New and Noteworthy Bird Records for Micronesia, 1986–2003
GARY J. WILES1
Division of Aquatic and Wildlife Resources, 192 Dairy Road, Mangilao, GU 96913, USA
NATHAN C. JOHNSON2
CNMI Division of Fish and Wildlife, P.O. Box 1397, Rota, MP 96951, USA
JUSTINE B. DE CRUZ
CNMI Division of Fish and Wildlife, Saipan, MP 96950, USA
BirdLife International, Wellbrook Ct., Girton Road, Cambridge CB3 0NA, United Kingdom
VICENTE A. CAMACHO
CNMI Division of Fish and Wildlife, Saipan, MP 96950, USA
ANGELA KAY KEPLER
P.O. Box 1298, Haiku, Maui, Hawaii 96708, USA
DANIEL S. VICE
USDA/APHIS/WS, 1060 Route 16, Suite 103-C, Barrigada Heights, Guam 96921, USA
KIMBALL L. GARRETT
Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, Los Angeles, CA 90007, USA
CURT C. KESSLER
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, P.O. Box 8134 MOU-3, Dededo, GU 96912, USA
H. DOUGLAS PRATT
Museum of Natural Science, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA 70803-3216, USA
Micronesica 37(1):69-96, 2004
1Present address: 521 Rogers St., SW, Olympia, WA 98502, USA
2Present address: Marianas Conservation Unlimited, PMB #618 PPP, Box 10000, Saipan, MP
This paper documents noteworthy records of 73 bird species for Micronesia
from 1986–2003. We describe six new records for the region, three each for the
Mariana and Marshall Islands, two for the Carolines, and 25 new island records.
Additional reports are included for species that are either rare or poorly docu-
mented for particular islands. Of the 61 species that are not resident in
Micronesia, 52 are probably Palearctic in their origin, three are from elsewhere in
Oceania, two each are Oriental and Nearctic, and one each is Australasian and
The following observers participated in sighting, recording, or evaluating the
records: C. F. Aguon (CA), G. Allport (GA), P. Aguon (PA), G. M. Beauprez
(GB), J. Benevente (JB), R. E. Beck, Jr. (RB), A. Brown-Watson (AB-W), C.
Campion (CC), J. de Cruz (JC), R. Cruz (RC), V.A. Camacho (VC), G. Dutson
(GD), R. E. David (RD), J. Engbring (JE), G. Fugate (GF), J. Flores (JF), R. Frew
(RF), G. Grimm (GG), J. Gourley (JG), K. L. Garrett (KG), P. O. Glass (PG), J.
E. Hunter (JH), L. Henderson (LH), N. B. Hawley (NH), R. Harper (RH), N. C.
Johnson (NJ), A. K. Kepler (AK), A. Keith (AKi), C. C. Kessler (CK), C. B.
Kepler (CKp), G. Stuart Keith (SK), T. Lloyd (TL), J. M. Morton (JM), L.
Mathews (LM), C. Naugle (CN), J. Omar (JO), K. D. Orcutt (KO), H. D. Pratt
(DP), I. Price (IP), M. W. Ritter (MR), C. Spiegel (CS), D. W. Stinson (DS), J.
Salas (JS), M. Swift (MS), T. Sutterfield (TS), E. M. Taisacan (ET), G. Talbot
(GT), Daniel S. Vice (DV), Diane Vice (DiV), D. Wooster (DW), D. Watson
(DaW), Doug Weidemann (DgW), Don Weidemann (DnW), G. J. Wiles (GW), G.
Witteman (GWt), W. Weare (WW), and Y. Yalap (YY).
Providence Petrel (Pterodroma solandri). Single petrels of this species were
observed at 3º14'N, 131º21'E and 3º13'N, 131º19'E near Tobi in Palau’s
Southwest Islands on 3 June 1992 (AK; Kepler 1993). Both sightings, possibly of
the same individual, occurred at distances of 100–150 m under good light condi-
tions. The birds appeared large and generally dark in coloration, but displayed
slightly paler bellies and conspicuous white flashes at the bases of the underwing
primaries. No white was visible on the upperwings. This wing pattern distin-
guished the birds from dark-morph Kermadec (P. neglecta) and Herald (P.
arminjoniana) Petrels, both of which also migrate into the west-central Pacific
from breeding grounds south of the equator (Harrison 1985, Carboneras 1992).
