Jungle creatures of New Guinea

This post contains pictures of some of the other animals I came across while doing fieldwork in New Guinea. These include amphibians, spiders, insects, lizards, snakes and some marine creatures. I have tried to identify most of what I saw, although many remain a mystery to me. If anyone as any suggestions to what some of my unidentified creatures are, I would be very interested to hear your thoughts.


Possible ground frog (Platymantis sp.)

This Australian green tree frog (Litoria caerulea) hopped on to our balcony one night for a visit.


Spiders are generally known as ‘laba-laba’ in Indonesian. This is a type of Huntsman spider (Heteropoda sp.) that was finding sanctuary on this island in the middle of a puddle.

Possible ?long jawed orb spider (?Leucauge sp.)

Tent web spider (Cyrtophora moluccensis)

Spiny orb-web spider (Gasteracantha fornicata)


Not sure but quite happy on this leaf


This Huntsman spider (Heteropoda venatoria) was looming over me in one bathroom (‘Mandi’) I visited.

These large Golden orb-web spiders (Nephilia pilipes) are very common in the jungle. They spin large webs particularly from one side of a road or river to another to catch any insects that use them as a highway.


Green jumping spider, a member of the Salticidae

Cross spiders (Argiope spp.) creating a stabilimentum

By far the worst animal in the jungle is the ant, known locally as ‘semoot’. These critters bite when threatened, particularly when they crawl into your shirt or trousers and find themselves pressed against your arms, legs or chest.  In some of these pictures an army of ants is carrying the head of a crab along a rock.




Beautiful red dragonfly

This rather curious praying mantis (Hierodula sp. or Rhombodera sp.) took a liking to my camera


A giant stick insect looking like a stick


Giant cricket, or ‘jengkerik’.

Not sure what these two species of butterflies are, any ideas welcomed!


Giant Hercules moth (Coscinocera hercules), see pencil for scale, the wingspan was easily 25cm across.



These playful spinner dolphins (Stenella longirostris) frequently followed our boat

Marine gastropod

Pacific nautilus

Carnivorous pitcher plants, animals that are attracted to their nectar crawl into their funnels and get trapped in a pool of powerful enzymes at the base before being digested by the plant.

Papuan mulch skink (Glaphyromorphus crassicaudus)


Emerald tree skink (Lamprolepis smaragdina)

New Guinea Blue-tailed Emo Skink (Emoia caeruleocauda)

Not sure what this is although it is known locally as a ‘Goural’, possibly a ?Littoral whiptail skink (?Emoia atrocostata)


Definitely a Littoral whiptail skink (Emoia atrocostata)

Crocodile or Papuan monitor (Varanus salvadorii) known locally as ‘Biawek’. Endemic to New Guinea and often found climbing trees or on rock faces.

Biawek tracks

Snakes are common in New Guinea although you have to be incredibly lucky to see one in the wild as they tend to avoid humans. Unfortunately most of the snakes I saw were in captivity like this Boelen’s python (Morelia boelen) which was shedding its skin, apparent from the appearance of a glazed eye.

New Guinea small-eyed snake (Micropechis ikaheka) or ‘Ular putih’ the ‘White snake’. This snake is very dangerous with powerful venom and is often found in Palm Oil plantations.  These images are taken from web (Credit: Paul Freed and Scott Frazier) as the only one I saw was roadkill and I don’t like taking pictures of dead animals.

Strikingly-coloured juvenile and adult Yapen Green Tree Boa (Morelia viridis) or ‘Ular ijo’ the ‘Green snake’

Birds of Jamaica

Jamaica is another place I’ve been fortunate to do fieldwork in. It is a beautiful place and part of the Greater Antilles series of islands in the Western Caribbean. It too has an extraordinary biodiversity of bird species, many endemic to Jamaica or the Caribbean. A good guide to bird identification is Haynes-Sutton et al. (2009) ‘A photographic guide to the birds of Jamaica’. As with my post on the Birds of New Guinea, all pictures are taken with my trusty 14 MP Fujifilm Finepix S4500 with 30x (Wide 24mm) zoom. However I have now invested in an 18MP Canon Eos 100D with 75-300mm zoom for future fieldwork. Let’s start with bitterns, herons and egrets…


Green Heron (Butoroides virescens)


Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis)


Great Egret (Ardea alba)


Tricoloured Heron (Egretta tricolor ruficollis), endemic to the Caribbean.


Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis), known locally as a ‘Chicken Hawk’.


Loggerhead Kingbird (Tyrannus caudifasciatus), known locally as a ‘Petchary’. Kingbirds are very aggressive and are known to mob John Crows (see later).


Magnolia Warbler (Dendroica magnolia), possibly a female.


Jamaican Crow (Corvus jamaicensis), known locally as the ‘Jabbering or Jamming Crow’ due to its very vocal nature and loud calls.

Greater Antillean Grackle (Quiscalus niger cassirostris), known locally as a ‘Cling Cling’. This bird is endemic to Jamaica and conspicuous by its bright yellow eye and keeled tail.


Magnificent Frigatebird (Fregata magnificens), known locally as a ‘Man O’War Bird’ or ‘Scissor Tail’ due to its forked tail.


Vervian Hummingbird (Mellisuga minima), known locally as the ‘Little Doctor Bird’. Doctor Birds are the national bird of Jamaica, although this really applies to the Red-billed Streamertail (Trochilus polytmus).

Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura), known locally as a ‘John Crow’. The John Crow mountains in the east of the island are named after this bird. The term John Crow is also used as an insult in Jamaica, I’m not sure why because these are quite beautiful birds!


American Kestrel (Falco sparverius), known locally as a ‘Sparrow Hawk’ or a ‘Killy-Killy’.


Haynes-Sutton, A., Downer, A. and Sutton, R.L., 2009. A photographic guide to the birds of Jamaica. A&C Black.

New Guinea: Island of Birds

The main reason I became interested geology and palaeontology was a fascination with life on Earth. I wanted to know how the Earth worked and how life evolved on this planet. As a geologist I am lucky enough to visit some beautiful places as part of my job, one of the benefits of this is being able to see some truly wonderful wildlife.

In 2011 and 2013 I visited New Guinea, the second largest island on Earth.  It is a remarkable place as there are virtually no endemic large land predators. The only large land predators are species of crocodiles that are found in rivers and shoreline (even open marine) environments while in the highlands lives the very rare New Guinea Singing Dog. This is in contrast to the rest of Southeast Asia where there are several species of big cat and in Australia where there are marsupial and placental mammalian predators.  In New Guinea, birds rule. Birds of prey are the largest and most common predator in New Guinea, and there is an extraordinary biodiversity of birds of all types including approximately 320 endemic species. A handy resource for bird identification is Pratt and Beehler’s ‘Birds of New Guinea: 2nd Edition’.


In this post I have collated some pictures of birds I encountered in New Guinea. I have taken the following pictures using a 14 MP Fujifilm Finepix S4500 with 30x (Wide 24mm) zoom. It’s not great quality but the zoom is pretty good and the camera is robust enough to handle the rigours of fieldwork and intense tropical rainfall.

Yellow-faced Myna (Mino dumontii) locally known as ‘Beo’ have bright coloured yellow eye rings and are very vocal birds. These examples were observed in the wild, the last photograph is a captive bird.

Striated heron (Butorides striata papuensis) are common along the coast.

Blyth’s Hornbill (Rhyticeros plicatus) are one of my favourite Papuan birds. They are known locally as ‘Burung Tahun’ translated as the ‘Knowing Bird’ because they are believed to be incredibly wise. These are huge birds and you can hear them approaching by the loud ‘whoompf-whoompf’ sound of their heavy wing beats as they fly between rainforest canopies.

The Southern Cassowary (Casuarius casuarius), known locally as ‘Kasuari’, is the largest bird in New Guinea. It is also extremely dangerous and can easily disembowel a human with its powerful legs and sharp claws. You can appreciate the Cassowary’s non-avian dinosaur ancestry by looking at their feet.


I’m not sure what these are but they have very long forked tails.


Pheasant pigeon (Otidiphaps nobilis)

Gurney’s eagle (Aquila gurneyi) is a medium sized, stocky raptor.

Olive-backed Sunbird (Cinnyris jugularis), female – left, male – right


White-breasted Woodswallow (Artamus leucorynchus)


Greater Black Coucal (Centropus menbeki)?


Large basket-like nests.


Egret (Ardea sp.)

The Brahminy Kite (Haliastur indus), known locally as ‘Elang Laut’ or the ‘Sea Eagle’, is a common raptor found along the coast.

Leucistic Brahminy Kite? Known locally as ‘Elang Putih’ or the ‘White Eagle’.


Frigatebird, probably a Lesser Frigatebird (Fregata ariel), are huge birds and long distance travellers. They are conspicuous by their powerful tapered wings and forked tail.


The New Guinea Harpy Eagle (Harpyopsis novaeguineae) is the largest raptor on the island, capable of preying on large tree kangaroos.

The Sulphur-crested Cockatoo (Cacatua galerita), known locally as ‘Kakatua’, are very noisy and gregarious birds. Often found in large groups and tend to follow you around while screeching loudly.


This is a captive Palm Cockatoo (Probosciger aterrimus), known locally as ‘Kakatua Raja’ the ‘King Cockatoo’.

Rufous-bellied Kookaburra (Dacelo gaudichaud) has a powerful bill for catching large insects and sit patiently on exposed branches waiting for insects to fly by.


Singing Starling (Aplonis cantoroides) with startling blood red iris.

Lesser Bird of Paradise (Paradisaea minor) male (top) and female (below). These are captive examples, however they have a beautiful and distinctive song that can be heard carried through the forest for many miles. Birds of Paradise are known locally as ‘Cenderawasih’ in West Papua and lend their name to the embayment, ‘Cenderawasih Bay’, surrounding the Bird’s Head and Bird’s Neck in western New Guinea.

Rainbow Lorikeet (Trichoglossus haematodus) – left, and Black-capped Lory (Lorius lory) – right


A captive Brown Lory (Calcopsitta duivenbodei), known locally as ‘Nuri coklat’.


Victoria Crowned Pigeon (Goura victoria), known locally as ‘Mambruk’.

Little Tern (Sternula albifrons)

I will upload more pictures of birds from Jamaica in a following post. I will also post some images of reptiles and spiders from New Guinea at a later date.


Pratt, T.K. and Beehler, B.M., 2014. Birds of New Guinea. Princeton University Press.