List of birds of the Cook Islands
This is a list of the bird species recorded in the Cook Islands. The avifauna of the Cook Islands include a total of 50 species, of which six are endemic, one has been introduced by humans and three are rare or accidental. Ten species are globally threatened. Birds described from subfossil remains that became extinct as a consequence of human settlement of the islands and the introduction of exotic mammals include the Mangaia rail (Gallirallus ripleyi) and the Mangaia crake (Porzana rua).
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, 6th 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 the Cook Islands.
The following tags have been used to highlight several categories. Not all species fall into one of these categories. Those that do not are commonly occurring native species.
- (A) Accidental - a species that rarely or accidentally occurs in the Cook Islands
- (E) Endemic - a species endemic to the Cook Islands
- (Ex) Extinct - a species extinct to the Cook Islands
- (I) Introduced - a species introduced to the Cook Islands 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 • Plovers and lapwings • Sandpipers and allies • Gulls, terns, and skimmers • Pigeons and doves • Parrots and allies • Cuckoos and anis • 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.
- Royal albatross, Diomedea epomophora
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.
- Hall's giant petrel, Macronectes halli (A)
- Cape petrel, Daption capense
- Tahiti petrel, Pterodroma rostrata
- Phoenix petrel, Pterodroma alba (A)
- Murphy's petrel, Pterodroma ultima
- Kermadec petrel, Pterodroma neglecta (A)
- Herald petrel, Pterodroma heraldica
- Gould's petrel, Pterodroma leucoptera
- Black-winged petrel, Pterodroma nigripennis
- Sooty shearwater, Ardenna griseus
- Christmas shearwater, Puffinus nativitatis
- Tropical shearwater, Puffinus bailloni
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.
Tropicbirds are slender white birds of tropical oceans, with exceptionally long central tail feathers. Their heads and long wings have black markings.
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.
Bitterns, herons and egrets
The family Ardeidae 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.
- Pacific reef heron, Egretta sacra
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.
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.
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.
- Bristle-thighed curlew, Numenius tahitiensis
- Grey-tailed tattler, Tringa brevipes
- Wandering tattler, Tringa incana
- Ruddy turnstone, Arenaria interpres
Gulls, terns, and skimmers
Laridae is a family of medium to large seabirds, the gulls, terns, and skimmers. Gulls are typically grey or white, often with black markings on the head or wings. They have stout, longish bills and webbed feet. 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.
- Black-naped tern, Sterna sumatrana
- Common tern, Sterna hirundo
- Sooty tern, Onychoprion fuscatus
- Brown noddy, Anous stolidus
- Blue noddy, Procelsterna cerulea
- White tern, Gygis alba
Pigeons and doves
- Rock pigeon, Columba livia
- Cook Islands fruit dove, Ptilinopus rarotongensis (E)
- Pacific imperial pigeon, Ducula pacifica
Parrots and allies
Cuckoos and anis
- Long-tailed koel, Eudynamys taitensis
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.
- Atiu swiftlet, Aerodramus sawtelli (E)
Kingfishers are medium-sized birds with large heads, long pointed bills, short legs and stubby tails.
- Cook reed warbler, Acrocephalus kerearako (E)
The monarch flycatchers are small to medium-sized insectivorous passerines which hunt by flycatching.
- Rarotonga monarch, Pomarea dimidiata (E)
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.
- Mauke starling, Aplonis mavornata (Ex)
- Rarotonga starling, Aplonis cinerascens (E)
- Common myna, Acridotheres tristis (I)
- Steadman, D. W. (1986). "Two new species of rails (Aves: Rallidae) from Mangaia, Southern Cook Islands.". Pacific Science. 40 (1): 27–43.