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Bird life on Tokoriki

Wednesday November 11, 2009

In common with many isolated island groups, Fiji has relatively few species of birds, around about 90. Nevertheless, Tokoriki and the surrounding islands are home to some interesting birdlife.

Most obvious is the Indian Mynah. This species was introduced to Fiji in the 1890s to control sugar cane pests. It has since spread across Fiji, to almost all outlying islands.
The Jungle Mynah is found mostly on Viti Levu, and has not made it to Tokoriki.
Mynahs are very gregarious, living in pairs but feeding in groups. They can be very aggressive towards predators, and their repeated harsh screeches make it plain when there is a cat around.

Another raucous Tokoriki resident is the white collared kingfisher. This is heard screeching at daybreak from a high vantage point. They often perch in the trees above the reading room. Despite their name, they feed mostly on insects, and are very partial to the green tree skinks.

Delighting guests by drinking, on the wing, from the swimming pools, is the Pacific swallow. They roost on the moored boats and for a small bird make a lot of mess!
At the top of the hill, near the telephone mast, lives a colony of Fiji wood swallows. They are not a true swallow, but look similar, with striking black and white markings. They pluck insects from mid air, and are outstanding acrobats.
Several species of small woodland birds live in the resort grounds – the green coloured white eye, the red headed parrot finch (the juveniles have blue caps), the orange breasted honeyeater (a flash of colour zipping from bush to bush), and the endemic Vanikoro broadbill. A brood of broadbills has successfully fledged from a nest just in front of the dive shop in the last week.

Hunting these small birds is the Fiji Goshawk, a handsome bird of prey with grey and pink plumage. The other larger predator, often seen quartering the hillside behind the resort, is the Pacific harrier. This feeds on rodents and small birds, but on Tokoriki it’s main prey would seem to be bats.
Stalking the beach is the reef heron, mostly the brown colour phase on Tokoriki, but also seen in white.

The most common seabird around are the crested terns, which roost on the rocks at the northern tip of the island. The tiny, beautiful, white tern is less common. They nest on Yavuriba Island, the little speck of land to the north of Tokoriki, and are often seen feeding by guests on Light tackle fishing trips. With shallow reef water reflecting on their plumage, they seem almost pale blue in colour.

Fishermen encounter several other kinds of birds whilst trolling off shore. Huge flocks of common noddies and wedgetail shearwaters feed around Monuriki and Mana Passage, and are often a sign of baitfish. Wedgetails nest in burrows on Monuriki and in the Sacred Islands. Best sight of all, though, is feeding boobies- mostly brown boobies, but occasionally red footed. These birds plummeting into the water are a sure sign of predatory fish below. Patrolling high above the feeding birds is the sinister looking, forked tailed frigate bird. These airborne pirates attack other birds, forcing them to drop their hard won fish or squid. The frigate then effortlessly intercepts the falling morsel in mid air. Seeing frigates from shore is a sign of bad weather. During times of strong winds, there are often several frigates wheeling high above Tokoriki.

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Illustration of Red tooth triggerfish