Point and transect
Giant forest honeyeater
5.3 Endemic Species and High Conservation value
Fifteen of the bird species recorded during the survey are endemic to Fiji. These were recorded
across the study region. Those species encountered at lower rates tended to be species that are
considered to be of conservation significance.
Masked shining parrot Prosopeia tabuensis, listed as Near Threatened (IUCN Redbook) was
widespread and whilst not abundant (26 individuals recorded along transects and points) it was
regularly encountered across the study region. The Black-throated shrikebill Prosopeia tabuensis
(IUCN Vulnerable) was observed along one transect (male and female) and was re-recorded
on a replicate survey. After observation of this species, call identification was enhanced, and
subsequently this species was noted on a second transect based on call identification. The
week of the survey period along a section of roadway to the west of the Monasavu Dam and
the Long-legged warbler Trichocichla rufa (IUCN Endangered) was observed incidentally whilst
undertaking reconnaissance to establish survey locations.
5.4 Introduced Avian Species
During the survey three species of invasive bird species were regularly recorded – Red-vented
bulbul Pycnonotus cafer, Indian or Common myna Acridotheres tristis and the Jungle myna
Acridotheres fuscus. These species were most abundant along roadways, tracks and easements.
Unfortunately the continuing inability to locate the Kulawai may indicate that this species has in
fact become extinct within Fiji. Careful consideration needs to be taken should this status change
occur. However, the lack of ecological knowledge of this species may be contributing to the lack of
records with surveys being designed more on luck that strategic scientific basis.
There are two potential hypothesis for the presence (or lack thereof) of the Kulawai in the
Monasavu region over the survey period, if this area is indeed the stronghold of the species.
The first hypothesis is that the species is nomadic and moves away from this area outside of peak
vuga flowering times, in search of other food resources. The species’ wing design suggest the ability
for the birds to fly long distances (Watling pers com), suggesting it may be nomadic, searching
out appropriate food resources. This behavioural pattern is well known in a number of lorikeet
species. For example the Australian Swift parrot (Lathamus discolor) migrates between mainland
Australia and the blue gum (Eucalyptus globulus) woodlands of Tasmania during the breeding
season. Breeding corresponds with the peak flowering of the blue gum (SPRAT 2011). It may be that
similar movement patterns occur in the Kulawai and the lack of food resources in the Monasavu
region during the survey period indicates that the population of the species is elsewhere during
low flowering period. The question then becomes one of where do the birds go? This hypothesis
then raises the question of whether the flowering cycles of the vuga in the Monasavu region is an
indicator of the presence and subsequent breeding of the red-throated lorikeet, assuming that the
species is as dependant on this plant as believed. Again, should there be a connection between
intense periods of flowering in the Monasavu and lorikeet breeding, one could then expect the
potential detection for the species to increase during this period particularly if birds congregate
in high resource. Birds also tend to call and be more obvious during breeding. This would then
suggest that the region is a core breeding area, rather than the “stronghold” of the species.
The second hypothesis is that the species remains in the Monasavu region throughout the year,
but is much more widely dispersed and much more nomadic during periods of low food resource
availability. This suggests that the species can utilise a range of flower types and as such is not
Biodiversity Conservation Lessons Learned Technical Series
as dependant on the vuga as believed. This will dramatically decrease the chances of locating
decreases the chances of locating individuals outside of peak flowering seasons. Subsequently
individuals will only congregate, thus making detection easier, during periods of high food
resource availability. It was based on this hypothesis that time was spent in eucalypt plantations,
that the abundance of food resources (both nectar and pollen) would be concentrated enough to
pull Kulawai into the plantations from the wider rainforest. This was not substantiated during the
Either one of these hypothesis would direct the methodology and timing of surveying for the
Kulawai. Paradoxically, without ecological knowledge on the species the best methods of surveying
cannot be determined, but this knowledge will not be obtained without finding the species first.
At present, the survey methods will depend purely on chance. There are a number of possible
ways to increase the chances of finding the species. The first of these is the timing of the surveys
undertaken. In is the belief of the author that this survey, plus the other two reports of Swinnerton
and Malikovic (2002) and Masibalavu and Mucklow (2008) were undertaken at the wrong time of
the year to optimise the chances of locating Kulawai in the Monasavu region.
Historic records of specimen collections as summarised in Swinnerton and Maljkovic (2002) have
most individuals collected between May and October, Watling (pers comm.) observations fall within
this time period and the last recorded observation of the species in 2008 was in July. Each of the
recent surveys to locate Kulawai were undertaken over the wet season, with the 2002 survey run
from November through to April, the 2008 survey undertaken in January and the current survey
undertaken between January and March. For each survey Vuga (and other potential food resources)
were noted to be patchy in flowering, but were the focus of intensive observational surveys. These
methods have assumed that the second hypothesis – that birds are present all year round in the
region – is the correct ecological assumption, and that individuals will be drawn to the patchy food
resources available. To date this has obviously not resulted in the successful detection of the species.
