email a friend
printable version
Lord Howe Island
Country/Territory Australia
Area 17 
Altitude 0 - 800m  
Priority urgent 
Habitat loss limited 
Knowledge good 

General characteristics 

The small oceanic island of Lord Howe lies 600 km east of the mainland of Australia, to which it belongs politically, being included in the state of New South Wales. There are several small rocky islets around the periphery of the island, including the Admiralty group, Rabbit and Mutton Bird Islands, and Ball's Pyramid, a monolithic spire which rises to c.550

Restricted-range species 

Of all the Pacific's EBAs, Lord Howe Island has the third-greatest number (four) of restricted-range species to have become extinct since 1800 (after the Hawaiian EBAs, 217 and 218).

Both of the extant restricted-range species occur in forest, but Gallirallus sylvestris favours palm forests at lower altitudes and mossy forest at higher altitudes (and is rarely found in rain forest), and therefore has a restricted distribution within the island, while Zosterops tephropleurus occurs in all wooded habitats and is widespread.

In addition to its restricted-range species, several endemic subspecies occur or occurred on Lord Howe Island, and a couple of seabirds with tiny breeding ranges nest on the island or on small islets nearby (see 'Threats and conservation', below).

Species IUCN Category
Lord Howe Woodhen (Hypotaenidia sylvestris)  EN 
White Swamphen (Porphyrio albus)  EX 
Lord Howe Gerygone (Gerygone insularis)  EX 
 (Zosterops tephropleurus)  NR 
Robust White-eye (Zosterops strenuus)  EX 
Norfolk Island Starling (Aplonis fusca)  EX 

Threats and conservation 

Given that less than 10% of the native vegetation on Lord Howe Island has been cleared for farming and settlements, it is perhaps surprising that four of the six restricted-range birds which occurred there in historical times are extinct and that a number of subspecies have also been extirpated, e.g. White-throated Pigeon Columba vitiensis godmanae (last seen in 1853), Kakariki Cyanoramphus novae- zelandiae subflavescens (1869), Boobook Ninox novaeseelandiae albaria (1950s), Grey Fantail Rhipidura fuliginosa cervina (1924) and Vinous-tinted Thrush Turdus poliocephalus vinitinctus (1913) (Garnett 1993).

However, several taxa, including Porphyrio albus, were eliminated by visiting sailors prior to settlement, and it is likely that the effects of introduced species (cats, rats, dogs, pigs, goats), and particularly predation by introduced black rats Rattus rattus, accounted for the rest. Zosterops strenuus, for example, was formerly numerous in lowland forest, but disappeared soon after an invasion of rats following a shipwreck in 1918. Various non-native owls, particularly Masked Owl Tyto novaehollandiae, which were introduced between 1922 and 1930 to combat the rat plague, resulted in the disappearance of Ninox novaeseelandiae albaria (Garnett 1993).

Predator control (including the elimination of feral cats, neutering of domestic ones, and a strict policy of non replacement), and the elimination of pigs and goats, coupled with intensive study, captive breeding and release, has resulted in the improving status of Gallirallus sylvestris, which was close to extinction in the 1970s (fewer than 30 birds) but is now much more secure (more than 200 birds). However, predation by introduced Tyto novaehollandiae remains an important threat, and was thought to be responsible for a major decline in one population in 1989 (Brouwer and Garnett 1990, Garnett 1993).

Zosterops tephropleurus has apparently adapted successfully to the presence of rats but remains vulnerable on account of its tiny range, as do several extant subspecies which are treated as 'Of Special Concern' in Garnett (1993) including Golden Whistler Pachycephala pectoralis contempta, Silvereye Zosterops lateralis chlorocephala and Pied Currawong Strepera graculina crissalis.

One species and one subspecies of seabird with very restricted breeding ranges occur on Lord Howe Island: Providence Petrel Pterodroma solandri (classified as Vulnerable), which nests in burrows and rock crevices on the forested upper slopes of Mts Lidgbird and Gower (and is only known to breed elsewhere on Philip Island near Norfolk Island, EBA 205), and White-bellied Storm Petrel Fregatta grallaria grallaria, which was eliminated from rocky outcrops on Lord Howe Island by feral cats and rats about 1913, and is now confined to nearby islets with a small breeding population on the Kermadec Islands north of New Zealand (Marchant and Higgins 1990).

In 1982 the Lord Howe Island group was designated a World Heritage Site.

Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Endemic Bird Area factsheet: Lord Howe Island. Downloaded from on 23/10/2016

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife