Fiji Bird Life Another Victim Of Cyclone Winston

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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

Habitat for endangered species destroyed by storm

By Roland Koroi

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, March 25, 2016) – Bird life in Fiji has been severely affected by the destruction brought on by Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston.

And for those who have been working tirelessly to ensure the safety of Fiji's bird population, the only hope is that the re-colonisation process will happen quickly.

Birdlife International Pacific Division has been at the forefront, taking care of endangered species of birds in the country and making sure that all birds have a healthy population.

Unfortunately most places that thousands of birds called home were destroyed along with its inhabitants.

"TC Winston had a strong impact on Fiji's bird life, crossing 12 important bird areas or IBA, five marine and seven terrestrial," said Sialisi Rasalato, BirdLife International Pacific Divisions' technical officer.

"Seabird islands like Vatuvara in Northern Lau, Namenalala and Vatu-i-ra in the Bligh Waters and Vatu-i-ra passage respectively, Mabualau in Tailevu, and Monuriki in the Mamanuca were badly hit," he said.

Monuriki hosts the largest colony of Wedge-tailed shearwater seabirds in Fiji and is also a safe haven to the critically endangered crested iguana while Vatu-i-ra is home to nine species of seabirds including 22,000 pairs of Black Noddies, one of the largest known black noddy colonies in the South Pacific.

"Many seabirds had been nesting at the time that the cyclone arrived and it is likely that the adults had temporarily abandoned the site, to avoid the cyclone. This would have left many nests in trees exposed, where eggs and chicks were very likely to perish.

"Of those seabirds nesting on the ground, few are likely to have survived the impact of the cyclone. Some seabirds, however, nest underground in burrows and they may have fared rather better."

Fortunately, Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston had less significant impact on many of the terrestrial IBAs on Viti Levu and in the North, although there was substantial damage in parts of Taveuni, Natewa and Tunuloa IBAs.

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We visited the islands in 2017. The bird life was devastated by the storm. After 4 days on the island we found only two species of native land birds. I sure hope there are pockets of remaining birds that will repopulate the rest of the island, we didn't see them.

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