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Location Fiji, Viti Levu
Central coordinates 178o 26.00' East  17o 22.00' South
IBA criteria A4i, A4iii
Area 2 ha
Altitude 0 - 65m
Year of IBA assessment 2006

NatureFiji- MareqetiViti (Affiliate)

Summary Vatu-i-Ra supports a large breeding and non-breeding population of Black Noddies together with a range of other breeding seabirds. 

Site description Vatu-i-Ra is a small island approximately 100m by 300m wide, comprising two small hills connected by a narrow neck.  The higher north-east side and each end of the island are composed of volcanic rock. The rest of the islands consists of flat coral sand, not far above spring high tide level. 

Key Biodiversity Vatu-i-Ra is one of the most regularly monitored sites in Fiji with data available from over 15 survey visits extending back to 1963. The island qualifies as an IBA owing to its internationally significant population of Black Noddy. It can be difficult to compare between survey years as different methods have been used to count seabird populations. Counts of apparently occupied nests were lower in 1963 (1500 estimated by Morris) and 1974 (4550 - Tarburton 1978) than in recent years with total nest counts of c.26,000 in 2003 (BirdLife International 2003), c.29,000 in 2008 (Roneil et al. 2008) and c.21,000 in 2011 (BirdLife International, unpublished data). However, estimates of the number of adults during regular visits between 1974 and 1981 based on mark-recapture extrapolations from a banded sample of birds fluctuate between 10,865 and 58,203 (Tarburton 1987). These estimates are roughly comparable with total population estimates we can derive from the number of apparently occupied nests between 2003 and 2011 (based on a ratio of 1 nest: 3 adults including non-breeding birds). Elsewhere, Black Noddy populations show considerable within-season, inter-annual and decadal population fluctuations (Congdon et al. 2007), so it is not yet possible to detect long-term population trends, or to definitively say whether the removal of rats from the island is allowing a population increase. As a tree-nesting species Black Noddy is not highly susceptible to egg-predation by rats. While Black Noddies from Vatu-i-Ra have been shown to disperse as far as the Solomon Islands during the non-breeding season (Tarburton 1987), the species is predominantly sedentary, often roosting within breeding colonies during the non-breeding season, and it is considered a principally near-shore species (BirdLife International Foraging Range Database). The site also supports key populations of a number of other seabird species. Estimates of the number of breeding seabirds have remained relatively constant with: Red-footed Booby - 300–500 nests in 1963 (Morris undated), 400 nests in 1974 (Tarburton 1978), 400 individuals in 2003 (BirdLife International 2003), 600 individuals in 2006 (Environment Consultants 2006), 500 individuals in 2007 (Nature Fiji-Mareqeti Viti 2007) and 500 individuals in 2010 (Rosenstein 2010); Lesser Frigatebird - 500–700 pairs in 1963, 250 pairs in 1974, 150–250 non-breeders in 2003, >500 in 2008 (Morris undated; Tarburton 1978; Roneil et al. 2008); Brown Noddy - 80 pairs in 1970s, 50–100 pairs in 2003 (Tarburton 1986; BirdLife International 2003); White-tailed Tropicbird - one pair in 1974, one bird seen in 2003 (Tarburton 1978; BirdLife International 2003); and Black-naped Tern - 20-115 birds recorded over the period. No firm conclusions can be drawn yet, but there is some evidence of increased nesting in recent years of some ground-nesting species, those most likely to suffer egg-predation by rats. These include Bridled Tern - 14 pairs in 1974, 200 pairs in 2003 and >500 adults in 2011 (Tarburton 1986; BirdLife International 2003; BirdLife International unpublished data, 2011); Brown Booby - no historic breeding recorded but small numbers of nests from 2006 onwards and up to 150 adults counted after 2006 (Environment Consultants 2006; Nature Fiji-Mareqeti Viti 2007); and Crested Tern - recorded in very low numbers historically before counts increased post 2003 to 120 in 2008 and with the first breeding record of 250 pairs in 2011 (Roneil et al. 2008; Bird 2011). Other species breeding on Vatu-i-Ra is the Eastern Reef Heron (1 pair in 1974; 2 birds in 2003) and possibly Polynesian Starling (BirdLife International unpublished data); and some migrants visit including shorebirds and Barn Owl.