Anecdotal observations indicate peak flowering of Vuga and other possible food sources occurs
between April and July in the Monasavu area, with a second event between August and October
(Swinnerton and Maljikovic 2002). These flowering event correspond with the historic collection
dates and observation dates in the Monasavu. Should the peak flowering of Vuga be an important
event in the Kulawai reproductive cycle (hypothesis 1), then this would suggest that these peak
periods would be the optimal time to conduct surveys.
The timing of the survey is only one consideration. The actual methods applied also need to be
considered. At this time, until confirmation of the species occurs and further ecological knowledge
is obtained, again increasing the chance of locating individuals is the best bet to locating the
A large scale field survey, timed to co-ordinate with a peak Vuga session may locate individuals. A
number of teams of 2-3 people may be posited around the Monasavu area at areas of extensive
flowering. Teams would spend a day at a single location observing the bird activity in the area.
Volunteers for such a survey could be easily sourced from within the greater international birding
community as the opportunity to spend time in an area with the avifauna that the Monasavu area
supports would be appealing to many birders worldwide. By providing accommodation, transport
to Nadala/Nadarivatu from Tavua and food, such a survey would also provide revenue for the local
villages in the Monasavu region.
I believe at this time, the most effective method to try to confirm that the Kulawai is extant is to get
necessarily have to co-ordinate with the beginning of this event; in fact it would probably be more
effective to time the surveys from the middle towards the end of the flowering events. This will give
time for birds to arrive in the region in response to the event, and hopefully time surveys with peak
numbers of individuals in the region.
6.2 Other Avian Species
The record of all (bar 3) bird species expected in the Monasavu region is a good indication that the
assemblage in this region is still intact and the ongoing land management has not caused a loss of
species in the region. The impact of land management on the abundance of individuals is unknown
however, anecdotally, there are stark contrasts in the activity of birds in the mahogany plantations
with native forest; the plantations appear to support few if any birds, and there are elevated
numbers of nectarivores in the eucalypt plantations during periods of flowering.
Surveys undertaken in 2006 by ECF failed to locate owls in the region, though they were believed
to occur there. Confirmation of the presence of Barn owls Tyto alba in the region occurred during
the current surveys. An individual was observed early morning on the Monasavu Road and a pellet
was discovered at the base of Monasavu Dam.
The SPREP Bird Conservation Priorities and a Draft Conservation Strategy for the Pacific Islands
region (Sherley 2001) identifies the lack of a national project to monitor the forest birds of Fiji as a
key area that needs developing. This requirement stems directly from the Fiji Biodiversity Strategy
and Action Plan: Objective 2.4: Achieve a detailed knowledge of the occurrence and status over time
of Fiji’s biodiversity resources, in particular the threatened endemic forms – Action 36.Objective 4.1:
Effectively manage threatened species – Actions 60, 61, 63
The general avian surveys undertaken during this study may contribute to establishing a number
of locations in the Monasavu area to contribute to the ongoing monitoring of the forest birds of
Fiji. Ongoing surveying of the established transects, will over time, enable a more comprehensive
understanding of what is happening with regards to the forest avifauna.
6.3 Invasive Species
The increasing use of the forest around the Monasavu region for forestry, agriculture and other
purposes is opening up access to these forests for invasive avian species. Surveys undertaken in
2008 by Masibalavu and Mucklow failed to locate either common or jungle myna at one of her
survey sites and she considered them to be generally uncommon at other survey sites. Red-vented
bulbul were considered very common however (Masibalavu and Mucklow 2008). This current
survey found similar abundances of red-vented bulbul, but increased numbers of common myna.
Miscellaneous observations also found high numbers of this species around the banks of the
Monasavu dam, and prevalent along powerline easements and walking tracks. These tracks are
increasing the penetration of these aggressive, introduced species into the remaining forest which
may contribute not only to the decline of the red-throated lorikeet, but also may impact on the
sustainable populations of other avian species.
Blanvillain et al (2003) found that both common myna and red-vented bulbul contributed to the
decline in the breeding success of the Tahiti flycatch (Pomarea nigra), and Thibault et al (2002) suggest
that both these introduced species are compounding extinction effects on Polynesian monarchs.
nest hollows, out competing a number of Australian parrot species. There may be size parameters
that limit direct competition between mynas and kulawai for nest hollows, however there may be an
overlap in hollow sizes that once accessible to the lorikeets are now no longer available. This potential
loss of breeding resource, combined with habitat loss and increasing nest predation from introduced
rodents, may be another contributing factor to the apparent decline in the Kulawai.
6.4 Survey Constraints
As with all other surveys in the Monasavu region the main constraints to the current survey were
access to forested areas and weather conditions. The topography of the region is mountainous,
with steep drop offs, confining most access ways to ridgelines or along waterways. Subsequently
large tracts of forest are literally inaccessible. These access issues may bias the results of both
surveys for kulawai and general bird surveys. It is likely that disturbance tolerant species, including
invasive species, will be more readily detected along established transects. More cryptic and “non-
edge” species will be harder to detect.
