My concept for this realm is all those offshore oceanic islands -- well separated from the major continents -- which host birds other than strictly pelagic species. My concept of "Oceanic Islands Realm" are those islands so far from the continents that they have developed their own own distinctive avifauna. The vast majority of these islands are tropical, and the most prominent from the perspective of unique birds are Madagascar, New Zealand, and New Caledonia. In addition, this realm includes many island chains that are far offshore. Prominent among them from a birding perspective are Hawaii, the Galapagos, the Marianas, Micronesia, Melanesia, Polynesia and other Pacific islands, and in the Indian Ocean, the Seychelles, Réunion, and Mauritius. The few landbirds on Gough and Tristan da Cunha in the south Atlantic would also qualify. My collage of images are:

These Oceanic Islands have many endemic landbird species, and some of them have the most endangered species on earth. Habitat loss and introduced competitors, predators and diseases threaten all small-island avifaunas. Virtually all of the native birds of Guam have been lost, many Hawaiian species have gone extinct and others are on the edge, and the famous Dodo was exterminated by the first men to reach Mauritius. To me, these threatened islands are very special places, deserving of attention in their own right. [Of course, there are many great islands that are considered part of a continental shelf and share much of their avifauna with the continent. Many of these are considered part of Asia (Japan, the Philippines, Taiwan, Borneo, Sumatra, Java, Sulawesi, and the Sunda chain) but others are considered part of the Nearctic (the Caribbean islands), or the Neotropics (like Trinidad), or the Western Palearctic (Great Britain, Ireland, Cypress, etc.), or Africa (Sao Tomé, etc.)].


Ten families are entirely endemic to the Oceanic Island realm, some of them among the most wonderful birds on earth:

Apterygidae Kiwis Philepittidae Asities
Mesitornithidae Mesites Acanthisittidae New Zealand Wrens
Rhynochetidae Kagu Vangidae Vangas
Brachypteraciidae Ground-Rollers Callaeidae New Zealand Wattlebirds
Leptosomatidae Cuckoo-Roller Drepanididae Hawaiian Honeycreepers

Handbook: New Zealand is the only large oceanic island with a handbook series underway; it is included with Australia and the Antarctic in Marchant & Higgins (1991) and following volumes. They are reviewed on the Australasia page. The Hawaiian Islands are included within the Birds of North America project (Poole et al. 1990 and on-going) and fascicles of some Hawaiian species are available (e.g., 'Akepa by Lepson & Freed 1997); this series is reviewed on the Nearctic page. A lot of information about native Hawaiian birds is in Scott et al. (1986).

Field Guides: The only major field guide that covers a big chunk of this realm is Pratt et al's (1987) A Field Guide to the Birds of Hawaii and the Tropical Pacific. This is a superb modern guide with outstanding plates and the most recent taxonomy. It covers Hawaii and a huge area of the Pacific -- west to the Marianas (Guam et al.) and Palau; south to Fiji, Samoa, and Tonga; and southeast as far as the Marquesas, Pitcairn, and Ducie I. (but not Easter I.). Basically one can think of it as Hawaii, Micronesia, and Polynesia. It does not, however, cover Melanesia (Solomons or Vanuatu). For the remainder of the realm, the guides are:

Journals: There is no journal covering these areas which is of more than local interest. The 'Eleipao is a fine paperback journal for Hawaii (with peer-reviewed articles), and there are local bird-club newsletters in New Zealand and presumably elsewhere.

Non-bird Book [nature / exploration / science]: An exceptional book that all birders should read -- if only to understand the process of evolution better -- is Jonathan Weiner's (1994) The Beak of the Finch. It is the story of Peter & Rosemary Grant's research in the Galapagos on Darwin's finches (on the deserted island called Daphne Major). This Pulitzer prize winning book details not only some most unexpected research results, but reads like a novel in telling the human story of grinding out scientific study on a lonely, isolated and yet lovely place.