The bright wing flashes and paler belly also distinguished the birds from Great-
winged Petrels (P. macroptera), a species restricted to cooler regions of the
southern oceans except for a few vagrants that reach the North Pacific. Our
observations represent the first records of P. solandri in Micronesia.
Bulwer’s Petrel (Bulweria bulwerii). AK observed six Bulwer’s Petrels
among Palau’s Southwest Islands from 2-18 June 1992 at the following locations:
one bird offshore at Tobi Island, one at 4º30'N, 132º22'E, one at 3º13'N, 131º19'E,
one at 3º6'N, 131º14'E, and two at 6ºN, 133º10'E (Kepler 1993). Many were
viewed well, which aided identification. They were fairly small with long point-
ed tails and dark brown overall except for paler diagonal bands across the upper
wing coverts. The birds flew low over the water and displayed the distinctive
70Micronesica 37(1), 2004
erratic flight pattern of this species, less fluttery than that of storm-petrels. This
petrel has been previously recorded from the Marianas and Yap eastward to the
Marshalls (Bruyns 1964,Amerson 1969, Glass et al. 1990, Kepler et al. 1992), but
is new for Palau.
Buller’s Shearwater (Puffinus bulleri). Garrett & Schreiber (1988) reported
the only records of this species for Micronesia, which involved nine sightings of
one to six birds at Bikini and Kwajalein Atolls, Marshall Islands, on 27-29 May
1986. Their account did not list descriptive remarks, so we provide them here.
Many of the birds were seen well by KG, who noted their Puffinus-like shape and
the languid flight pattern typical of P. bulleri. Other characters noted on each
included gray upperparts boldly marked by a dark M-shaped pattern, clean white
plumage below, a dark crown, and a longish tail. Buller’s Shearwaters nest off
northern New Zealand and migrate to the northern and eastern regions of the
Pacific (Harrison 1985, Carboneras 1992).
Red-tailed Tropicbird (Phaethon rubricauda). During interviews with
islanders on Tobi and Sonsorol in Palau’s Southwest Islands in June 1992, AK
was informed that small numbers of this species nested on both islands. Residents
stated that tropicbirds with red tail feathers used several enormous banyan (Ficus
prolixa) trees on Tobi and many of the large Calophyllum inophyllum trees on
Sonsorol as breeding sites. White-tailed Tropicbirds (P. lepturus) also nested in
the same trees, which apparently offered some protection from chronic hunting
due to their tall heights and the many crevices among their branches. AK was
unable to confirm nesting through her own observations. Phaethon rubricauda
occurs widely in Micronesia, with breeding known in the Marianas, Pohnpei, the
Marshalls, and Wake (Pyle & Engbring 1985, de Korte & Meltofte 1997).
However, in Palau, the species is scarce and nesting is previously undocumented
Masked Booby (Sula dactylatra). Two pairs of Masked Boobies were seen
on Gaferut Island, Yap, on 14 September 1999 (CKp). One of the pairs was
accompanied by a flying juvenile, whereas the second had a downy chick esti-
mated to be about two months old. Another juvenile, this one about 100 days of
age, was found in a nest of coral rubble during a second trip to the island on 28
May 2002 (CKp). The adults were recognized by their large size, black tail and
facial mask, yellowish bill coloration, and their diagnostic call notes, whereas the
juvenile in 2002 had a distinctively shaped bill. These are the first sightings of S.
dactylatra in Yap state. This species has been widely recorded elsewhere in
Micronesia (Pyle & Engbring 1985, Reichel 1991, Wiles et al. 2000).
Brown Booby (Sula leucogaster). Brown Boobies breed widely throughout
Micronesia (Pyle & Engbring 1985), but the only previous nesting record for Yap
state is from West Fayu Atoll in the early 1900s and was presented without details
(Nelson 1978). Therefore, the discovery of a dense nesting colony of this species
at Gaferut Island on 28 May 2002 (CKp) is noteworthy both for its occurrence and
large size. About 1,000 chicks were found in nests on the ground throughout the
island, with another 200 juveniles seen in flight.
