List of birds of French Polynesia
This is a list of the bird species recorded in French Polynesia. The avifauna of French Polynesia include a total of 122 species, of which 27 are endemic, 14 have been introduced by humans and 16 are rare or accidental. Of these, 27 species are globally threatened.
This list's taxonomic treatment (designation and sequence of orders, families and species) and nomenclature (common and scientific names) follow the conventions of The Clements Checklist of Birds of the World, 5th edition. The family accounts at the beginning of each heading reflect this taxonomy, as do the species counts found in each family account. Introduced and accidental species are included in the total counts for French Polynesia.
The following tags have been used to highlight several categories. The commonly occurring native species do not fall into any of these categories.
- (A) Accidental - a species that rarely or accidentally occurs in French Polynesia
- (E) Endemic - a species endemic to French Polynesia
- (I) Introduced - a species introduced to French Polynesia as a consequence, direct or indirect, of human actions
|Table of contents|
Non-passerines: Albatrosses • Shearwaters and petrels • Storm petrels • Tropicbirds • Boobies and gannets • Frigatebirds • Bitterns, herons and egrets • Ducks, geese and swans • Hawks, kites and eagles • Pheasants and partridges • Rails, crakes, gallinules and coots • Plovers and lapwings • Sandpipers and allies • Skuas and jaegers • Gulls • Terns • Pigeons and doves • Parrots, macaws and allies • Cuckoos and anis • Typical owls • Swifts • Kingfishers
The albatrosses are among the largest of flying birds, and the great albatrosses from the genus Diomedea have the largest wingspans of any extant birds. There are 21 species worldwide and 3 species which occur in French Polynesia.
- Wandering albatross, Diomedea exulans
- Royal albatross, Diomedea epomophora
- Black-browed albatross, Thalassarche melanophris (A)
Shearwaters and petrels
The procellariids are the main group of medium-sized "true petrels", characterised by united nostrils with medium septum and a long outer functional primary. There are 75 species worldwide and 24 species which occur in French Polynesia.
- Antarctic giant petrel, Macronectes giganteus (A)
- Cape petrel, Daption capense (A)
- Great-winged petrel, Pterodroma macroptera
- Tahiti petrel, Pterodroma rostrata
- White-headed petrel, Pterodroma lessonii
- Phoenix petrel, Pterodroma alba
- Mottled petrel, Pterodroma inexpectata
- Murphy's petrel, Pterodroma ultima
- Kermadec petrel, Pterodroma neglecta
- Herald petrel, Pterodroma heraldica
- Henderson petrel, Pterodroma atrata
- Juan Fernandez petrel, Pterodroma externa
- Cook's petrel, Pterodroma cookii (A)
- Black-winged petrel, Pterodroma nigripennis
- Blue petrel, Halobaena caerulea
- Bulwer's petrel, Bulweria bulwerii
- Grey petrel, Procellaria cinerea
- Pink-footed shearwater, Puffinus creatopus
- Wedge-tailed shearwater, Puffinus pacificus
- Sooty shearwater, Puffinus griseus
- Short-tailed shearwater, Puffinus tenuirostris
- Christmas shearwater, Puffinus nativitatis
- Little shearwater, Puffinus assimilis
- Audubon's shearwater, Puffinus lherminieri
The storm petrels are relatives of the petrels and are the smallest seabirds. They feed on planktonic crustaceans and small fish picked from the surface, typically while hovering. The flight is fluttering and sometimes bat-like. There are 21 species worldwide and 5 species which occur in French Polynesia.
- White-faced storm petrel, Pelagodroma marina
- White-bellied storm petrel, Fregetta grallaria
- Polynesian storm petrel, Nesofregetta fuliginosa
- Band-rumped storm petrel, Oceanodroma castro (A)
- Leach's storm petrel, Oceanodroma leucorhoa
Tropicbirds are slender white birds of tropical oceans, with exceptionally long central tail feathers. Their heads and long wings have black markings. There are 3 species worldwide and 3 species which occur in French Polynesia.
