should get views of the handsome Chestnut-backed Jewel-babbler and with both persistence and luck we will see one or two of the more difficult skulkers, which include Painted Quailthrush, Piping Bellbird (formerly known as Crested Pitohui and a species with a magical song) and Papuan Scrub Robin.

We should also encounter a few other more uncommon or harder to find birds of the area, which include Pygmy Eagle, Gurney’s Eagle, the retiring Pheasant Pigeon, White-faced Robin and White-eared Catbird, as well as the intriguing Goldenface (formerly known as Dwarf Whistler, but now reclassified as an Australasian warbler) and Drongo Fantail (formerly known as Pygmy or Mountain Drongo, but now reclassified as a fantail and related to the interesting Silktail of Fiji).

In the mid-storey we should come across the unobtrusive Brown-headed Paradise Kingfisher. Indeed, kingfishers are well represented at Varirata, with Yellow-billed, Forest, Azure and Papuan Dwarf Kingfishers all quite likely here. This is also a good place for finding the exquisite Barred Owlet-Nightjar.

Other species we may well encounter at Varirata include Pacific Baza, Long-tailed Honey Buzzard, Amboyna Cuckoo-Dove, Wompoo, Pink-spotted, Superb and Beautiful Fruit Doves, Zoe’s Imperial Pigeon, Large-tailed Nightjar, Glossy and Uniform Swiftlets, Oriental Dollarbird, Papuan King and Red-cheeked Parrots, the smart Black-capped Lory, Tawny-breasted and White-throated Honeyeaters, Elegant and Mimic Honeyeaters (or Elegant and Mimic Meliphagas), Rusty Mouse-warbler, Pale-billed Scrubwren, Yellow-bellied, Green-backed and Fairy Gerygones, Black Berrypecker, Dwarf (or Spectacled) Longbill, Yellow-breasted Boatbill, Black and Hooded Butcherbirds, Stout-billed, Barred (or Yellow-eyed), Boyer’s and White-bellied Cuckooshrikes, Black Cicadabird (or Black Cuckooshrike), Varied Triller, Grey and White-bellied Whistlers, Little Shrikethrush, the shy Rusty Pitohui, the poisonous Hooded Pitohui, Brown Oriole, Spangled Drongo, Chestnut-bellied Fantail, Spot-winged and Black-faced Monarchs, the splendid Frilled Monarch, Leaden Flycatcher, Lemon-bellied Flyrobin, Black-fronted White-eye, Yellow-faced Myna, Pied Bushchat, Red-capped Flowerpecker and Black Sunbird.

Best of Papua New Guinea: Day 3  This morning we will fly far to the west, to the town of Kiunga, and then drive up the winding road through the foothill forest to Tabubil, situated at the base of the Star Mountains, for a two nights stay.

As our plane carries us across the southern lowlands we will begin to appreciate the immensity of the forest that even today covers more than 90% of New Guinea. Once the settled areas around Port Moresby are left behind hardly anything breaks the pattern of the forest, other than the meandering rivers.

On our way to Tabubil, we will begin our exploration of this exciting area, so we are sure to see a good number of new birds. In particular, we shall stop en route by the Ok Tedi River to look for the interesting resident papuanus form of the Little Ringed Plover and also at a lookout where the spectacular Pesquet’s (or Vulturine) Parrot can sometimes be seen.

Best of Papua New Guinea: Day 4  The Ok Tedi mine above Tabubil is one of the largest copper mines in the world and the town and its road network has been created as a result of the mine’s development, thus allowing us to explore the southern foothills of the remote Star Mountains. Many of the birds found here are of widespread distribution throughout the hill forests of New Guinea, but others are much more localized.

The hillsides are very steep and gaining access to good forest is a problem in the Tabubil area, particularly as accessible areas are often quickly cleared for ‘gardens’. Tabubil is also the wettest area that we shall visit and so we shall be hoping for good weather, as there are some special birds to look for.

One of the star specialities here is the dazzling and rather illusory-looking Queen Carola’s Parotia, and although adult males can be hard to find, we should at least see females or young males in a fruiting tree. Shovel-billed Kookaburras (or Shovel-billed Kingfishers) also occur in the area and we shall listen out for the calls of this crepuscular species, although it will take persistence and good fortune to see one now that a formerly accessible nest site is no longer accessible.

Two of New Guinea’s least-known birds, Greater Melampitta and the unassuming Obscure Berrypecker, are also to be found here, but both require luck, especially the melampitta. Easier specialities include White-rumped Robin and Magnificent Bird of Paradise.

We will also pay a visit to one of the many rivers rushing down from the surrounding mountains that has proved to be a reliable site for Salvadori’s Teal, Torrent Flyrobin (or Torrent Flycatcher) and sometimes Torrent-lark.

Other species we may well encounter at Tabubil, but which we are unlikely to see elsewhere during the tour, include Chestnut-breasted Cuckoo, White-eared Bronze Cuckoo, Spotted Honeyeater and Southern Variable Pitohui.

There will be plenty of more widespread species that will be new for the trip and these may well include Papuan Mountain Pigeon, Papuan Boobook, Moustached Treeswift, Orange-breasted Fig Parrot, Papuan Black Myzomela, Long-billed Honeyeater, Mountain and Scrub Honeyeaters (or Mountain and Scrub White-eared Meliphagas), Mountain Peltops, Great Woodswallow, Capped (or Western Mountain) White-eye and Crinkle-collared Manucode (an atypical bird of paradise).

We should also encounter some of the more uncommon birds of the area, which include Doria’s Goshawk, Pale-vented (or Rufous-tailed) Bush-hen, Ornate Fruit Dove, Metallic Pigeon, Dwarf Koel, Brown Falcon, Red-breasted Pygmy Parrot, Blue-collared Parrot, Orange-fronted Hanging Parrot, Wallace’s Fairywren, Red Myzomela, Pygmy Longbill, Sooty Thicket Fantail and Magnificent Riflebird.

Best of Papua New Guinea: Day 5  After a final morning in the Tabubil area we shall descend to Kiunga for an overnight stay. The sparsely populated lowlands of southwestern Papua New Guinea around Kiunga are still one of the least disturbed areas in the country.

Best of Papua New Guinea: Day 6  We shall set off early in a small open-top fibreglass boat in order to explore the Fly and Elevala Rivers and their tributaries, spending one night at a very basic lodge deep in the depths of the swamp forest jungle surrounding the Elevala River. We shall be aiming to reach a display post of the amazing Twelve-wired Bird of Paradise in good time to see the male running up and down the pole in order to win his females. This strange behaviour lasts for a very short period just after dawn each morning and so we will rely on our local guides knowledge to get us there in time to witness the display. After a hopefully successful encounter, we shall be able to sit back, relax and watch the spectacle of the forest awakening.

As we cruise up the murky and muddy river, hundreds of birds will be flexing their wings and voices and preparing for the new day. We can expect to see large numbers of Collared Imperial Pigeons, mixed with smaller numbers of Pinon Imperial Pigeons, as they erupt from the treetops as we pass by. Large flocks of Blyth’s Hornbills flap lazily from tree to tree and strange, spiky-crested Palm Cockatoos and Glossy-mantled Manucodes are a feature of the journey. Parrots are everywhere, with Eclectus Parrots and Sulphur-crested Cockatoos dominating the show. Shining Flycatchers skim low over the water and occasionally an enormous Great-billed Heron may be flushed from the banks. In particular, we shall be looking out for the huge Sclater’s Crowned Pigeon, one of the largest and most mysterious pigeons in the world. It may take us some time to locate one, but we have a good chance of success and the sight of this incredible bird is one that will surely last a lifetime.

We shall also be able to land at various locations where small trails have been made for us into the otherwise impenetrable forest. Here we shall be on the lookout for the gorgeous but diminutive King Bird of Paradise and we shall hope to find one of the staked-out males that are amazingly faithful to their display trees. Greater Bird of Paradise and Trumpet Manucode are also found regularly in the area.

Rarities such as White-bellied Pitohui and the pretty Little Paradise Kingfisher occur in these swampy forests and among the bird parties we shall hope to find difficult species such as Hooded Monarch and Papuan Babbler. Attractive Black-sided Robins sing loudly from the interior and Common Paradise Kingfisher, the stunning Rufous-bellied Kookaburra and the crepuscular Hook-billed Kingfisher are also major attractions here. There will also be a good opportunity to see the intensely-coloured Flame Bowerbird.