Wiles et al.: Recent Micronesian Bird Records71
Red-footed Booby (Sula sula). This species occurs across much of
Micronesia (Pyle & Engbring 1985), but is surprisingly poorly documented for
Yap state, with a report from Gaferut Island in 1954 (Niering 1961) the only
record known to us. Here, we provide additional documentation for this location
and note the species’ occurrence at a second site in Yap.
On 14 September 1999, CKp observed about 200 adult Red-footed Boobies
and several flying juveniles during a brief stop at Gaferut. At least 50 of the adults
sat tightly on nests, indicating the presence of eggs or young chicks. No older
chicks were sighted, which suggested that the population was early in its breed-
ing cycle. All nests occurred in Tournefortia trees. During a second short visit on
28 May 2002, CKp recorded about 300 adult and flying juvenile Red-footed
Boobies. He also viewed up to 50 older chicks, which were late in the downy
stage or had their remiges showing, but did not see any incubating adults. Nesting
was restricted to the east side of the island on this trip.
Large numbers of Red-footed Boobies were observed at Sorenlung Islet,
Ulithi Atoll, on 13-14 March 1986 (JE, GW). Up to 100 boobies were seen in
flight at any one time, with at least several hundred birds probably roosting on the
island. Fourteen nests were discovered, including several in tall Pisonia grandis
trees. Most adults were white morph individuals, but much of the population
consisted of brownish immatures with dark tails.
Little Black Cormorant (Phalacrocorax sulcirostris). An all-black cor-
morant was seen in flight over a pond on Pulo Anna in Palau’s Southwest Islands
on 13 June 1992 (AK; Kepler 1993). It was viewed at close range for about eight
minutes. Subsequent review of regional field guides confirmed it to be P.
sulcirostris. The bird was relatively small for a cormorant, with a medium-length
black bill, an entirely black face, and black legs. These characters distinguished it
from a Little Cormorant (P. niger), which occurs in tropical Asia eastward to Java
and is largely black, but has a smaller brownish bill and a whitish chin in non-
breeding plumage. Little Black Cormorants have an Australasian distribution that
extends to the northern coast of New Guinea and into much of Indonesia (Beehler
et al. 1986, Orta 1992), and are an abundant visitor to New Guinea (Beehler et al.
1986). This species is previously unrecorded in Micronesia.
Gray Heron (Ardea cinerea). A Gray Heron was observed on the mud flats
at Wanyan, Yap, on 7 November 2001 (GD). Although distant, it was seen to be
a large and heavy-bodied heron, with grayish plumage and a dark cap contrast-
ing with a pale neck. An absence of chestnut on the thighs and wings distin-
guished it from a Great Blue Heron (A. herodias). Single Gray Herons were
recorded at several locations with ponds on Saipan in 2002, including a golf
course at Laolao Bay on 20 March (VC), another golf course in Talufofo on 5
June (CK), where it was photographed (Fig. 1a), and at Hakmang Peninsula on
11 June (VC). Another was observed and photographed (Fig. 1b) at a temporar-
ily flooded field in Mangilao, Guam, on 22 and 25 December 2002 (TL). Gray
Herons are rare visitors to western Micronesia, with single prior reports from
Yap, Guam, and probably Palau (Stinson et al. 1997a, Wiles et al. 1993, 2000).
72 Micronesica 37(1), 2004
Wiles et al.: Recent Micronesian Bird Records73
Figure 1. (a) Gray Heron on Saipan. Photo by Curt C. Kessler. (b) Gray Heron on Guam. Photo by
Tony Lloyd. (c, d) Tundra Swan on Guam. Photos by Curt C. Kessler. (e, f) Unidentified
scaup on Guam. Photos by Gary J. Wiles. (g) Peregrine Falcon on Palau. Photo by Yalap P.
Yalap. (h, i) White-winged Tern on Tinian. Photos by Tim Sutterfield. (j) Short-eared Owl on
Rota. Photo by Nathan C. Johnson. (k) Albino Rufous Fantail on Saipan in 1996. Photo by
Curt C. Kessler. (l) Orange-cheeked Waxbill on Saipan. Photo by Nathan C. Johnson.
