Country/territory: Tonga

IBA criteria met: A1, A2 (2007)
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Area: 5,302 ha

IBA conservation status
Year of assessment (most recent) State (condition) Pressure (threat) Response (action)
2007 not assessed high not assessed
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Site description (2007 baseline)
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).

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2024) Important Bird Area factsheet: Niuafo'ou. Downloaded from on 26/02/2024.