Weather played havoc to surveys, confining most of the survey work to the mornings. Generally
mid-day and afternoons were rained out. Mornings were also plagued by low cloud, impacting on
6.5 Community Involvement
A secondary outcome of this survey was the involvement and training of two local community
members. Both provided local knowledge of the area, as well as access to village land. It is hoped
that the skills passed on in bird identification and survey planning – such as the need for accurate
information to be communicated by local guides – will enable the development of eco-tourism
ventures based around birding. The Monasavu region supports a unique avifauna, which will
appeal to many travellers. Combining this demand with local knowledge, accommodation,
transport requirements and catering, there is the potential to develop a sustainable industry that
will benefit not just the trained guides, but the community as a whole. If home stays are arranged,
the local women engaged to cater for tour groups or local drivers contracted to provide transport
from Tavua to and around the mountains, the entire region should be able to benefit.
The skills learnt by local community members will also be passed onto other community groups.
The involvement of the Tomanivi Nature Club will become invaluable in the ongoing monitoring
of not only Kulawai, but the avifauna as a whole in the region. The Nature Club was establish and is
run with the guidance and support of NatureFiji–MareqetiViti.
Unfortunately the outcomes of this survey raise further questions as to the likelihood that the
Kulawai has in fact gone extinct. There has been no confirmed record of this species in recent times,
and specific, targeted surveys have failed to turn up any signs of the species. Survey timing may
have a significant influence on the inability to detect the species and until surveys are run at other
times of the year, any changes of status to the species should be refrained from being made.
General bird surveys and locations of transects may be the first step in establishing a formal, long
of species, and it appears that the natural species assemblage has been maintained in the region,
regardless of past land management. This should be considered should any future plans to modify
the local landscape be developed.
Beehler, B.M., Pratt, T.K. and Zimmerman, D.A. 1986. Birds of New Guinea. Princeton: Princeton
Birdlife International (2006) Important bird areas in Fiji: Conserving Fiji’s natural heritage. Suva, Fiji:
Birdlife International Pacific Partnership Secretariat.
Blanvillain, C., Salducci, J. M., Tutururai, G., and Maeura, M. (2003). Impact of introduced birds on
the recovery of the Tahiti Flycatcher (Pomarea nigra), a critically endangered forest bird of Tahiti
Biological Conservation, 109, pp 197-205
ECF ( 2006). Management Plan for the Tomanivi Nature Reserve, Ba. Unpublished report prepared for
Department of Forests by Environment Consultants Fiji, on behalf of Bird Life International, Fiji.
IUCN 2011. Accessed July 2011. Charmosyna amabilis. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version
Juniper, T. and Parr, M. 1998. Parrots: a guide to the parrots of the world. Pica press.
Masibalavu, V.,and Mucklow, C. (2008). Red-throated Lorikeet Survey January 2008 including
recommendations for future survey work for this Critically Endangered species in Fiji. Unpublished
Savannah woodland in eastern Australia. Biological Conservation, 79, pp 145 153.
Swinnerton, K. and Maljikovic, A. (2002). The Red-throated Lorikeet in the Fiji Island. Unpublished
report prepared for the National Trust for Fiji, World Parrot Trust and Environment Consultants Fiji
Thibault, J-C., Martin, J-L., Penloup, A. And Meyer, J-Y. (2002). Understanding the decline and
Sherley, G. (2001) South Pacific Regional Environment Plan (SPREP) Bird Conservation Priorities and a
Draft Conservation Strategy for the Pacific Islands region. Apia, Samoa.
SPRAT (2011). Accessed July 2011 www.environment.gov.au/cgi-bin/sprat/public/publicspecies.
Watling, D. (2001). A guide to the birds of Fiji and Western Polynesia: including American Samoa, Niue,
Samoa, Tokelau, Tuvalu and Wallis and Futuna. Suva, Fiji. Environmental Consultants (Fiji) Ltd.
Behind Nadala village, access from road
running behind school, track runs north/
south towards Navai. Combination of
open, agricultural land and forest.
2 – both
Walking track of road to Koro towers.
Track runs north/south. Track runs
through forestry land, into plantation
mahogany. End point before plantation
Forestry track runs from Nadrau Road to
river. Runs through combination forestry/
impacted agricultural land and forest.
Used is other surveys, and is believed
to be general location where last 2008
observation occurred. Runs east/west.
Loop of track through forest. Northern
section established as access to power
line easement. Runs east west of Nandra
Road, and loops back, with parallel track
south of access track.
Southern most transect off Nadrau Road.
Runs from west to east through old
growth, low impacted forest. Initial access
through agricultural land. Runs towards
edge of Monasavu lake.
Northern most Transect of Monasavu
Road. Old forestry track, beginning to
overgrow. Runs south/north through low
Section of road along Monasavu Road.
Selected due to high levels of Vure in
flower at initiation of surveys. Runs
through forest, with good views down
into canopy. End at walking track that
heads to Monasavu Lake.