Friday, October 17

Long haul visitors

Tourist fly into Rarotonga all year round, mostly travelling via New Zealand (and from next February they’ll ALL have to come via NZ) but every September we get a number of long-distance travellers who wing it here all the way from Alaska.
Most of the Pacific plovers (local name torea) travel the 9000 kilometres to Rarotonga non-stop, apparently taking about 5 days.
They are thin and scrawny-looking when they arrive here and spend the summer fattening up on insects before heading back to Alaska at the end of April to breed.
The airport is the residence of choice but you see the birds, widely separated, on large areas of short grass. You have to wonder how they coped in the days before lawn mowers.

We spotted a couple of much rarer avian visitors last week when taking the dog for a walk at Nikao beach. They were larger than the usual beach birds with speckled plumage and long curved beaks. A check on the
Cook Islands Biodiversity Database showed they were bristle-thighed curlews (teue) which also breed in Alaska and are a globally endangered species.