BEST BIRDS [see my explanation for choosing "best birds" here]

My choices for the 7 "best birds" in the Oceanic Island realm follow. The first few surely would be universal choices, but after that it gets difficult to choose between so many fine birds. Left out are any mesites or asities in Madagascar (not to mention such endangered species as the White-winged Ibis Lophotibis crestata and Madagascar Red Owl Tyto soumagnei), the Pink Pigeon Columba mayeri of Mauritius, the Saddleback Creadion carunculatus and Takahe Porphyrio mantelii of New Zealand, the Golden Dove Ptilinopus lueovirens of Fiji, and many Hawaiian honeycreepers (but see a brief discussion of an "extra" pick following the 7 which made it into the "top 50" list:

plus, if I could have another choice in this category, I might chose one of Hawaiian honeycreepers such as: FAVORITE PHOTOS: This link goes to a page with the three favorite Oceanic Island bird photos that I have taken so far.

Literature cited:

Barré, N., and A. Barau. 1982. Oiseaux de la Réunion. Imprimerie Arts Graphiques Modernes, St. Denis, Réunion.

Castro, J., and A. Phillips. 1997. A Guide to the Birds of the Galapagos Islands. Princeton Univ. Press, Princeton, N. J.

Collar, N. J., M. J. Crosby, and A. J. Stattersfield. 1994. Birds to Watch 2: The World List of Threatened Birds. BirdLife International, Norwich, U.K.

Hadden, D. 1981. Birds of the North Solomons. Wau Ecology Institute No. 8, Wau, Papua New Guinea.

Hannecart, F., and Y. Letocart. 1980, 1983. Oiseaux de Nouvelle Caledonie et des Loyautes. 2 vols. Les Editions Cardinalis, Noumea, New Caledonia.

Harris, M. 1974. A Field Guide to the Birds of Galapagos. Collins, London.

Heather, B., and H. Robertson. 1996. The Field Guide to the Birds of New Zealand. Viking, Aukland, N. Z.

Keith, G. S. 1974. Birding planet Earth -- a world overview. Birding 6: 203-216.

Langrand, O. 1990. Guide to the Birds of Madagascar. Yale Univ. Press, New Haven.

Lepson, J. K., and L. A. Freed. 1997.  'Akepa (Loxops coccineus) in The Birds of North America, No. 294 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Academy of Natural Sci., Philadelphia and A.O.U., Washington, D. C.

Marchant, S., and P. J. Higgins. 1991. Handbook of Australian, New Zealand, and Antarctic Birds. Vol. 1 (in two Parts). Oxford Univ. Press.

Michel, C. 1992. Birds of Mauritius. 3d ed. Editions de L'Ocean Indien, Stanley, Mauritius.

Morris, P., and F. Hawkins. 1998. Birds of Madagascar: a Photographic Guide. Yale Univ. Press, New Haven.

Penny, M. 1974. The Birds of Seychelles and the Outlying Islands. Collins, London.

Poole, A. F., P. Stettenheim, and F. B. Gill, eds. 1990-ongoing. Birds of North America: Life Histories for the 21st century. Published individually in fascicles, Acad. of Sciences, Philadelphia, Amer. Ornithol. Union, Washington, D.C., and Cornell Lab. of Ornith., Ithaca, New York.

Pratt, H. D., P. L. Bruner, and D. G. Berrett. 1987. A Field Guide to the Birds of Hawaii and the Tropical Pacific. Princeton Univ. Press, Princeton, N. J.

Scott, J. M., S. Mountainspring, F. L. Ramsey, and C. B. Keplar. 1986. Forest Bird Communities of the Hawaiian Islands: Their Dynamics, Ecology, and Conservation. Studies in Avian Biol. 9, Cooper Ornith. Soc.

Shallenberger, R. J. 1986. Hawaii's Birds. 3d ed., 2d revision. Hawaii Audubon Soc., Honolulu.

Watson, G. E. 1975. Birds of the Antarctic and Sub-Antarctic. Amer. Geophysical Union, Washington, D. C.

Weiner, J. 1994. The Beak of the Finch. Knopf, New York.





page created Feb 1999, updated 23 Apr 2000