Southern Cassowary occurs in the area, but we would need to be very fortunate to see this shy creature. The raucous calls of Black-billed (or Yellow-legged) Brush-turkeys can be heard regularly, but we will need a lot of luck if we are to see this shy denizen of the area, perhaps near one of its large nest mounds. Recently hides (blinds) have been built overlooking suitable areas for New Guinea Flightless Rail, so there is a slim but real chance of seeing this peculiar and rarely observed bird.

Other birds that we may well see during our visit to Kiunga and the Elevala include Striated Heron, Variable and Grey-headed Goshawks, White-bellied Sea-Eagle, Great Cuckoo-Dove, Stephan’s Emerald Dove, Orange-bellied and Dwarf Fruit Doves, Purple-tailed Imperial Pigeon, Pacific Koel, White-crowned, Brush and Channel-billed Cuckoos, Papuan Spine-tailed Swift, Yellow-capped Pygmy Parrot, Red-flanked Lorikeet, Double-eyed Fig Parrot, Yellowish-streaked (or Greater Streaked) and Dusky Lories, the lovely Hooded and Papuan Pittas, Plain, Green-backed, Streak-headed and Obscure Honeyeaters, Large-billed Gerygone, Lowland Peltops, Yellow-bellied Longbill, Grey-headed and Golden Cuckooshrikes, White-bellied Thicket Fantail, Black and Rufous-backed Fantails, Grey Crow, Golden Myna, and Metallic and Yellow-eyed Starlings.

This is a good area for Blue Jewel-babbler and with persistence, we should have a good chance of enticing one into view. We should also find a few other uncommon species, which include Ivory-billed (or Greater Black) and Black-billed (or Lesser Black) Coucals, Little Bronze Cuckoo, Little Paradise Kingfisher, Large Fig Parrot and Ruby-throated (or Red-throated) Myzomela.

Nightbirding is difficult and sometimes unrewarding here, but with persistence and good fortune, we have the chance to encounter such species as Papuan Hawk-Owl, Marbled Frogmouth, Papuan Nightjar, Wallace’s Owlet-Nightjar or even the rare and little-known Spangled Owlet-Nightjar.

Best of Papua New Guinea: Day 7  After some final birding in the Elevala River area, we shall return to Kiunga for a good shower and a comfortable bed for an overnight stay.

During our time at Kiunga, we will visit a mixed display ground of both Greater and Raggiana Birds of Paradise. Although the former is much the more numerous species here, males of both species can often be seen competing for the females and hybrids do occur. If there is good display activity, this will be a highlight of the tour.

We shall also listen out for the distinctive whistles of the localized Long-billed Cuckoo and hunt out the gorgeous Emperor Fairywren.

If we are lucky we will find one or more of the less frequently recorded species of the Kiunga area, which include New Guinea Bronzewing, Buff-breasted Paradise Kingfisher, Black-eared Catbird and Meyer’s Friarbird.

Best of Papua New Guinea: Day 8  We should have time for some final birding at Kiunga before we take a flight to Mount Hagen, the capital of the Papua New Guinea highlands. Our flight takes us over unbroken foothill forest, mountain ridges and eventually the rich cultivated valleys of the New Guinea highlands.

Until the 1930s, the highlands of New Guinea were thought to be uninhabited, and so the discovery by some intrepid European gold miners of a large human population numbering over a million people living in stone-age conditions in total isolation from the rest of the world was one of the great discoveries of the 20th century.

Upon arrival, and after climbing out of the fertile valley around the town and into the subalpine forest, we will continue to Kumul Lodge in Enga province for a four nights stay. We may arrive in time for some initial exploration.

Best of Papua New Guinea: Days 9-11  Kumul Lodge is situated on a high ridge covered in pristine montane forest and the bungalows, which each have their own veranda with a view out over the surrounding valleys, are surrounded by 67 acres (27 hectares) of private grounds.

A feeding station has been set up outside the dining room and, because of the no-hunting policy adopted by this community-run project, the birds have become incredibly tame. A ‘sit and wait’ policy can be productive here. Belford’s Melidectes and Common Smoky Honeyeaters are numerous, and these are joined by huge Brown Sicklebills (their deafening rattles sound just like a machine-gun), graceful Ribbon-tailed Astrapias, Brehm’s Tiger Parrots and sometimes Archbold’s Bowerbirds. At Kumul these wonderful birds, that are so shy elsewhere, can be watched from only a few metres away and so the photographic opportunities are often superb.

