Not surprisingly, it took the first natural history collectors to penetrate into the Arfak Mountains a good while to recover from their ascertainment that the unreal so-called 'roofed maypole' bowers of the Vogelkop Bowerbird Amblyornis inornatus indeed were no playing houses made by the indigenous children. Copyright © Stephen Lyle
The northeastern region of the Bird's Head or Vogelkop Peninsula of West Papua is made up of an isolated yet massive, more or less continuous mountain chain. The name 'Tamrau' applies to the western portion, bisected by the grassy Kebar Valley, heartland of the indigenous Karoon people. The Tamrau Mountains have been very scantily surveyed for any purpose till this day. In contrast, the easternmost sector, known as the Arfak Mountains — 'Arfak' meaning little more than 'interior' in the language of the coastal Biak people — is since Dutch colonial times one of the most frequently explored and best known regions of West Papua.
As a consequence of this factor, and because they support all presently described so-called Vogelkop endemics as well as provide straightforward access to largely untouched foothill, hill and montane forests that support a wonderfully diverse avifauna, the rugged Arfak Mountains are West Papua's premier birding destination.
In the northeastern watershed these mountains rise steeply from the sea — little or no coastal plain being present here — to reach a high point on Mount Humeibo (2,820 m), which, when viewed from the provincial capital and gateway Manokwari — the 'Dorey' of former days — is nearly hidden by Mount Tumyobou (2,480 m).
Hattam, Meyah and Sougb indigenous peoples, who speak mutually unintelligible languages, all call the Arfaks home, and ultimately are the guardians of the future of the exquisite yet increasingly threatened birdlife of these mountains.
The Bird's Head region, which for our purpose comprises the actual Bird's Head Peninsula plus the Bomberai and Wandammen peninsulas as far east as the so-called 'Zoogeographer's Gap', harbors 15 endemic bird species, all of which occur in the Arfak area. Among these are the Vogelkop Bowerbird Amblyornis inornatus with its formidable so-called 'roofed maypole' bowers, the rare Long-tailed Paradigalla Paradigalla carunculata, easily overlooked when not vocalizing, the beautiful and little-known Arfak Astrapia Astrapia nigra, and the violently enrapturing Western Parotia Parotia sefilata.
In addition, the Bird's Head boasts seven more widespread West Papua endemics and 13 species with a restricted range, nine of which can be seen in the Arfaks.
In total, more than 320 bird species have so far been recorded from the Arfak region.
Some secluded Arfak endemic forms became known in Europe remarkably early into the 18th century. The Arfak Astrapia, for instance, was first illustrated as early as 1734! However, it took until September 1872 before the exuberant L. M. D'Albertis would be the first European collector to penetrate any distance into the Arfaks and as a matter of fact into montane New Guinea as a whole! The Arfak Mountains thus constitute the type locality of numerous widespread upland New Guinea animals and therefore alone are renowned in scientific literature.
D'Albertis was followed by that other great Italian collector, O. Beccari, by native hunters in the service of A. A. Bruijn, by J. M. Dumas, F. Shaw-Mayer, E. Mayr, S. Bergman, and by a number of lesser known field collectors, who between them, little by little, unveiled and documented the enchanting birdlife of the Arfaks.
Arfak Mountains birding facts
✔The premier bird-watching destination in West Papua.
✔All 15 Vogelkop endemics occur as well as seven more widespread West Papua endemics and nine out of 13 restricted-range birds present in the Bird's Head region.
✔Homeland of avian delights as Vogelkop Bowerbird, Long-tailed Paradigalla, Arfak Astrapia, and Western Parotia.
✔Straightforward access to largely untouched foothill, hill and montane forests that support a wonderfully varied birdlife comprising in excess of 320 species.
✔Heartland of friendly Hattam, Meyah and Sougb tribal peoples, unspoiled by mass tourism.
✔The possibility to combine birding with a real trekking adventure off the beaten track.
