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Birding around Timika and Kuala Kencana, Irian Jaya, Indonesia

Timika is a pioneer town located about 45 kilometers from the southern Irian Jaya coast, surrounding the airport which provides access to PT Freeport Indonesia's copper and gold mining operations.

Although the Timika area is a center of rapidly expanding human population the larger surrounding environment is one of the world's last great wilderness areas. The rural nature of the district provides abundant and diverse bird habitat and is characterized by rural settlements, small scale farms and gardens set in a patchwork of secondary growth rainforest, and fragments of primary forest.

Further south towards the coast these habitats merge with sago and pandanus forest types then extensive mangrove associations. More than 130 bird species have been recorded so far in the lowlands area, many of them endemic to New Guinea. In the sago swamps and mangroves typical highlight species include Papuan Harrier, Orange-fronted Fruit Dove, Pied and Collared Imperial Pigeons, Red-flanked Lorikeet, Palm Cockatoo, Lesser Black Coucal, Yellow-billed Kingfisher, White-shouldered and Emperor Fairy Wrens, Pied Chat, Black Thicket-fantail, Broad-billed Flycatcher, Streak-headed and Rufous-banded Honeyeaters, Singing Starling.

Kuala Kencana is a small modern town built by Freeport about 5 years ago to service it's expanding mining operations. It is located 18 kilometers north west of Timika within a relatively undisturbed 10,000 Hectare lowland evergreen rainforest reserve. A special treat for birders is the town's spectacular 18 hole golf course nestled among 50 meter high rainforest; a haven for many rainforest birds including the Greater Bird of Paradise which may be seem performing at lek trees most months of the year.

More than 130 bird species have been recorded around Kuala Kencana and adjacent rural areas. Typical, usually resident species include; Pacific Baza, Grey-headed Goshawk, Long-tailed Buzzard, Common Scrubfowl, Black-billed Brush-turkey, Wompoo Fruit-dove, Pink-spotted Fruit-dove, Beautiful Fruit-dove, Ornate Fruit-dove, Purple-tailed Imperial Pigeon, Zoe Imperial Pigeon, Pinon Imperial Pigeon, Great Cuckoo Dove, Greater Streaked Lowry, Dusky Lowry, Black-capped Lowry, Large Fig Parrot , Palm Cockatoo, Pesquet's parrot (uncommon), Eclectus Parrot, Red-cheeked Parrot, Greater Black Coucal, Papuan Boobook, Papuan Frogmouth, Moustached tree-swift, Dwarf Kingfisher, Rufous Bellied Kookaburra, Blyth's Hornbill, Boyer's Cuckoo-shrike, Black Cuckoo-shrike, Golden Cuckoo-shrike, Blue Jewel Babbler, Frilled Monarch, Sooty Thicket-fantail, Rusty Pitohui, Red-throated Myzomela, Mimic Meliphaga, Tawny-breasted Honeyeater, Yellow-eyed Starling (usually visits between February and May), Golden Mynah, Yellow-faced Mynah, Brown Oriole, Spangled Drongo, Hooded Butcher-bird, White-eared Catbird, Glossy-mantled Manucode, Magnificent Riflebird, King Bird-of-paradise.

Although some species are migratory or nomadic, individuals may show up at any time of year. Many species (including quite a few of those listed) are often easier to hear than to see, so recording equipment and reference tapes are strongly recommended.

Peter and Judy Ebsworth, October 1999.

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