Fauna of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands
The terrestrial fauna of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands is unsurprisingly depauperate, because of the small land area of the islands, their lack of diverse habitats, and their isolation from large land-masses. However, the fauna dependent on marine resources is much richer.
As a small and isolated group of islands in two atolls 24 km apart in the eastern Indian Ocean, the number of species of resident landbirds (as opposed to seabirds and waders) is very small. These comprise the endemic subspecies of buff-banded rail, the introduced green junglefowl and helmeted guineafowl, the white-breasted waterhen, eastern reef egret, nankeen night heron and the introduced Christmas white-eye. Four other introduced species are now extinct in the Islands. Several other landbird species have been recorded occasionally, but none has established a breeding population.
Migratory waders recorded in the islands include some regular visitors as well as vagrants. None breeds there. However, North Keeling is important for breeding seabirds, with sizeable numbers of red-footed boobies, great and lesser frigatebirds, common noddies and white terns. Other breeding seabirds include wedge-tailed shearwaters, masked boobies, brown boobies, red-tailed and white-tailed tropicbirds, and sooty terns. It is possible that the herald petrel breeds there as well.
Presumably, before human occupation of the islands in the 19th century, seabirds bred on both atolls. However, with the establishment of a human population and the introduction of rodents to the southern atoll, significant seabird colonies are now restricted to the northern atoll of North Keeling. Although the Cocos islanders used to visit North Keeling regularly to harvest seabirds, this practice largely ceased with the establishment of Pulu Keeling National Park in 1995.
List of birds
- Yellow-nosed albatross, Thalassarche chlororhynchos - vagrant
- Great egret, Ardea alba - vagrant
- Cattle egret, Ardea ibis - vagrant
- Intermediate egret, Ardea intermedia - vagrant
- Chinese pond heron, Ardeola bacchus - vagrant
- Striated heron, Butorides striatus - vagrant
- Little egret, Egretta garzetta - breeding?
- White-faced heron, Egretta novaehollandiae - vagrant
- Eastern reef egret, Egretta sacra - breeding
- Western reef egret, Egretta gularis - vagrant
- Nankeen night heron, Nycticorax caledonicus - breeding
- Black-crowned night heron, Nycticorax nycticorax - vagrant
- Black bittern, Ixobrychus flavicollis - vagrant
- Yellow bittern, Ixobrychus sinensis - vagrant
- Glossy ibis, Plegadis falcinellus - vagrant
- Greater flamingo, Phoenicopterus ruber - vagrant
- Nankeen kestrel, Falco cenchroides - vagrant
- Common sandpiper, Actitis hypoleucos - regular visitor
- Ruddy turnstone, Arenaria interpres - regular visitor
- Sharp-tailed sandpiper, Calidris acuminata - vagrant
- Sanderling, Calidris alba - vagrant
- Curlew sandpiper, Calidris ferruginea - vagrant
- Red-necked stint, Calidris ruficollis - vagrant
- Red knot, Calidris canutus - vagrant
- Great knot, Calidris tenuirostris - vagrant
- Pin-tailed snipe, Gallinago stenura - vagrant
- Grey-tailed tattler, Heteroscelus brevipes - vagrant
- Bar-tailed godwit, Limosa lapponica - vagrant
- Black-tailed godwit, Limosa limosa - vagrant
- Little curlew, Numenius minutus - vagrant
- Whimbrel, Numenius phaeopus - regular visitor
- Common greenshank, Tringa nebularia - regular visitor
- Common redshank, Tringa totanus - regular visitor
- Red-necked phalarope, Phalaropus lobatus - vagrant
- Black-winged stilt, Himantopus himantopus leucocephalus - vagrant
- Oriental pratincole, Glareola maldivarum - vagrant
- Common noddy, Anous stolidus - breeding
- Lesser noddy, Anous tenuirostris - vagrant
- White-winged tern, Chlidonias leucopterus - vagrant
- White tern, Gygis alba - breeding
- Bridled tern, Onychoprion anaethetus - vagrant
- Sooty tern, Onychoprion fuscatus - breeding
- Common tern, Sterna hirundo - vagrant
- Lesser crested tern, Thalasseus bergii - vagrant
- Greater crested tern, Thalasseus bengalensis - vagrant
- Saunders's tern Sternula saundersi - vagrant
- Christmas imperial pigeon, Ducula whartoni - introduced, extinct
- Buffy fish owl, Ketupa ketupu - vagrant
- Nightjar species, Caprimulgus - vagrant
- Collared kingfisher, Todiramphus chloris - vagrant
- Rainbow bee-eater, Merops ornatus - vagrant
- Dollarbird, Eurystomus orientalis - vagrant
- Java sparrow, Padda oryzivora - introduced, extinct
- Asian golden weaver, Ploceus hypoxanthus - introduced, extinct
- Christmas white-eye, Zosterops natalis - introduced, breeding
- Christmas thrush, Turdus poliocephalus erythropleurus - introduced, extinct
- Rosy starling, Pastor roseus - vagrant
There are no native land mammals. Two species of rodent, the house mouse and black rat, have been introduced to the southern atoll but are absent from North Keeling. Rabbits were introduced but have become extinct. Two species of Asian deer, the Indian muntjac (Muntiacus muntjak), and Sambar (Cervus unicolor), were introduced but did not persist. Marine mammals recorded stranding on, or seen passing by, the islands include:
- Dugong, Dugong dugon – seen in the lagoon of the southern atoll
Terrestrial reptiles include three geckos and a blind-snake, all of which may have been inadvertently transported to the islands by humans:
- Blind snake, Typhlops braminus
Marine reptiles include:
Over 500 species of fish have been recorded around the islands.
- Birding-Aus mailing list archives
- Anon. (2004). Pulu Keeling National Park Management Plan. Australian Government. ISBN 0-642-54964-8
- Birding-Aus Mailing List Archives
- Carter, Mike. (1994). Birds of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands. Wingspan 15: 14-18.
- Gibson-Hill, C.A. (1950). A note on the reptiles occurring on the Cocos-Keeling Islands. Bulletin of the Raffles Museum 22: 206-211.
- Gibson-Hill, C.A. (1950). Notes on the birds of the Cocos-Keeling Islands. Bulletin of the Raffles Museum 22: 212-270.
- Gibson-Hill, C.A. (1950). The Muridae of the Cocos-Keeling Islands. Bulletin of the Raffles Museum 22: 271-277.
- Gibson-Hill, C.A. (1950). A note on the Cetacea stranded on the Cocos-Keeling Islands. Bulletin of the Raffles Museum 22: 278-279.
- Hadden, Don. (2006). Cocos (Keeling) Island birds. Wingspan 16(4): 34-37.
- Stokes, Tony, Wendy Shiels and Kevin Dunn (1984). Birds of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands. 'The Emu' 84 (1): 23-29.
- Stokes, Tony and Peter Goh (1987). Records of Herald Petrels and the Christmas Frigatebird from North Keeling Island, Indian Ocean. 'Australian Bird Watcher' 12 (4) 132-133.
- Woodroffe, Colin D. (Editor) (1994). Ecology and Geomorphology of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands. 'Atoll Research Bulletins' 399-414. Compilation of 14 individual papers by different authors published in a single volume. The papers include an introduction to scientific studies on the Islands, and detailed reports o the climate, hydrology and water resources; Late Quaternary Morphology; Geomorphology; Reef Islands; Vegetation; Update on Birds; Marine habitats; Sediment Facies; Hydrodynamic observations; Hermatypic corals; Marine molluscs; Echindoderms; Fishes; Barnacles; and Decapod crustaceans.