A previous photograph of a bird on Saipan in 1982-1983 (Glass et al. 1990) was
Great Egret (Ardea alba). One individual was sighted at the mangrove
pond southeast of the Rois ra Sang ridgeline in northern Peleliu, Palau, on 1
March 2000 (GW). Its large body size and wingspan, long and noticeably
kinked neck, and long heavy yellow bill separated the bird from other egret
species. It was much larger than any of the 20 Little Pied Cormorants (P.
melanoleucos) roosting in nearby trees. Great Egrets have been recorded in
small numbers elsewhere in western Micronesia during the past 20 years (Glass
et al. 1990, Wiles et al. 1993, 2000, Stinson et al. 1995, 1997a), but this is the
first report for Palau.
Intermediate Egret (Egretta intermedia). At least 13 Intermediate Egrets
were present at the airport on Weno, Chuuk, on 3 November 2001 (GD) and again
on 11–13 February 2003 (GF, AKi, SK, DP, IP). They were distinguished from
other egret species by their black legs and feet, moderately long and stout yellow
bills, smoothly curving unkinked necks, and lack of the puffier throats that char-
acterize Cattle Egrets (Bubulcus ibis). The birds were slightly larger than a white
morph Pacific Reef-Egret (E. sacra) that was also present and were stockier and
shorter-necked than Great Egrets. The only previous records of E. intermedia
from Chuuk are those by Owen (1977) and Pyle & Engbring (1987), but our
recent sightings indicate that the species is probably a regular nonbreeding visitor
to this island group.
Little Egret (Egretta garzetta). One bird was sighted at a small pond near
the old airport in Ruul district, Yap, on 5 November 2001 (GD). It was fishing,
often foot-paddling, and had a black bill, greenish lores, yellow ocular skin, and
black legs with pale yellow soles. Pratt & Bruner (1981) and Wiles et al. (2000)
reported the only previous records for this island group.
Pond-heron (Ardeola sp.). A pond-heron in winter plumage was seen at
Lake Hagoi, Tinian, on 28 February 2002 (TS). The bird was viewed only in flight
while being chased by two White Terns (Gygis alba). It showed a heron-like pro-
file, with an S-shaped curve in the neck and its feet extended beyond the tail, and
was similar in size to a Cattle Egret. It passed directly over the observer, who
clearly noted its white wings and dark brown striping on the breast. These traits
are inadequate to identify the bird to species. This is the first record of a pond-
heron for the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and third for
Micronesia. Both earlier sightings were from Guam, one of which was a Chinese
Pond-Heron (A. bacchus) in breeding plumage (Wiles et al. 1993, 2000).
Black-crowned Night-Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax). An adult was
observed among 70-80 Rufous Night-Herons (N. caledonicus) and 70-80 Cattle
Egrets at the municipal dump in Koror, Palau, on 26 February 2000 (GW). Two
adults were present at the same locality on 23-25 February 2003 (AKi, DP, IP). A
black crown and back, and a gray tail and wings were clearly visible on the birds.
An individual collected in 1945 is the only other published record for Palau
74Micronesica 37(1), 2004
Tundra Swan (Cygnus columbianus). On 12 January 2003, CK discovered an
immature Tundra Swan standing along the shore at Asgadao Bay, Merizo, Guam.
It was viewed closely for 15 minutes and photographed (Figs. 1c, d). When first
sighted, the swan was resting with its head and neck down and its eyes partially
closed. It became alert at the observer’s approach, then walked and swam away
when approached to within 10 m. It made no attempt to fly, but appeared to be in
good condition. The swan showed white plumage on the main body, a pale gray
neck and head, and black legs and feet. Several bill and facial characters identified
the bird as belonging to the subspecies C. c. bewickii rather than as a Whooper (C.
cygnus) or Trumpeter Swan (C. buccinator). These included a noticeable down-
ward curve to the shape of the upper mandible, a large squarish flesh colored patch
on the bill extending from near the eye to near the proximal edge of the nostril, and
black on the remainder of the bill (Fig. 1d). A small area of buff-tinged feathering
was present between the eye and the fleshy bill patch. Also diagnostic was the
shape of the bill against the cheek, with the bill edge extending diagonally partway
down the cheek, then dropping vertically near the gape.
Follow-up investigation with several owners of exotic birds in the area
revealed that none had possessed or lost a captive swan. Additionally, the swan
was not banded, nor did its feet appear scarred or have abnormal nails as occurs
in some penned birds. We therefore conclude that the bird was wild. This is the
second Micronesian record of a Tundra Swan. The first, also C. c. bewickii, was
an individual collected on Rota in 1989 (Stinson et al. 1991). Single records from
the Iwo Islands and Midway are the only other reports from the tropical Pacific
(Pratt et al. 1987, Brazil 1991).