☑White-striped Forest Rail Rallicula leucospila
☑Vogelkop Owlet-nightjar Aegotheles affinis
☑Papuan Lorikeet Charmosyna papou
☑Arfak Catbird Ailuroedus arfakianus
☑Vogelkop Bowerbird Amblyornis inornatus
☑Western Smoky Honeyeater Melipotes gymnops
☑Vogelkop Melidectes Melidectes leucostephes
☑Vogelkop Scrubwren Aethomyias rufescens
☑Vogelkop Whistler Pachycephala meyeri
☑Long-tailed Paradigalla Paradigalla carunculata
☑Arfak Astrapia Astrapia nigra
☑Western Parotia Parotia sefilata
☑Crescent-caped Lophorina Lophorina niedda
☑Ashy Robin Heteromyias albispecularis
☑Grey-banded Munia Lonchura vana
☑Red-billed BrushturkeyTalegalla cuvieri
☑Western Crowned Pigeon Goura cristata
☑Black Lory Chalcopsitta atra
☑Rufous-sided Honeyeater Ptiloprora erythropleura
☑Thick-billed Berrypecker Rhamphocharis crassirostris
☑Smoky Robin Peneothello cryptoleuca
☑Olive-crowned Flowerpecker Dicaeum pectorale
☑Chestnut Forest Rail Rallicula rubra
☑Archbold's Nightjar Eurostopodus archboldi
☑Red-breasted Paradise Kingfisher Tanysiptera nympha
☑Modest Tiger Parrot Psittacella modesta
☑Cinnamon-browed Melidectes Melidectes ochromelas
☑Obscure Berrypecker Melanocharis arfakiana
☑Painted Quail-thrush Cinclosoma ajax
☑Greater Melampitta Melampitta gigantea
☑Green-backed Robin Pachycephalopsis hattamensis
☑Dwarf Cassowary Casuarius bennetti
☑Northern Cassowary Casuarius unappendiculatus
☑Salvadori's Teal Salvadorina waigiuensis
☑Wattled Brushturkey Aepypodius arfakianus
☑New Guinea Eagle Harpyopsis novaeguineae
☑Black-mantled Goshawk Accipiter melanochlamys
☑Lewin's Rail Lewinia pectoralis
☑Spotless Crake Zapornia tabuensis
☑New Guinea Woodcock Scolopax rosenbergii
☑New Guinea Bronzewing Henicophaps albifrons
☑Thick-billed Ground Pigeon Trugon terrestris
☑Cinnamon Ground Dove Gallicolumba rufigula
☑Bronze Ground Dove Alopecoenas beccarii
☑Pheasant Pigeon Otidiphaps nobilis
☑Rufous-throated Bronze Cuckoo Chrysococcyx ruficollis
☑White-eared Bronze Cuckoo Chrysococcyx meyerii
☑Greater Sooty Owl Tyto tenebricosa
☑Feline Owlet-nightjar Aegotheles insignis
☑Wallace's Owlet-nightjar Aegotheles wallacii
☑Mountain Owlet-nightjar Aegotheles albertisi
☑Shovel-billed Kookaburra Dacelo rex
☑Pesquet's Parrot Psittrichas fulgidus
☑Yellow-capped Pygmy Parrot Micropsitta keiensis
☑Red-breasted Pygmy Parrot Micropsitta bruijnii
☑Blue-collared Parrot Geoffroyus simplex
☑Moluccan King Parrot Alisterus amboinensis
☑Large Fig Parrot Psittaculirostris desmarestii
☑Masked Bowerbird Sericulus aureus
☑Papuan Treecreeper Cormobates placens
☑Olive Straightbill Timeliopsis fulvigula
☑Black-throated Honeyeater Caligavis subfrenata
☑Papuan Logrunner Orthonyx novaeguineae
☑Tit Berrypecker Oreocharis arfaki
☑Spotted Jewel-babbler Ptilorrhoa leucosticta
☑Blue Jewel-babbler Ptilorrhoa caerulescens
☑Chestnut-backed Jewel-babbler Ptilorrhoa castanonota
☑Great Woodswallow Artamus maximus
☑Mottled Berryhunter Rhagologus leucostigma
☑Piping Bellbird Ornorectes cristatus
☑Black Pitohui Melanorectes nigrescens
☑Rusty Whistler Pachycephala hyperythra
☑Northern Variable Pitohui Pitohui kirhocephalus
☑Hooded Pitohui Pitohui dichrous
☑Drongo Fantail Chaetorhynchus papuensis
☑Rufous Monarch Symposiachrus rubiensis
☑Torrent-lark Grallina bruijni
☑Glossy-mantled Manucode Manucodia atra
☑Crinkle-collared Manucode Manucodia chalybata
☑Trumpet Manucode Phonygammus keraudrenii
☑Magnificent Riflebird Ptiloris magnificus
☑Black Sicklebill Epimachus fastuosus
☑Black-billed Sicklebill Epimachus albertisi
☑Magnificent Bird-of-paradise Diphyllodes magnificus
☑King Bird-of-paradise Cicinnurus regius
☑Lesser Bird-of-paradise Paradisaea minor
☑Blue-grey Robin Peneothello cyanus
☑White-rumped Robin Peneothello bimaculata
☑Black-chinned Robin Poecilodryas brachyura
☑Papuan Scrub Robin Drymodes beccarii
☑Torrent Flyrobin Monachella muelleriana
☑Garnet Robin Eugerygone rubra
☑Lesser Ground Robin Amalocichla incerta
☑Papuan Parrotfinch Erythrura papuana
❯Read on about our short birding break to the Arfak Mountains.
❯Read on about our Amazing Arfak birding expedition to the Arfak Mountains.
❯Read on about our Easy West Papua birding expedition visiting the Arfak Mountains.
❯Read on about our filming expedition for Vogelkop Bowerbird in the Arfak Mountains with the BBC Natural History Unit.
❯Browse our checklist of the birds of West Papua
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