Land-birds on the French Polynesian Atolls
plumage of these small herons can be of two different colours:
there is a grey phase and a white phase. The white phase
seems to predominate in general on the atolls. However, the two
phases seem to have been evenly distributed among the 150
individuals counted on Tikehau in October 1984. These birds can be
frequently seen on the coral reefs and the beaches, where they are
fairly conspicuous because of their size. They nest mainly in the
trees and bushes growing on the islets, and sometimes simply on
the ground. The nests of small colonies tend to be clustered
together, but they can also be isolated, far from those of the
Porzana tabuensis Gmelin
sooty crakes are quite inconspicuous birds, they can
certainly make themselves heard: they often emit a shrill
cry to defend their territory, especially at dawn and
nightfall. Their habitats are quite varied, but there is
usually some fairly dense vegetation at ground-level.
Tikehau, sooty crakes have been observed in marshy hollows,
where they build their nests.
Observers reported in 1986 that the nests were
built in marshy places,
and described the nests as being made of Cyperaceae
(sedge) leaves and having a round, hollow shape with
Fruit Dove Ptilinotus
(purpuratus) coralensis Peale
atoll fruit dove is quite tame but tends to be rather
inconspicuous. Its large numbers seem to be due to the
generous supply of small fleshy fruit which form the basis
of its diet. The atoll fruit doves inhabit the woods and
fallow areas on the atolls. .
dozen or so pairs were counted on Tikehau. These birds
build their nests in various trees and bushes, often
preferring the more xerophytic ones. The nests are roughly
constructed with just a few twigs.
Vini peruviana P.L.S. Müller
presence of lorikeets on many of the atolls was reported
during the 19th and 20th Century expeditions, but in many
cases, these reports were only recently confirmed to be
least 22 pairs have been counted on Tikehau, where they
inhabit the south-eastern corner, on both sides of the
pass. Observations carried out on this atoll have
confirmed the there are lorikeet nesting in the hollows of
dead coconut palms and other trees.
Acrocephalus caffer caffer Sparrman
Polynesian warbler is an endemic species. There are 21
existing and extinct forms in all, which can be sub-divided
into two groups. The Tuamotu atolls are frequented by A.
caffer caffer: these tiny birds have a pale plumage, which
makes them well adapted to the sparse, xerophytic
50 pairs were counted on Tikehau, where they are to be
found all round the atoll ring. Their nests are built in
the bushes and shrubs, around forked branches. They are
goblet-shaped and made with various materials, nearly
always including coconut fibres.
The bottoms of these deeply-hollowed nests are
lined with finer components.
Acridotheres tristis L.
are present only on those islands on which they were introduced.
They have been rarely encountered on the Tuamotu atolls,
but can be seen on Hao and Morurua, where they were first
introduced in 1971. This species is known to inhabit the coral
Society Islands (Scilly and Bellingshausen). The rather shapeless
nests consist of a heap of accumulated materials of various kinds.
They are often to be found near places of human habitation.
Aechmorhynchus cancellatus Gmelin
used to be common in Polynesia, but their numbers were greatly
reduced by the introduction of predators such as cats and rats.
These birds are exceptionally tame, which makes them easy prey.
Only a few atolls are thought to be still home to these
increasingly rare sandpipers. There exists only one description of
their nests, according to which they are made of dry grass placed
in a hollow near a lagoon
Gallicolumba erythroptera Gmelin
of the populations of this species seem to have become extinct,
but there may still be a few survivors on the islands where no
predators were introduced. On Tikehau, the Polynesian ground
dove seems to have disappeared for ever since the great cyclones
occurred at the beginning of the 20th Century. There exist no
descriptions of this species' nesting habits.
Ptilinotus chalcurus G.R. Gray
Makatea fruit dove is an endemic species, which is always present
in large numbers. These birds frequent both densely and sparsely
wooded areas, and feed on fruit. No descriptions of their nests or
their eggs have been published so far.
Ducula pacifica Gmelin
colony of Pacific fruit pigeons is still living on Pukapuka, and
another on Makatea. These birds are forest dwellers, but they are
also to be found in the undergrowth of coconut groves, where they
find fruit to feed on. Their nests are roughly built with twigs.
The numbers have greatly decreased because of the game-shooting
which goes on in this part of the world.
Halcyon gambieri Oustalet
species is now extinct on Gambier, but it is said to still exist
on Niau. These kingfishers are attracted to coconut groves, where
they feed on insects, and even on lizards. The mates take turns to
hollow out the nest in the dead and rotting remains of coconut
dominica P.L.S. Müller
the winter, from September to April, large populations of
lesser golden plovers are to be seen on the northern and
central Tuamotu atolls. Many individuals stay on the
islands in the summer, but in this case, they do not
acquire their nuptial plumage. No nest-building activities
have ever been reported in Polynesia as far as these birds
favourite habitats are open spaces, often with no water
nearby. On Tikehau, it was estimated in October 1984 that
there were between 400 and 700 individuals living on the
Numenius tahitiensis Gmelin
are frequent visitors to Polynesia, where they spend the
winter. Most of the winter population (from April to May)
and part of the summer population are to be found on the
Tuamotu atolls. This is the most common of the limicoline
birds after the Wandering
and the Lesser Golden Plover.
frequent the reefs and open spaces of all kinds.
On Tikehau, they have
been seen perching on trees, truncated coconut
palms and Pandanus plants.
Heteroscelus incanus Gmelin
are the most widespread and most numerous limicoline birds to be
found in Polynesia, where they stay every year from July to April
or May. Here again, part
of the population stays on in Polynesia during the summer. They
frequent the beaches and reefs, as well as the river banks and the
various other watersides available. During their migratory flights,
these birds sometimes congregate in hundreds, but on reaching the
atolls, they disperse to the various winter sites.
It has been estimated that the winter population numbered
300-500 individuals on Tikehau in October 84.
Arenaria interpres L.
turnstones probably migrate every year to Polynesia, their numbers
are not very large. They are mainly to be seen on the beaches of
the atolls. Only half a dozen individuals were observed on
Tikehau in October 1984
Calidris alba Pallas
birds also probably migrate regularly to Polynesia, but
only in small numbers. They have generally been seen in
small groups of up to a dozen individuals.
were spotted on Tikehau in October 1984 and on Takapoto in
Calidris melanotus Vieillot
these birds have rarely been observed in Polynesia, they may
actually visit the atolls every year. They tend to frequent the
edges of lagoons, rivers and ponds. They were reported for the
first time in French Polynesia in October 1984, when four members
of this species were spotted near a soft-water pond on Tikehau.
Urodynamis taitensis Sparrman
arevareva, pii ua
these cuckoos are not very numerous, they seem to have a fairly
large habitat, which covers most of eastern Polynesia. They can be
seen all year round, although they have mostly been observed
between March and April. They tend to frequent woods and gardens
near the shore. These birds were observed on Tikehau in May 1985
and in March 1986.
Tringa flavipes Gmelin
sandpiper, which commonly inhabits the North American
continent, is known to frequent Hawai, and according to
one rather doubtful report, it may also have visited the
least 4 individuals were watched for one week in December
1984 on Takapoto, on
the soft-water ponds of the coconut grove and in the
region of Tournefortia. Several photographs of these birds
were also taken on this occasion.