Eurasian Wigeon (Anas penelope). Four birds were viewed at a small pond
near the former airport in Ruul, Yap, on 5 November 2001 (GD). They showed
plain rufous-brown heads and were larger than four accompanying Green-winged
Teal (A. crecca). One individual in flight was identified as a first-year male by the
small white patch on its upperwing. Our sighting appears to be the first docu-
mented record for Yap since perhaps the 1920s (Hachisuka et al. 1932).
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos). A flock of 11 Mallards was sighted in a large
concrete-lined basin with shallow water on Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, on 6
December 1999 (DV, GW, RB, CA). Two males in breeding plumage were pre-
sent, with each having a green head, white neck ring, brown breast, gray flanks
and wings, black vent, and yellow bill. The remaining birds were females, show-
ing rich brown mottled plumage, a dark eyeline, and varying amounts of orange
in the bill. When flushed, blue speculums bordered in white and white underwing
coverts were visible on all birds. The mallards were larger than two Eurasian
Wigeons and a Northern Pintail (Anas acuta) accompanying the flock. Six indi-
viduals stayed at the basin until 8 December. Five to six birds were found at an
artificial pond at the Guam International Airport on 27 and 29 December, and one
bird remained at this site until 15 January 2000.
On Saipan, two drake Mallards accompanied by four females were noted at
the water catchment basin of the Saipan International Airport on 18 January 2001
Wiles et al.: Recent Micronesian Bird Records75
(VC) and an additional female was sighted at a large abandoned water tank in
Puerto Rico on six occasions from 23 November 2001 to 26 January 2002 (NJ,
VC, CK, GB, JC). A male was seen at the north end of Lake Hagoi, Tinian, on 25
January 2001 (TS). The drakes on Saipan and Tinian displayed the same charac-
teristics as the males seen on Guam, while the females showed blue speculums.
On 5 January 2002, a female Mallard was identified at the wastewater treatment
ponds at the Rota Resort and Country Club, Rota (NJ, GB). Observers noticed its
mottled brown plumage, dark eye-stripe, contrasting orange-and-black bill, and
blue speculum fringed in white. These sightings represent first island records for
Guam, Rota, and Tinian, and perhaps the second and third records for Saipan.
Only a handful of substantiated reports exist for Micronesia, all from the Mariana
Islands (Glass et al. 1990, Stinson et al. 1995, 1997a).
Northern Pintail (Anas acuta). NJ noted a drake in breeding plumage at the
Price Costco wetland in San Jose, Saipan, on 30 June-1 July 2002. A female was
seen in flight over the Tarague cliffline in northern Guam in late July 1999 (DV).
There appears to be just one other record of this species for the region during June
to August (Stinson et al. 1997a). Occurrence is typically between September and
April (Amerson 1969, Stinson et al. 1997a, many other citations).
Garganey (Anas querquedula). A male in breeding plumage was observed at
the wastewater treatment ponds at the Rota Resort and Country Club, Rota, on 14
September 2000 and in a golf course pond at the resort on 5 October 2000 (NJ).
The duck allowed close viewing on both occasions. Plumage features included a
dark brown head with a prominent white facial stripe that curved downward near
the nape, brown mottling on the breast, and paler brown mottling on the undertail
coverts. This species is a rare migrant to the southern Marianas (Engbring &
Owen 1981, Clapp & Schipper 1990, Reichel & Glass 1991, Stinson et al. 1997a),
but has not been previously recorded on Rota.
Green-winged Teal (Anas crecca). Four of these ducks were seen perched,
swimming, and in flight together at a small pond located between the old and new
airports in Ruul, Yap, on 3 November 2001 (GD). They were noticeably smaller
than four Eurasian Wigeons also present and showed the mottled brown plumage
with a paler belly typical of non-breeding individuals. They also had a plain head
pattern with a faint eyestripe and supercilium, and a dark green speculum bor-
dered broadly with white along the leading edge and narrowly along the trailing
edge. The observer did not determine the subspecies of the birds, but they were
most likely A. c. crecca based on geographic location. Green-winged Teal are reg-
ularly recorded in Palau and the Marianas (Engbring 1988, Stinson et al. 1997a),
but are a new record for Yap.
Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis). A mixed flock of 12 scaup, with six males and
six females, was observed on a pond at the Kingfisher Golf Course in the Talufofo
region of Saipan on 18 January 2000 (JC). Ten birds were identified as Lesser
Scaup, based on the diagnostic peak in the feathering on the back of their heads,
which was clearly seen. No peak was present on two individuals considered to be
Greater Scaup (Aythya marila). All females had a distinctive large white patch
76 Micronesica 37(1), 2004
encircling the bill, which extended to the forehead, lower lores, and chin. Three
Lesser Scaup were identified at the same location on 3 March 2000 (VC). A bird
observed at Lake Susupi on 18 January 2001 (VC) had many of the features noted
above, as well as an extremely small black nail on the bill. All female Lesser
Scaup were discriminated from Tufted Ducks (A. fuligula) by the presence of a
distinct peak in the crown set well back on the head, an absence of any noticeable
feather tuft on the rear of the head, and the sizable well-demarcated patch of white
at the base of the bill. Male Lesser Scaup had similarly shaped head profiles and
fine scalloping on their grayish backs, in contrast to male Tufted Ducks.
On Rota, a probable female Lesser Scaup was observed with four Northern
Pintails at the sewage treatment ponds of the Rota Resort and Country Club on 12
November 2000 (GD, GA). Initial identification as a scaup was based on the
broad white blaze at the base of the bill, dark warm brown plumage, and yellow
eye. Continued viewing showed the species’ diagnostic head shape, which fea-
tured a high crown peaking well behind the eye and an angular bump on the rear-
crown. The bill was uniform gray except for a black nail. However, the bird also
showed slightly paler flanks and white undertail coverts, which are features more
commonly displayed by Tufted Ducks, so the record could not be confirmed.
Our Saipan sightings are the first records of A. affinis from Micronesia. This
species is a vagrant to eastern Asia, with just a few reports from Japan (Brazil
1991) and possibly China (MacKinnon & Phillipps 2000).
Greater Scaup (Aythya marila). Single male Greater Scaup were recorded at
the wastewater treatment ponds at the Rota Resort and Country Club, Rota, on 30
December 1999 (NJ) and 9 December 2000 (NJ). On both occasions, the observ-
er noted the obvious rounded head without any slight peak in the feathering of the
crown, which distinguishes the species from Lesser Scaup. Both individuals
showed glossy dark green heads when seen in good light and light-colored flanks.
On Saipan, a male and female Greater Scaup were sighted on Lake Susupi
on 24 and 29 November 1999 (VC, JC). The large white patch at the base of the
female’s bill and rounded head shape with no observable peak were well viewed.
Additional Saipan records include two birds swimming with 10 Lesser Scaup at a
pond at the Kingfisher Golf Course in Talufofo on 18 January 2000 (see previous
species account), single birds at Lake Susupi on 30 December 1990 (GW, DS) and
14 December 2000 (JC), a group of eight birds at Lake Susupi on 30 December
2000 (NJ, GB), and three pairs at the Kingfisher Golf Course on 17 January 2002
(JC). Two of the males seen in January 2002 displayed a dark green gloss on the
head when in full light. These observations increase considerably the number of
sightings of this duck for the Marianas. The only previous Micronesian records
were three reports from Saipan (Stinson et al. 1997a).
A female scaup was captured by an island resident and brought to the
Division of Aquatic and Wildlife Resources on Guam in November 1995. Details
of its capture were not obtained, nor were we able to view its head shape in an
undisturbed condition, which normally allows identification of wild birds. We
sent photographs of the duck (Figs. 1e, f) to six regional experts on North
Wiles et al.: Recent Micronesian Bird Records77
American waterfowl and queried them on the identity of the bird. All were in
agreement that it was not a Tufted Duck, based on the extensive white on the
cheek, the absence of a feather tuft on the rear of the head, the presence of fine
gray vermiculations on the scapulars and small sections of the back (Beaman &
Madge 1998), and the slightly paler brown patch on the side of the face. Beyond
this, the group was evenly divided on species identity, with half leaning toward
Greater Scaup and half toward Lesser Scaup. Features such as head shape and
size, bill and body size, and amount of white on the cheek were variously attrib-
uted to both species. Two traits, the dark eye and blackish rather than gray bill,
indicated that the bird was an immature. Although identity could not be estab-
lished, this nevertheless represents the first record of a scaup for Guam.
