Birds, Plants, Wildlife


                                              Flora, fauna and wildlife - Norfolk Island style - is in many ways unique. 


The island has gone through settlements from Polynesia, transported convicts and their jailers, descendants from the Mutineers and Tahitian wives, American whalers, occasional seafarers from European shores, Australians and New Zealanders and more latterly a myriad of other cultures post WWII.  The people plus the migratory birds and seas washing seeds ashore all contribute to the flora and fauna of the island.  Documentation of the magnificent stands of pines, rainforest, fields of flax and the vast crops of guava would have given hope to the first white settlers that Norfolk Island was paradise untouched.  Conversely in 1788 only 178 native plant species were noted – approximately half the number in a comparative coastal area in Australia.  Plants found to be surviving on the island did so due to three apparent factors: an ability to exploit the local environment, lack of previous competitors, evolution of features better suiting them to their changed environment (adaptational feature) so forming a unique form – thus becoming an endemic species to the island.

The Norfolk Pine and 40 other endemic plants to date, are scientifically significant due to the fact that this has occurred naturally.

Flora of Phillip Island

The flora of Phillip Island naturally differs from that of Norfolk.  As such grabbing the opportunity to make the trek on Phillip is a must do, if you are up to it.  The recent re vegetation to the island has made the ongoing analysis of species inherently important.

Plants of Special Interest

Pepper Tree Macropiper Excelsum

Pepper Tree grows to 3m. Fruits are fleshy and orange when ripe.  They are edible but have small seeds that are hot to taste. Early settlers described it as an "excellent preserve, and if "gathered green it is equally good pickled".

Norfolk Island Abutilon Abutilon Julianae

Rediscovered on Phillip Island in 1985, the NI Abutilon was last seen on the slopes of Mt Bates in 1913. This small herb had been considered extinct. Miraculously surviving  the ravages of the introduced goats, pigs and rabbits which destroyed most of Phillip Island's vegetation. The Abutilon started recolonising Phillip Island when the last of these animals were removed.

Phillip Island Hibiscus Hibiscus Insularis

The wild population of this plant can be found in only  two patches on Phillip Island (although more have been planted there in recent times) surviving despite the grazing pigs, goats and rabbits which destroyed most of the island's vegetation.. Flowers are cream to light green coloured when they first open, with a dark magenta centre, but turn reddish as they age.

Devils Guts Capparis Nobilis

Devils Guts earns its name from the sharp recurved thorns on the stem which easily tear one's flesh. It has a large white flower in the Spring and Summer made conspicuous by the tuft of large white stamens which are 2-3 cm long.

Samson's Sinew, Wisteria Millettia Australis

Samson's Sinew is usually found  hanging from the tops of trees where its leaves and flowers are found. It also sometimes grows on the edge of a clearing. Early references to the "entangled state of the Woods which are an almost impenetrable thickness" may have been due in part to this climber and Devils Guts. The Springtime flowers are cream coloured, sometimes with a bluish tinge, resembling a pea flower and are followed by thick, rounded, bean like velvety pods.

Bloodwood Baloghia Inophylla

A blood-red sap oozes from cuts in the bark of Bloodwood. Early settlers used the sap for staining furniture, marking convicts' clothing and thought it a good tonic and astringent. The tree grows to about 9m and is widespread on the island as well as being found on Lord Howe Island, eastern Australia and New Caledonia.

Broad-Leafed Meryta Meryta Latifolia

One of Norfolk's rare endemic species, the Meryta has the added disadvantage of being dioecious, which means it has separate male and female plants. When numbers become low this can be a critical factor, if trees of both sexes are not growing close enough for the female flowers to be pollinated by the male. It is endemic to Norfolk Island, convicts used the large leaves of Meryta to wrap up dough to bake in the ashes.

Ironwood Nestegis Apetala

Ironwood’s hard timber was used for jobs where durability was important. It was also used for shafts of carriages, a testimony to its strength. Ironwood grows to 10 m high. Fruits are most often yellow, sometimes red or rarely purple, and look like small olives.  Birds like the fruit and this helps its prolific regeneration in the native forest. Unfortunately, old specimens are rare due to past logging. Older trees sometimes have hollows which are favoured by the endangered Green Parrot for nesting.

Norfolk Island Palm, Niau Rhopalostylis Baueri

Niau  is prominent in or near the National Park, but rare elsewhere on the island. It reaches 10 m in height. Fruits are bright red when ripe and are a favourite food of the Green Parrot. The ribs of the palm fronds were used for making brooms, and the fronds woven into baskets. The growing tip was eaten by early settlers as a vegetable and tasted like a nut when raw and like an artichoke bottom, when boiled.  Removal of the tip kills the palm.

Norfolk Island Pine Araucaria Heterophylla

Norfolk's majestic pine is undoubtedly the island's best known symbol. Pines as tall as 57m with an 11m circumference have been recorded. One of the largest remaining trees can be seen at Hollow Pine in the National Park.  Lt. King exported pine to Port Jackson in October 1788.  Prolific seed fall occurs every 4-5 months and the seeds are a popular food source for the Green Parrot and introduced rats.

