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Location Tonga, Niuas
Central coordinates 175o 38.00' West  15o 36.00' South
IBA criteria A1, A2
Area 5,302 ha
Altitude 0 - 260m
Year of IBA assessment 2007

Site description Niuafo’ou IBA comprises the whole island of Niuafo’ou which until recently supported the only extant population of the Tongan megapode Megapodius pritchardii. The island is an active volcano and the megapodes lay their eggs in soil heated by volcanic ducts. An island-endemic form of the Polynesian Starling Aplonis tabuensis nesiotes occurs on the island, along with two other range restricted species, the Crimson-crowned Fruit-dove Ptilinopus porphyraceus and the Blue-crowned Lorikeet Vini australis.

Key Biodiversity Seventeen bird species have been recorded breeding on Niuafo’ou (Goth & Vogel 2001; Rinke 1986,1991). Niuafo'ou is best known for the Tongan megapode Megapodius pritchardii, the only surviving megapode east of Vanuatu. Megapodes were probably common throughout Fiji, Tonga and Samoa but were one of the first species to succumb to the arrival of the first people. The Tongan megapode is thus of considerable national and international significance. Megapodes have the unique behaviour of laying their eggs in unconsolidated soils or organic debris, allowing external heat sources to provide for incubation without any parental care. On Niuafo'ou the Tongan megapode seek out well established `breeding grounds' where the soil is heated by volcanic ducts. Sixteen of these sites are known but those outside the crater are no longer used because of continued removal of the eggs by the islanders. Other unknown and inaccessible sites may also occur. The current population of the Tongan megapode on Niuafo’ou is estimated to be 188-235 pairs Goth & Vogel 1995), but it is a shy and rarely seen species (Rinke 1991). There is only one native passerine on Niuafo’ou, an endemic form of the Polynesian starling Aplonis tabuensis nesiotes. This and the Blue-crowned Lory Vini australis are two central Polynesian restricted range species which occur on the island, the former is abundant and the latter common . Two feral species introduced to Fiji have also arrived naturally or been boat-assisted to Niuafo'ou, the red-vented bulbul Pycnonotus cafer and the jungle mynah Acridotheres fuscus. Two seabirds, tropical shearwater Puffinus bailloni (previously Audubon’s shearwater P.lherminieri) and the white-tailed tropic bird Phaethon lepturus breed on Niuafo'ou, whereas the wedge-tailed shearwater P. pacificus is collected in large numbers on the island, but there is no evidence of breeding (Goth & Vogel 1995).

Non-bird biodiversity: Niuafo’ou’s biodiversity has not been well studied. There is no plant list for the island but there are no known endemic species (Whistler pers.comm. Oct.1994). Within Tonga, Niuafo'ou is well known for the fine Ta'ovala weaved from the inner bark of the Fanakio tree, Sterculia fanahio which is widely regarded to occur only on Niuafo'ou. This is true in respect of Tonga, but it is also found in Samoa, Rotuma and Niue. It is widespread on the island and will remain so as long as fruiting trees survive and the Pacific pigeon Ducula pacifica survives in numbers to distribute its seeds. Seven skinks and two geckos have been recorded on Niuafo'ou . None of these are island or Tongan endemic species but two of them Emoia nigra and E.adspersa are not found south of the Niuas (Prescott & Folaumoetu’I 2004).

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Tongan Scrubfowl Megapodius pritchardii resident  1991-1993  188-235 breeding pairs  unknown  A1, A2  Endangered 
Ptilinopus porphyraceus resident  1991-1993  present  A2  Not Recognised 
Blue-crowned Lorikeet Vini australis resident  1991-1993  present  A2  Least Concern 
Polynesian Starling Aplonis tabuensis resident  1991-1993  present  A2  Least Concern 

IBA Monitoring

2007 high not assessed not assessed

Biological resource use hunting & collecting terrestrial animals - intentional use (species being assessed is the target) happening now majority/most of area/population (50-90%) moderate to rapid deterioration high
Invasive & other problematic species, genes & diseases invasive non-native/alien species/diseases - named species happening now majority/most of area/population (50-90%) slow but significant deterioration high


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Forest Lowland evergreen rain forest (tropical)  10%
Wetlands (inland) Freshwater lakes and pools  35%
Artificial - terrestrial Abandoned or fallow farmland, disturbed ground; Farmbush, fallow & ruderal land  30%
Rocky areas   25%

References Crane, W. 1992. The Environment of Tonga: A Geography Resource. Wendy Crane Books, Lower Hutt. Goth, A. and U. Vogel. 1995. Status of the Polynesian Megapode (Megapodius pritchardii) on Niuafo’ou (Tonga). Bird Conservation International 5:117-128. Goth, A. and U. Vogel. 2001. Notes on breeding and the conservation of birds on Niuafo’ou Island, Kingdom of Tonga. Pacific Conservation Biology 5: 103-114. Jenkins, J.A.F. 1980. Seabird records from Tonga-an account based on the literature and recent observations. Notornis 27:205-235. Prescott, N. and P. S. Folaumoetu’I (Editors). 2004. Tonga Biodiversity Stocktaking. Technical Report 1 for the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan. Dept. of Environment, Nuku’alofa Rinke, D. 1986. Notes on the avifauna of Niuafo’ou Island, Kingdom of Tonga. Emu 86:145-151. 1991. Birds of ‘Ata and Late, and additional notes on the avifauna of Niuafo’ou Island, Kingdom of Tonga. Notornis 38: 131-151. Rinke, D., L.H.Soakai and A.Usback. 1993. Koe Malau: Life and future of the Malau. Brehm Fund for International Bird Conservation, Bonn. Stattersfield, A.J., M.J. Crosby, A.J. Long, and D.C. Wege. 1998. Endemic Bird Areas of the World: Priorities for biodiversity conservation. BirdLife Conservation Series no. 7, BirdLife International, Cambridge, UK. 846 pp. Watling, D. 2003. Report on a Visit to Late and Fonualei Islands, Vava'u Group, Kingdom of Tonga. Unpublished Report to the Van Tienhoven Foundation. Watling, D. 2004. Report on a Visit to Late Island, Vava'u Group, Kingdom of Tonga. Unpublished Report to the Van Tienhoven Foundation.

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Niuafo'ou. Downloaded from on 20/10/2016

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