Fauna of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands

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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 (15 mi) 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[edit]


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:


Terrestrial reptiles include three geckos and a blind-snake, all of which may have been inadvertently transported to the islands by humans:

Marine reptiles include:


Over 500 species of fish have been recorded around the islands.

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o 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.