Two-Frond Fern, Lace Fern Asplenium Dimorphum

This fern has two fascinatingly different fronds on the same plant. The first fronds are broad, like a "normal" fern, but later fertile fronds (those with spores underneath) arc deeply divided into numerous narrow segments and have a distinctly lacy, appearance.

Smooth Treefern Cyathea Brownii
The SmoothTreefern is common in the gullies of the National Park and is occasionally seen elsewhere on the island. The trunk is usually up to 5m but heights of 20m have been recorded in the past and it is in the Guiness Book of Records as the tallest treefern species in the world. It is distinguished from the Rough Treefern by the smoother trunk. For the early settlers, the centre of the treefern stems provided "good food for hogs, sheep and goats".


Species of Birds

The island boasts at least 116 species.  Seabirds ( but no seagulls!), Land birds, Migratory birds and Vagrants.

It is debatable whether some of these species were self introduced or deliberately released over the varying establishments of the distinct settlements.  Most notably are two of the Island’s endemic species that are extremely rare and are subject to recovery actions.  They are the Norfolk Island Boobook Owl (Ninox undulata) and the famous Green Parrot (Cyanoramphus novaezelandiae).

Waterbirds Seabirds Forest and Farm Birds  Forest and Farm Birds (Continued)
White faced Heron Blank-winged Petrel Norfolk Island Boobook Owl  White breasted White eye
Pacific Black Duck White-necked Petrel Californian Quail  Guava Bird
Mallard Kermadec Petrel Feral Pigeon  Green Parrot
Buff-banded Rail Providence Petrel Shining Bronze Cuckoo  European Blackbird
Spotless Crake Little Shearwater Scarlet Robin  European Starling
Purple Swamphen Wedge-tailed Shearwater Welcome Swallow  Crimson Rosella
  Australian Gannet Song Thrush  Norfolk Island Starling
 Migratory Waders Masked Booby Long-billed White eye  Nuffka Sacred Kingfisher
 Lesser Golden Plover Red-tailed Tropicbird Golden Whistler  
 Ruddy Turnstone Sooty Tern Grey Fantail  Extinct Species
 Whimbrel Common Noddy Feral Chicken  Norfolk Island Kaka
 Bar-tailed Godwit Black Noddy Grey gerygone  Longtailed Triller
 Australian Kestrel Grey Ternlet Grinnell or Silvereye  Norfolk Island Starling
  White Tern Emerald Dove  New Zealand Pigeon
       Norfolk Island Ground Dove

Groups regularly visit Norfolk Island specifically to bird-watch.  Some visitors to the island soon work out that they have no choice in the matter as the local chicken population make themselves known.  The feral chooks of the island are both revered and a despised depending on whether you are taking a picture amidst the ruins of Kingston and catching the roosters in all their glory, or alternatively if as a city dweller the charm of the local cock crowing alarm clock has totally worn off!!  The Terns may captivate you as they ride the breezes of the coast line or valleys, purely white and magnificent in their gentle flights.

The birds are an inherent part of the landscape of Norfolk, another aspect of the serenity and beauty that require you to breath, slow down and drink in the pure magic of the island.

Wildlife and Domestic Critters

Bats, rats, cats, reptiles and fish - to name a few.  There were  initially two species of bats recorded  - free-tail batand Gould’s wattled bat on the island with only the Gould’s wattled bat being seen in recent years.

Rats feature a little more prominently in the history and present day of Norfolk Island.  The Polynesian Rat arrived with the Polynesians and is the supposed culprit for the distinction of a number of native reptiles and a large centipede.  It’s cousin the Ship Rat (aka black, bush, rood or house rat) was foremostly noticed in the early 1940’s.  The National Park has introduced control measures to protect nesting birds and seeds from native trees, which have in the past been largely consumed by these pesky pests.  Great vigilence is sought and kept to ensure that both Nepean and Phillip are kept rat-free.
The House Mouse was probably first introduced in the early European settlement days.

Feral cats are common yet controlled more diligently than in the past.

Probably the most obvious Domestic animal on Norfolk are our Cows.  Unlike the roads taken by most of our visitors, our roads are the walkways of our Cow population. 

The Cows have right of way.  This has led to a certain amount of amusement for our tourist population, until on some rare occasions that cow and car have come into direct contact.  The tradition of grazing the cows on the commons of Norfolk is good to this day.  They cows inadvertently provide another reason for complying with speed limits.  On a more ecological note they are worthy transporters of seeds and grasses often stolen from one side of the island to another.
Reptiles are slim pickings on Norfolk.  Two terrestrial reptiles a gecko and skink are found within the Norfolk, Nepean, Phillip group of islands. The skink is to be found only on Phillip.

More noteworthy perhaps is the Green Turtle.  Legendary inhabitant of Turtle Bay – now known as Emily Bay, and nearly harvested to distinction, the Green Turtle had obviously enjoyed the climate and pure waters of Norfolk, notably prolific until the 1840’s.  Occasionally in recent years they have been sighted around the coasts of Norfolk and are revered by all on Norfolk Island.


Endemic invertebrates occur here on Norfolk Island.  Moths, booklice, beetles and centipede.



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