Island Thrushes hop around the lawns, Red-collared Myzomelas feed from the flowers and Friendly Fantails, White-winged Robins and Rufous-naped Whistlers (or Rufous-naped Bellbirds) are all common garden birds, while Grey-streaked Honeyeaters are often present.

A star attraction of Kumul is the ghost-like Lesser Melampitta, one of only two members of its family, which we can expect to see as well as hear. Additional star attractions are the gorgeous but poisonous Blue-capped Ifrit, now a monotypic bird family, and the strange Wattled Ploughbill (likewise now treated as a monotypic family).

Another special bird at Kumul is the rare Mottled Berryhunter (the former Mottled Whistler, now treated as a monotypic family). We will definitely be making an effort to find this key species and we have a fairly good chance of an encounter while at Kumul.

Other specialities of Kumul include Crested Satinbird (there is often a male that frequents the lodge), Rufescent Imperial Pigeon, Mountain (or Elfin) Myzomela and Ornate Melidectes

The nightbirds that frequent Kumul Lodge are another prime reason for our visit. As the day draws to a close we have a good chance of encountering the pair of New Guinea Woodcocks that shuffle out from their daytime hiding places to feed around the camp. There is sometimes a pair of Mountain Owlet-Nightjars in residence and Greater Sooty Owl may also be found. Archbold’s (or Mountain) Nightjars used to perch on the lodge buildings and could start doing so again, or be found not far away.

Kumul is a wonderful place for birds of paradise and we should also encounter Loria’s Satinbird and the amazing King of Saxony Birds of Paradise with its fantastically long head-plumes that look like strange antennae. We will also visit a patch of remnant forest in order to see Lesser Bird of Paradise and visit a hillside where Blue Bird of Paradise can be seen and where Superb Bird of Paradise can be watched fanning its strange collar. In addition, we will check out grassland areas that are favoured by Yellow-breasted Bowerbirds.

Amongst the many other birds we may well find while based at Kumul, as we search the mossy forest, gullies with epiphyte-encrusted trees and rocks, and grasslands and mixed agricultural habitats, are Papuan Harrier, Bar-tailed (or Black-billed) Cuckoo-Dove, White-bibbed (or Mountain) Fruit Dove, Fan-tailed Cuckoo, Mountain Swiftlet, Plum-faced, Papuan, Yellow-billed and Orange-billed Lorikeets, White-shouldered Fairywren, Rufous-backed, Black-throated and Marbled Honeyeaters, Mountain Mouse-warbler, Large and Papuan Scrubwrens, Brown-breasted Gerygone, Fan-tailed, Tit and Crested Berrypeckers, Black-breasted Boatbill, Long-tailed Shrike, Black-bellied Cuckooshrike, Brown-backed, Regent and Black-headed Whistlers, Dimorphic and Black Fantails, Black Monarch, Black-throated and Slaty (or Blue-grey) Robins, the cute Canary Flyrobin, Island Leaf Warbler, Papuan Grassbird, Papuan White-eye, Mountain Firetail, Blue-faced Parrotfinch, Hooded Mannikin and Australian Pipit.

We should also come across some of the more uncommon or more difficult to find species of the area, which include another bird of paradise, Short-tailed Paradigalla, as well as Brown Goshawk, Brown Quail, Forbes’s Forest Rail, Rufous-throated Bronze Cuckoo, Modest Tiger Parrot, Goldie’s Lorikeet, Mountain Kingfisher, Macgregor’s Bowerbird, Yellowish-streaked Honeyeater, Olive Straightbill, Mid-mountain Berrypecker, and Ashy and Garnet Robins.

Best of Papua New Guinea: Day 12  After a last morning around Kumul we will take an afternoon flight back to Port Moresby for an overnight stay and a celebratory dinner to mark the end of the tour.

Best of Papua New Guinea: Day 13  Our tour ends this morning at Port Moresby. An airport transfer will be provided.


by Josh Bergmark


View Report


by Chris Kehoe

View Report

Other shorter Australasia and region birding tours by Birdquest include: