Tales from the South Pacific: Huahine

Ashley Sendell-Price

The island of Huahine (in fact two islands: Huahine Nui and Huahine Iti) is often described as the Garden of Eden, enticing tourists with its lush forested landscape, turquoise lagoons (pictured below) and white-sand beaches. Although I do agree that this island is by far the most beautiful I have visited, for me Huahine lacks an ingredient essential to any Garden of Eden: the obvious presence of bird life.

Hillside view across the turquoise lagoon of Huahine. Source: Author’s own photo

In fact, the skies of Huahine are so eerily quiet, that you could easily be mistaken into thinking that there are no terrestrial birds here at all. But in reality, Huahine is home to 18 species (9 of which are introduced), you just have to try extremely hard to find them! And that’s just what I did!

After four days of searching (and multiple failed attempts at catching) I heard my first silvereye call at a potential sampling site I was shown on the opposite end of the island. Siting between the mountains and the beach this site consisted of patches of trees and rough grassland: an ideal site for setting up mist nets on a non-ideal island.

Sampling location used on Huahine. Source: Author’s own photo.

So for my last 4 days on Huahine I had been driving to this site before sunrise, and setting up nets alongside tree patches in hope of catching silvereyes. With so few birds about this was a slow process but with some (be it limited) success. In total 12 silvereyes and 11 chestnut -breasted mannikin were caught and sampled at this site, the fruit of over 25 hours of net open time and a total of 48 metres of net.

The first silvereye (Left) and chestnut-breasted mannikin (Right) sampled on Huahine. Source: Author’s own photo.

Unfortunately I haven’t had time to write a substantial blog post about Huahine as have spent most of my time outside in pursuit of silvereyes. I am now off to the next island stop (Raiatea), so goodbye from Huahine and stay tuned for more tales from the south Pacific!

This blog was originally published at www.ashsendellprice.com

 “”I am a PhD student in the Department of Zoology where I conduct genomics based research exploring various aspects of diversification in the silvereye bird. My interests are broadly centred around understanding how organisms adapt to environmental change, with a particular interest in the evolutionary changes that occur during the early stages of adaptation.”


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