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Location Christmas Island (to Australia)
Central coordinates 105o 38.27' East  10o 29.04' South
IBA criteria A1, A4ii, A4iii
Area 13,643 ha
Altitude 0 - 361m
Year of IBA assessment 2009

Summary Christmas Island is an Endemic Bird Area in its own right, supporting five endemic species and five subspecies including the Critically Endangered Christmas Island Frigatebird, the Endangered Abbott's Booby and the Vulnerable Christmas Island Imperial-pigeon, Hawk-owl and White-eye. It also supports more than 1% of the world population of five other seabirds.

Site description The IBA consists of the entire of Christmas Island as all of the island is used by some endemic bird species, and most threats need to be managed on a whole-island basis. It is located in the north-east Indian Ocean, approximately 2800 km west of Darwin and 360 km south of Java Head (Indonesia), and is administered as an Australian territory. The Island is 135 km2 of which 85 km2 (63%) is National Park. In addition, a marine park extends 50 m seaward of the low water mark for 46 km (63%) of the coastline. Australian Exclusive Economic Zone waters extend out 370 km to the east, south and west, but only to about 165 km to the north where they border the Indonesian Exclusive Economic Zone. Christmas Island is the summit of a submarine mountain, with coastal cliffs rising steeply to a central plateau dominated by stands of rainforest. The climate is equatorial with a wet season (north-west monsoons) from December to April and a dry season (south-east trade winds) throughout the rest of the year. Christmas Island's avian biogeography is influenced by both the Sunda and Australian aviafaunas but belongs to neither. It is biogeographically unique. The vegetation is predominantly a floristically depauperate but structurally complex rainforest at the interior of the island, with semi-deciduous vine thickets on coastal terraces. Approximately 25% of the island has been cleared of native vegetation and comprises open rocky ground, weed fields, secondary growth and urban areas (Stokes 1988; Flora of Australia 1993; Director of National Parks 2000; Johnstone and Darnell 2004).

Key Biodiversity Twenty-three species of birds breed on Christmas Island. Eleven of these are endemic: five species (Papasula abbotti, Fregata andrewsi, Ducula whartoni, Ninox natalis and Zosterops natalis) and six subspecies (Phaethon lepturus fulvus, Fregata minor listeri (taxonomic revision in prep), Accipiter fasciatus natalis, Chalcochaps indica natalis, Collocalia esculenta [=linchii?] natalis and Turdus poliocephalis erythropleurus). Accipiter fasciatus natalis is probably better treated as an endemic species, although no recent taxonomic assessment has been made. It would qualify as threatened under IUCN criteria were it elevated to species rank. The Collocalia is probably an endemic subspecies of C. linchii rather than C. esculenta, on biogeographical and morphological grounds. Ducula, Chalcochaps, Collocalia, Turdus and Zosterops are abundant. Ninox and Accipiter are both uncommon, probably naturally. Three species have colonised Christmas Island since its settlement in 1888: Falco cenchroides (c. 1940s), Egretta novaehollandiae (c. 1930s) and Amaurornis phoenicurus (c. 1992). This is probably due to the creation of suitable habitat following forest clearing. Falco cenchroides is abundant but the other two are uncommon. Three species have been introduced: Gallus gallus, Passer montanus and Lonchura oryzivora; all are largely commensal and not found in natural habitats. The only other breeding landbird is Egretta sacra. Christmas Island is one of only two islands in the world where eight species of Pelicaniformes breed together. Four of these (Papasula abbotti, Fregata andrewsi, Fregata minor listeri and Phaethon lepturus fulvus) breed nowhere else. The other four are Sula sula, Sula leucogaster, Fregata ariel and Phaethon rubricauda westralis. Seven of these species breed in internationally significant numbers on Christmas Island; Fregata ariel was first reported breeding in 2002. Anous stolidius also breeds in large numbers. Approximately 100 species of migrants and vagrants have been recorded on Christmas Island, none of which regularly occur in large numbers. These species originate largely from the Sunda region but many also originate from Australia. Many have not been recorded elsewhere in Australia.

Non-bird biodiversity: There are at least 225 endemic animals (species and subspecies; James 2005) and 18 endemic vascular plants (Flora of Australia 1993) on Christmas Island. Endemic animals include: four mammals; five reptiles; three marine fish; nine marine sponges; one brachypod; eight terrestrial gastropods; one terrestrial olygochaete; and 190+ arthropods (James 2005). However, there are probably many undescribed endemic terrestrial and subterranean invertebrates. The land crab fauna is diverse and unparalleled (Hicks et al. 1984). The endemic red crab plays a significant part in determining the floristics and structure of the forests. Several insect genera are endemic (James 2005). The subterranean fauna is poorly known, but may be amongst the most significant in the world (Humphries and Eberhard 2001).

