New Britain and New Ireland

Country/Territory Papua New Guinea
Area 48,000 km2
Altitude 0 - 2200m
Priority critical
Habitat loss moderate
Knowledge poor

General characteristics

This EBA of Papua New Guinea includes New Britain, New Ireland and New Hanover (or Lavongai) and their outliers, from Karkar to Duke of York and from Nauna to Nissan; also the more distant Northwestern Islands and Schouten Islands. The Admiralty and St Matthias Islands, often grouped with New Britain and New Ireland into the Bismarck archipelago, are treated as separate EBAs (193, 194).

The native vegetation is mainly lowland forest with montane rain forest above c.900 m on the larger islands; mangroves and swamp forest are also common, and man-made grasslands occur locally, especially on New Britain.

Restricted-range species

This EBA has more restricted-range species than any other in the Pacific region except for the Solomon group (EBA 198). Most of these species utilize forest, with many also occurring in a range of other habitats. Some species show altitudinal preferences on the larger islands.

There is a complicated pattern of distribution between the islands (see 'Distribution patterns' table) with many species having ranges which extend to other Papuan island and Melanesian EBAs. New Hanover has one endemic species, while New Britain and its surrounding islands have 14 and New Ireland and its islands have seven; however, there are a further 12 species endemic to both New Britain and New Ireland, so these two centres of endemism are combined into one EBA, reflecting the commonest pattern of distribution of the islands' restricted-range species. Four species, Zosterops griseotinctus, Myzomela sclateri, M. pammelaena and Aplonis feadensis are only found on tiny islands in this EBA and elsewhere.

The taxonomy of most birds in this EBA has been little studied, and there are undoubtedly undescribed taxa as well as several taxa which are currently lumped with mainland forms by Sibley and Monroe (1990, 1993) that are likely to prove full species. Thus, Coates (1985, 1990) treats the New Britain form of Buff-breasted Paradise-kingfisher Tanysiptera sylvia nigriceps and Red-throated Myzomela Myzomela eques cineracea as separate species (see also Finch and McKean 1987, Palliser 1992).

Species IUCN Category
Melanesian Scrubfowl (Megapodius eremita) LC
Yellow-legged Pigeon (Columba pallidiceps) VU
Pied Cuckoo-dove (Reinwardtoena browni) NT
New Britain Bronzewing (Henicophaps foersteri) VU
Red-knobbed Imperial-pigeon (Ducula rubricera) LC
Finsch's Imperial-pigeon (Ducula finschii) NT
Bismarck Imperial-pigeon (Ducula melanochroa) LC
Yellowish Imperial-pigeon (Ducula subflavescens) NT
Knob-billed Fruit-dove (Ptilinopus insolitus) LC
(Ptilinopus solomonensis) NR
Mayr's Swiftlet (Aerodramus orientalis) DD
Pied Coucal (Centropus ateralbus) LC
Violaceous Coucal (Centropus violaceus) LC
New Britain Rail (Hypotaenidia insignis) NT
Golden Masked-owl (Tyto aurantia) VU
New Britain Boobook (Ninox odiosa) VU
Bismarck Boobook (Ninox variegata) LC
Black Honey-buzzard (Henicopernis infuscatus) VU
New Britain Goshawk (Accipiter princeps) VU
Pied Goshawk (Accipiter albogularis) LC
Slaty-backed Goshawk (Accipiter luteoschistaceus) VU
New Britain Sparrowhawk (Accipiter brachyurus) VU
Bismarck Kingfisher (Ceyx websteri) VU
New Britain Kingfisher (Todiramphus albonotatus) NT
Blue-eyed Cockatoo (Cacatua ophthalmica) VU
Red-chinned Lorikeet (Charmosyna rubrigularis) LC
White-naped Lory (Lorius albidinucha) NT
Cardinal Lory (Chalcopsitta cardinalis) LC
Bismarck Hanging-parrot (Loriculus tener) LC
(Geoffroyus heteroclitus) NR
Green Pygmy-parrot (Micropsitta finschii) LC
New Britain Friarbird (Philemon cockerelli) LC
New Ireland Friarbird (Philemon eichhorni) LC
Bismarck Honeyeater (Vosea whitemanensis) NT
New Ireland Myzomela (Myzomela pulchella) LC
Sclater's Myzomela (Myzomela sclateri) LC
Bismarck Black Myzomela (Myzomela pammelaena) LC
Black-bellied Myzomela (Myzomela erythromelas) LC
White-backed Woodswallow (Artamus insignis) LC
Bismarck Fantail (Rhipidura dahli) LC
Ribbon-tailed Drongo (Dicrurus megarhynchus) NT
(Myiagra hebetior) NR
(Symposiachrus verticalis) NR
New Britain Thicketbird (Megalurulus grosvenori) VU
Rusty Thicketbird (Megalurulus rubiginosus) LC
Bismarck White-eye (Zosterops hypoxanthus) LC
Louisiade White-eye (Zosterops griseotinctus) LC
Atoll Starling (Aplonis feadensis) NT
(Zoothera talaseae) NR
Red-banded Flowerpecker (Dicaeum eximium) LC
New Ireland Mannikin (Lonchura forbesi) LC
Buff-bellied Mannikin (Lonchura melaena) LC
(Lonchura hunsteini) NR
(Lonchura nigerrima) NR

Important Bird Areas (IBAs)
IBA Code Site Name Country

Threat and conservation

Much of the north coast of New Britain has been cleared for oil-palm and coconut plantations, and remaining lowland forest has been, or is being, logged (Clay 1994). Despite this, few of the restricted-range species are currently classified as threatened because for many it is not certain whether they are genuinely sparsely distributed or are simply overlooked; depending on the number of recent records, altitudinal preference (and thus vulnerability to habitat destruction) and range size, they have been variously classified as Vulnerable, Near Threatened or Data Deficient. Columba pallidiceps is the exception: it is rated as Critical, being apparently uncommon on New Britain in 1959 (Gilliard and LeCroy 1967), with no records from western New Britain during the period 1978-1990 (K. D. Bishop in litt. 1989), and only a few additional observations.

Several areas important for terrestrial biodiversity have been identified within the EBA, including the Whiteman range, Nakanai range, Baining mountains and Willaumez peninsula in New Britain, and the Hans Meyer range, Verron range and Lelet plateau in New Ireland. The mountains and lowlands west of New Britain's population centres, the high ranges and southern scarp of central and eastern New Britain, and the highlands of New Ireland have been identified as areas where the present lack of scientific information is particularly serious (Beehler 1993), although many are very difficult of access.

There are a few protected areas, e.g. Pokili and Garu Wildlife Management Areas (98 and 87 km2) on New Britain which are important areas of lowland forest with two major Megapodius eremita nesting grounds as well as virtually all the island’s lowland and foothill species (K. D. Bishop in litt. 1993).

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Endemic Bird Areas factsheet: New Britain and New Ireland. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 08/08/2022.