Mabualau & Saqata Rocks

Country/territory: Fiji

IBA Criteria met: -
For more information about IBA criteria please click here

Area: 5 ha

Protection status:

NatureFiji - MareqetiViti
Most recent IBA monitoring assessment
Year of assessment Threat score (pressure) Condition score (state) Action score (response)
2015 medium not assessed medium
For more information about IBA monitoring please click here

Site description
Mabualau Island and the nearby Saqata Rocks are in Bau waters close to the south-east coast of Viti Levu, Fiji (178º46'E, 17°58'S). Mabualau is a 3.3 ha island with maximum elevation of 3 m above sea level. The island is renowned for its seabird diversity. It is called Bird Island and is utilised by the nearby tourist island resort of Toberua, which is about 5.45 km west of Mabualau, for eco-tourism activities. Prevailing southeast trade winds account for the distribution of most of the flora and fauna on Mabualau.

Key biodiversity
Tarburton (1978) carried out observations on seabird breeding in Fiji. In June and July 1975 he compiled a list of numbers of occupied and unoccupied seabird nests present on Mabualau, which included 270 occupied nests of Red-footed Booby, 6 unoccupied Brown Booby, 70 unoccupied Lesser Frigatebird, 28 unoccupied Reef Heron, 1 unoccupied Brown Noddy and 2,600 Black Noddy nests. In July 1976 he listed 350 unoccupied Red-footed Booby, 2 occupied Reef Heron, 10 unoccupied Reef Heron, and 40 unoccupied Black Noddy nests. Langham (1984) censused the Red-footed Booby (Sula sula) population repeatedly between 1980 and 1982 with counts of 246 (July), 173 (October), 118 (November), 394 (March), 300 (August), 340 (August), 397 (October), 17 (February) and 293 (June) nests during the period. Langham also counted other breeding bird species on Mabualau such as Reef Heron (Egretta sacra) and Slaty Monarch (Mayrornis lessoni) and non-breeding species such as Lesser Frigatebird (Fregata ariel), Brown Booby (Sula leucogaster), Swamp Harrier (Circus approximans), Black Noddy (Anous minutus), Barn Owl (Tyto alba), Collard Kingfisher (Todiramphus chloris), Fiji Shrikebill(Clytorhynchus vitiensis), Vanikoro Broadbill( Myiagra vanikoroensis), Jungle Mynah( Acridotheres fuscus), Orange-breasted Myzomela (Myzomela jugularis) and Silvereye (Zosterops lateralis). Seabird were surveyed by a team from BirdLife International’s Fiji Programme on 10-13 April, 2007. The average number of nests on Mabualau was calculated to be 89 per hectare which was extrapolated to give a total number of 297 nests for Mabualau. About 92% of Red-footed Booby nests found occurred on Pisonia grandis. Only 8% were found on Ficus smithii. Lesser Frigatebirds (Fregata ariel) were estimated to total approximately 500 individuals in 2007. Estimates were derived from snapshots taken in which the rafting groups averaged 166 birds per snapshot. Frigatebirds started coming in from 16.45 hours from somewhere south and settled down to roost on the island during twilight. No evidence of nesting was seen. Mabualau is also utilised as a roosting site by non-breeding Black Noddies (Anous minutus). It was noted that on two evenings of reasonably good weather, the birds streamed in from two directions from somewhere west and north-west from 18.20 to 18.40 and departed in the mornings around 04.30. (BirdLife International (2007) estimated the number of roosting Black Noddies to exceed the IBA A4iii threshold of >20,000 waterbirds, but there is little solid evidence to support this assessment and no subsequent or previous counts have approached these numbers. About 100 nesting Crested Terns (Sterna bergii) were estimated to be on nearby Saqata rocks. Saqata consists of three rock islets separated approximately three metres from each other by narrow channels in a quarter hectare area. This represents one of a very few known colonies of the species in Fiji.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2019) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Mabualau & Saqata Rocks. Downloaded from on 21/09/2019.