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Red-tailed Tropicbird Phaethon rubricauda resident  1984  1,380 breeding pairs  good  A4ii  Least Concern 
White-tailed Tropicbird Phaethon lepturus resident  1984-1988  600-12,000 breeding pairs  good  A4ii  Least Concern 
Christmas Frigatebird Fregata andrewsi resident  2003  1,200-2,400 breeding pairs  good  A1, A4ii  Critically Endangered 
Great Frigatebird Fregata minor resident  1984  6,500 individuals  good  A4ii  Least Concern 
Abbott's Booby Papasula abbotti resident  2002  1,500-2,500 breeding pairs  good  A1, A4ii  Endangered 
Red-footed Booby Sula sula resident  1984  12,050 breeding pairs  good  A4ii  Least Concern 
Brown Booby Sula leucogaster resident  1984  4,910 breeding pairs  good  A4ii  Least Concern 
Christmas Imperial-pigeon Ducula whartoni resident  2000-2006  1,000-10,000 mature individuals  A1  Near Threatened 
Christmas Boobook Ninox natalis resident  1996  1,000 individuals  good  A1  Vulnerable 
Christmas Island White-eye Zosterops natalis breeding  2004-2006  20,000 individuals  A1  Near Threatened 
A4iii Species group - seabirds 10,000 breeding pairs  unknown  A4iii   

IBA Monitoring

2014 very high not assessed not assessed
Good - based on reliable and complete / representative data

Energy production and mining mining and quarrying happening now some of area/population (10-49%) moderate to rapid deterioration high
Invasive & other problematic species, genes & diseases invasive non-native/alien species/diseases - named species happening now whole area/population (>90%) very rapid to severe deterioration very high
Invasive & other problematic species, genes & diseases invasive non-native/alien species/diseases - unspecified species happening now some of area/population (10-49%) slow but significant deterioration medium
Pollution air-borne pollutants - smog happening now some of area/population (10-49%) moderate to rapid deterioration high
Residential and commercial development housing and urban areas happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) no or imperceptible deterioration low

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Christmas Island National Park 8,719 protected area contained by site 8,719  
Hosnie's Spring Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar) 1 protected area contained by site 1  
The Dales, Christmas Island Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar) 57 protected area contained by site 57  


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Artificial - terrestrial Other urban & industrial areas  5%
Coastline Sea cliffs, rocky shores & rocky islets  5%
Forest Rainforest & vine thickets  60%
Shrubland Closed shrublands & low closed woodlands  5%
Introduced vegetation   25%

Land ownership Mostly owned and managed by Parks Australia (for the federal government) and Phosphate Resources Ltd.

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
energy production and mining major
Notes: including abandoned mined land
nature conservation and research major
urban/industrial/transport minor

Protection status The IBA contains the Christmas Island National Park.

Acknowledgements The nomination was prepared by David James (Parks Australia).

References Director of National Parks (2002) Christmas Island National Park Management Plan. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia.

Dunlop, J.N. (1988) The Status and Biology of the Golden Bosunbirds Phaethon lepturus fulvus. Unpublished report. Christmas Island: Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service.

Flora of Australia (1993) Flora of Australia Volume 50. Oceanic Islands 2. Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Service. Hicks, J., Rumpff, H. and Yorkston, H. (1984) Christmas Crabs. Christmas Island: Christmas Island Natural History Society.

Hill, F.A.R. (1996) The Christmas Island Hawk-Owl: Its distribution, population size and concservation status. Unpublished report. Darwin: Australian Nature Conservation Agency.

Humphreys, W.F. and Ebberhard, S. (2001) Subterranean fauna of Christmas Island, Indian Ocean. Helicite 37: 59-74.

James, D.J. (2003) A survey of Christmas Island Frigatebird nests in 2003. Unpublished report. Christmas Island: Parks Australia North.

James, D.J. (2005) Christmas Island Biodiversity Programme: Quarterly report for the period October to December 2004. Unpublished report. Christmas Island: Parks Australia North.

James, D.J. (2007) Christmas Island biodiversity monitoring programme: summary report, December 2003 - April 2006. Parks Australia North Christmas Island Biodiversity Monitoring Programme. Canberra: Department of Finance and Administration and Department of the Environment and Water Resources.

James, D.J. (2007) Forest birds of Christmas Island: a baseline survey of abundance. Parks Australia North Christmas Island Biodiversity Monitoring Programme. Canberra: Department of Finance and Administration and Department of the Environment and Water Resources.

Johnstone, R.E. and Darnell, J.C. (2004) Appendix A: Annotated Checklist of Christmas Island Birds. Pp. 439-476 in R.E. Johnstone and G.M. Storr, eds. Handbook of the Birds of Western Australia. Volume 2: Passerines (Blue-Winged Pitta to Goldfinch). Perth: Western Australian Museum.

Olsen, P.D. (2004) Background Information on Abbott's Booby, Papasula abbotti. Unpublished report. Canberra: Department of Environment and Heritage.

Stokes, T. (1988) A review of the birds of Christmas Island, Indian Ocean. Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service Occasional Paper 16.

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Christmas Island. Downloaded from on 24/10/2016

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