Non-bird biodiversity: Turtles have been reported to nest on the beach. An endemic skink, Pygmy Snake-eyed Skink, also occurs on Vatu-i-Ra.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Black Noddy Anous minutus breeding  2003  28,000 breeding pairs  poor  A4i  Least Concern 
A4iii Species group - waterbirds 2003  28,000 breeding pairs  poor  A4iii   

IBA Monitoring

2012 low favourable high
Good - based on reliable and complete / representative data

Climate change and severe weather storms and floods happening now whole area/population (>90%) no or imperceptible deterioration low
Human intrusions and disturbance recreational activities happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) no or imperceptible deterioration low
Human intrusions and disturbance work and other activities happening now some of area/population (10-49%) no or imperceptible deterioration low
Invasive & other problematic species, genes & diseases invasive non-native/alien species/diseases - unspecified species past (and unlikely to return) and no longer limiting whole area/population (>90%) slow but significant deterioration low
Transportation and service corridors flight paths past (and unlikely to return) and no longer limiting majority/most of area/population (50-90%) very rapid to severe deterioration low

Coastline Sand dunes & beaches  0 0 good (> 90%) good (> 90%) favourable
Forest Dry evergreen forest (tropical)  0 0 good (> 90%) good (> 90%) favourable
Rocky areas   0 0 good (> 90%) good (> 90%) favourable

Fregata ariel Lesser Frigatebird 1200 500 individuals 42 not assessed
Sula sula Red-footed Booby 1200 600 individuals 50 not assessed
Sula leucogaster Brown Booby 5 150 individuals 100 not assessed
Thalasseus bergii Greater Crested Tern 2 500 individuals 100 not assessed
Sterna sumatrana Black-naped Tern 70 115 individuals 100 not assessed
Onychoprion anaethetus Bridled Tern 14 500 individuals 100 not assessed
Anous stolidus Brown Noddy 90 80 individuals 89 not assessed
Anous minutus Black Noddy 58000 63000 individuals 100 favourable

Whole area of site (>90%) covered by appropriate conservation designation  A comprehensive and appropriate management plan exists that aims to maintain or improve the populations of qualifying bird species  Substantive conservation measures are being implemented but these are not comprehensive and are limited by resources and capacity  high 

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Vatu-i-ra Marine Protected Area - Locally Managed Marine Area (LMMA) 0 protected area contains site 2  


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Forest Dry evergreen forest (tropical)  major
Coastline Sand dunes & beaches  minor
Rocky areas   minor
Sea Coral reefs and lagoons; Marine areas; Open Sea; Shallow marine waters  major

Land ownership The island is uninhabited but is regularly visited by fishers and occasional tourists on dive trips. The island is under the Native Tenure and is owned by the Nagilogilo clan.

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
fisheries/aquaculture minor
tourism/recreation minor
not utilised minor
Notes: The island itself is not utilised except for short visits by fishers staying on the island.
nature conservation and research minor
Notes: Local community landowners are working with several conservation organisations to enhance the biodiversity value of the site, including both marine and terrestrial areas.

Protection status Unprotected. Site of National Significance. The site meets the Ramsar criteria owing to its internationally significant waterbird population.

References Barrit, W.K.(1979/1980) Seabird observations in Fijian waters. Sea Swallow 30:22-36. Bird, J. P. et al. (in prep.) The identification of marine Important Bird Areas in the western South Pacific. Bird, J. (2011) eBird: An online database of bird distribution and abundance [web application]. Version 2. eBird, Ithaca, New York. Available: (Accessed: January 1, 2012). BirdLife International (2003) Field Report No. 19: Bird Survey of Vatu-i-Ra Island, 18-19 and 22-23 December 2003. BirdLife International, Suva, Fiji. Congdon, B. C., Erwin, C. A., Peck, D. R., Baker, G. B., Double, M. C. and O’Neill, P. (2007) Vulnerability of seabirds on the Great Barrier Reef to climate change. In: Climate Change and the Great Barrier Reef: a vulnerability assessment. Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and Australian Greenhouse Office, Townsville, QLD, Australia, pp. 465-497. Environment Consultants (2006) First Monitoring Survey of Vatuira Island, Lomaiviti, Fiji - August 15-20, 2006. Unpublished report to BirdLife International. Morris, R. O. (Undated) Unpublished notes on birds observed in Fiji. NatureFiji-MareqetiViti (2007) Second Monitoring Survey of Vatuira Island, Lomaiviti, Fiji - June 8-11, 2007. Unpublished report to BirdLife International. Roneil, J., Seniloli, E., Cranwell, S. and Tuamoto, T. (2008) Third Monitoring Survey of Vatu-i-Ra Island, Lomaiviti, Fiji - January 14-17, 2008. Unpublished report to BirdLife International. Rosenstein, M. (2010) eBird: An online database of bird distribution and abundance [web application]. Version 2. eBird, Ithaca, New York. Available: (Accessed: February 2, 2011). Tarburton, M.K.(1978) Some recent observations on seabirds breeding in Fiji. Notornis 25: 303-316. Tarburton M.K.(1987) Migration and breeding strategy of the Black Noddy, Fiji. Emu 87: 50-52.

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Vatu-i-Ra. Downloaded from on 21/10/2016

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