- Red-billed tropicbird, Phaethon aethereus (A)
- Red-tailed tropicbird, Phaethon rubricauda
- White-tailed tropicbird, Phaethon lepturus
Boobies and gannets
Frigatebirds are large seabirds usually found over tropical oceans. They are large, black-and-white or completely black, with long wings and deeply forked tails. The males have coloured inflatable throat pouches. They do not swim or walk and cannot take off from a flat surface. Having the largest wingspan-to-body-weight ratio of any bird, they are essentially aerial, able to stay aloft for more than a week. There are 5 species worldwide and 2 species which occur in French Polynesia.
Bitterns, herons and egrets
The Ardeidae family contains the bitterns, herons and egrets. Herons and egrets are medium to large wading birds with long necks and legs. Bitterns tend to be shorter necked and more wary. Members of Ardeidae fly with their necks retracted, unlike other long-necked birds such as storks, ibises and spoonbills. There are 61 species worldwide and 5 species which occur in French Polynesia.
- Great blue heron, Ardea herodias
- Great egret, Ardea alba
- Pacific reef heron, Egretta sacra
- Cattle egret, Bubulcus ibis
- Striated heron, Butorides striata
Ducks, geese and swans
Anatidae includes the ducks and most duck-like waterfowl, such as geese and swans. These birds are adapted to an aquatic existence with webbed feet, flattened bills, and feathers that are excellent at shedding water due to an oily coating. There are 131 species worldwide and 3 species which occur in French Polynesia.
- Pacific black duck, Anas superciliosa
- Northern pintail, Anas acuta (A)
- Northern shoveler, Anas clypeata
Hawks, kites and eagles
Accipitridae is a family of birds of prey, which includes hawks, eagles, kites, harriers and Old World vultures. These birds have powerful hooked beaks for tearing flesh from their prey, strong legs, powerful talons and keen eyesight. There are 233 species worldwide and 1 species which occurs in French Polynesia.
- Swamp harrier, Circus approximans (I)
Pheasants and partridges
The Phasianidae are a family of terrestrial birds which consists of quails, partridges, snowcocks, francolins, spurfowls, tragopans, monals, pheasants, peafowls and jungle fowls. In general, they are plump (although they vary in size) and have broad, relatively short wings. There are 156 species worldwide and 2 species which occur in French Polynesia.
Rails, crakes, gallinules and coots
Rallidae is a large family of small to medium-sized birds which includes the rails, crakes, coots and gallinules. Typically they inhabit dense vegetation in damp environments near lakes, swamps or rivers. In general they are shy and secretive birds, making them difficult to observe. Most species have strong legs and long toes which are well adapted to soft uneven surfaces. They tend to have short, rounded wings and to be weak fliers. There are 143 species worldwide and 2 species which occur in French Polynesia.
Plovers and lapwings
The family Charadriidae includes the plovers, dotterels and lapwings. They are small to medium-sized birds with compact bodies, short, thick necks and long, usually pointed, wings. They are found in open country worldwide, mostly in habitats near water. There are 66 species worldwide and 3 species which occur in French Polynesia.
- Pacific golden plover, Pluvialis fulva
- Black-bellied plover, Pluvialis squatarola (A)
- Semipalmated plover, Charadrius semipalmatus (A)
Sandpipers and allies
Scolopacidae is a large diverse family of small to medium-sized shorebirds including the sandpipers, curlews, godwits, shanks, tattlers, woodcocks, snipes, dowitchers and phalaropes. The majority of these species eat small invertebrates picked out of the mud or soil. Variation in length of legs and bills enables multiple species to feed in the same habitat, particularly on the coast, without direct competition for food. There are 89 species worldwide and 10 species which occur in French Polynesia.
- Bristle-thighed curlew, Numenius tahitiensis
- Lesser yellowlegs, Tringa flavipes (A)
- Grey-tailed tattler, Heterosceles brevipes
- Wandering tattler, Heterosceles incanus
- Tuamotu sandpiper, Prosobonia cancellata (E)
- Ruddy turnstone, Arenaria interpres
- Sanderling, Calidris alba
- Pectoral sandpiper, Calidris melanotos
- Buff-breasted sandpiper, Tryngites subruficollis (A)
- Ruff, Philomachus pugnax (A)
Skuas and jaegers
The family Stercorariidae are, in general, medium to large birds, typically with grey or brown plumage, often with white markings on the wings. They nest on the ground in temperate and arctic regions and are long-distance migrants. There are 7 species worldwide and 2 species which occur in French Polynesia.
Laridae is a family of medium to large seabirds, the gulls and kittiwakes. They are typically grey or white, often with black markings on the head or wings. They have stout, longish bills and webbed feet. There are 55 species worldwide and 3 species which occur in French Polynesia.
- Ring-billed gull, Larus delawarensis (A)
- Laughing gull, Larus atricilla (A)
- Franklin's gull, Larus pipixcan (A)
Terns are a group of generally medium to large seabirds typically with grey or white plumage, often with black markings on the head. Most terns hunt fish by diving but some pick insects off the surface of fresh water. Terns are generally long-lived birds, with several species known to live in excess of 30 years. There are 44 species worldwide and 7 species which occur in French Polynesia.
- Great crested tern, Sterna bergii
- Grey-backed tern, Sterna lunata
- Sooty tern, Sterna fuscata
- Black noddy, Anous minutus
- Brown noddy, Anous stolidus
- Blue noddy, Procelsterna cerulea
- White tern, Gygis alba
Pigeons and doves
- Rock pigeon, Columba livia (I)
- Zebra dove, Geopelia striata (I)
- Polynesian ground dove, Gallicolumba erythroptera (E)
- Marquesan ground dove, Gallicolumba rubescens (E)
- Grey-green fruit dove, Ptilinopus purpuratus (E)
- Makatea fruit dove, Ptilinopus chalcurus (E)
- Atoll fruit dove, Ptilinopus coralensis (E)
- Rapa fruit dove, Ptilinopus huttoni (E)
- White-capped fruit dove, Ptilinopus dupetithouarsii (E)
- Red-moustached fruit dove, Ptilinopus mercierii (E)
- Pacific imperial pigeon, Ducula pacifica (I)
- Polynesian imperial pigeon, Ducula aurorae (E)
- Marquesan imperial pigeon, Ducula galeata (E)
Parrots, macaws and allies
Parrots are small to large birds with a characteristic curved beak. Their upper mandibles have slight mobility in the joint with the skull and they have a generally erect stance. All parrots are zygodactyl, having the four toes on each foot placed two at the front and two to the back. There are 335 species worldwide and 3 species which occur in French Polynesia.
- Kuhl's lorikeet, Vini kuhlii (E)
- Blue lorikeet, Vini peruviana (E)
- Ultramarine lorikeet, Vini ultramarina (E)
Cuckoos and anis
The family Cuculidae includes cuckoos, roadrunners and anis. These birds are of variable size with slender bodies, long tails and strong legs. The Old World cuckoos are brood parasites. There are 138 species worldwide and 1 species which occurs in French Polynesia.
- Long-tailed koel, Eudynamys taitensis
The typical owls are small to large solitary nocturnal birds of prey. They have large forward-facing eyes and ears, a hawk-like beak and a conspicuous circle of feathers around each eye called a facial disk. There are 195 species worldwide and 1 species which occurs in French Polynesia.
- Great horned owl, Bubo virginianus (I)
Swifts are small birds which spend the majority of their lives flying. These birds have very short legs and never settle voluntarily on the ground, perching instead only on vertical surfaces. Many swifts have long swept-back wings which resemble a crescent or boomerang. There are 98 species worldwide and 2 species which occur in French Polynesia.
Kingfishers are medium-sized birds with large heads, long, pointed bills, short legs and stubby tails. There are 93 species worldwide and 4 species which occur in French Polynesia.
- Tahiti kingfisher, Todirhamphus veneratus (E)
- Chattering kingfisher, Todirhamphus tuta
- Marquesas kingfisher, Todirhamphus godeffroyi (E)
- Tuamotu kingfisher, Todirhamphus gambieri (E)
Swallows and martins
The Hirundinidae family is adapted to aerial feeding. They have a slender streamlined body, long pointed wings and a short bill with a wide gape. The feet are adapted to perching rather than walking, and the front toes are partially joined at the base. There are 75 species worldwide and 3 species which occur in French Polynesia.
Wagtails and pipits
Motacillidae is a family of small passerine birds with medium to long tails. They include the wagtails, longclaws and pipits. They are slender, ground feeding insectivores of open country. There are 54 species worldwide and 1 species which occurs in French Polynesia.
- White wagtail, Motacilla alba
Bulbuls are medium-sized songbirds. Some are colourful with yellow, red or orange vents, cheeks, throats or supercilia, but most are drab, with uniform olive-brown to black plumage. Some species have distinct crests. There are 130 species worldwide and 1 species which occurs in French Polynesia.
- Red-vented bulbul, Pycnonotus cafer (I)
Old World warblers
The family Sylviidae is a group of small insectivorous passerine birds. They mainly occur as breeding species, as the common name implies, in Europe, Asia and, to a lesser extent, Africa. Most are of generally undistinguished appearance, but many have distinctive songs. There are 291 species worldwide and 4 species which occur in French Polynesia.
- Tahiti reed warbler, Acrocephalus caffer (E)
- Tuamotu reed warbler, Acrocephalus atyphus (E)
- Rimatara reed warbler, Acrocephalus rimatarae (E)
- Marquesan reed warbler, Acrocephalus mendanae (E)
Old World flycatchers
Old World flycatchers are a large group of small passerine birds native to the Old World. They are mainly small arboreal insectivores. The appearance of these birds is highly varied, but they mostly have weak songs and harsh calls. There 274 species worldwide and 1 species which occurs in French Polynesia.
- Northern wheatear, Oenanthe oenanthe
The monarch flycatchers are small to medium-sized insectivorous passerines which hunt by flycatching. There are 99 species worldwide and 4 species which occur in French Polynesia.
- Tahiti monarch, Pomarea nigra (E)
- Iphis monarch, Pomarea iphis (E)
- Marquesas monarch, Pomarea mendozae (E)
- Fatuhiva monarch, Pomarea whitneyi (E)
The white-eyes are small and mostly undistinguished, their plumage above being generally some dull colour like greenish-olive, but some species have a white or bright yellow throat, breast or lower parts, and several have buff flanks. As their name suggests, many species have a white ring around each eye. There are 96 species worldwide and 1 species which occurs in French Polynesia.
- Silver-eye, Zosterops lateralis (I)
Starlings are small to medium-sized passerine birds. Their flight is strong and direct and they are very gregarious. Their preferred habitat is fairly open country. They eat insects and fruit. Plumage is typically dark with a metallic sheen. There are 125 species worldwide and 1 species which occurs in French Polynesia.
- Common myna, Acridotheres tristis (I)
Waxbills and allies
The estrildid finches are small passerine birds of the Old World tropics and Australasia. They are gregarious and often colonial seed eaters with short thick but pointed bills. They are all similar in structure and habits, but have wide variation in plumage colours and patterns. There are 141 species worldwide and 3 species which occur in French Polynesia.
- Common waxbill, Estrilda astrild (I)
- Red-browed firetail, Neochmia temporalis (I)
- Chestnut-breasted munia, Lonchura castaneothorax (I)
The tanagers are a large group of small to medium-sized passerine birds restricted to the New World, mainly in the tropics. Many species are brightly coloured. They are seed eaters, but their preference tends towards fruit and nectar. Most have short, rounded wings. There are 256 species worldwide and 1 species which occurs in French Polynesia.
- Crimson-backed tanager, Ramphocelus dimidiatus (I)