Common Pochard (Aythya ferina). As many as two males and two females
resided at Lake Susupi, Saipan, from 18 December 1999 to 9 February 2000 (JC,
GW, NJ). An additional male in bright breeding plumage was observed at close
range at the Saipan airport water catchment on 4 April 2001 (VC). Drakes dis-
played a combination of characters, including a reddish head and upper neck, a
silvery back and flanks, a sloping forehead, and a blue-gray band near the tip of
the bill. Common Pochards are a rare migrant to Micronesia, with the only records
being from Saipan and Guam (Stinson et al. 1997a).
Osprey (Pandion haliaetus). An Osprey was seen searching for fish at the
wastewater treatment ponds at the Rota Resort and Country Club, Rota, on 1
December 1999 (PG, ET). Another sighting occurred two days later, when it was
observed soaring southward across the Sabana and flying out to sea (PG, ET).
Identification was based on the presence of a dark eyeline, white underparts, dark
wrist patch on the underwing, and bent-wing flight posture. This species is new
Two other sightings of possibly the same individual seen on Rota were made
several hours apart at different locations in southern Guam on 2 January 2000
(GW, RB, DV, DgW, DnW). The first occurred at a set of aquaculture ponds near
the Talofofo River mouth. The bird flew repeatedly around the ponds during a 20-
minute observation period. Its distinctive head markings and dark brown upper
wings were noted. The second sighting was 7 km away at Fena Reservoir, where
the bird soared over the observers, allowing its underwing pattern to be closely
viewed. These observations are the first for Guam since 1986 (Wiles et al. 1987).
Another Osprey, recognized by its angular wings, white underparts, and dark
upperparts, was seen well in flight over southern Peleliu, Palau, on 22 December
2002 (GT, CC). Other regional records come from Saipan, Pagan,Yap, Palau, and
Pingelap Atoll (Baker 1951,Wiles et al. 1987, 2000,Wiles & Conry 1990, Stinson
et al. 1991, Buden 1995).
Black Kite (Milvus migrans). Sightings of this species have become increas-
ingly frequent in the Marianas since first documented in the 1980s (Stinson et al.
1991, Kessler 1999, Wiles et al. 2000). We report three additional records here. A
Black Kite was seen twice near Broadway Avenue and 86th Street on Tinian on
28 September and 27 December 2000 by TS, who noted its all dark plumage,
78 Micronesica 37(1), 2004
slightly forked tail, and large size. In December, the bird was being mobbed in
flight by White Terns. Repeated sightings of a kite were made at a number of loca-
tions on Guam from 1 December 2001 to early March 2002 (DV, DiV, GG). Sites
included Mt. Barrigada,Andersen Air Force Base, Talofofo, and Mangilao, where
it was seen picking at a chicken carcass along a road. The same characters noted
above, plus a somewhat paler head, were observed on this individual. On 7 May
2002, a Black Kite was shot and collected (USNM 601887) in the large central
crater on Anatahan (JO). This individual was an immature female of the sub-
species M. m. lineatus (R.C. Banks, pers. comm.). It had heavy fat and was in light
molt on the body near the tail.
Gray-faced Buzzard (Butastur indicus). A lone hawk flew above GD along
the ridge of Ngerekebesang Island, Palau, on 8 November 2001. It was identified
as B. indicus based on its shape and flight behavior. It was medium-sized, being
slightly smaller and slimmer than a Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo) or Oriental
Honey-Buzzard (Pernis ptilorhynchus), and had long rather narrow wings and a
long tail. Its flight alternated between a few supple easy wing beats and glides,
and it projected a finer and more elongate silhouette than most raptors, showing
rather pointed wings without any projecting primary tips. Little of the bird’s
plumage was seen, but the observer did note pale rufous-brown coloration with a
distinct dark mesial throat stripe, broken bars on the flanks, and several narrow
bars along the underside of the remiges. These characters, plus its flight action,
adequately distinguished the bird from a honey-buzzard and hawks of the genera
Buteo and Circus. Our record of B. indicus is the first for Palau and third for
Micronesia (Wiles et al. 2000, Clements 2003). This species is a common migrant
through eastern Asia and winters in southeastern Asia, Indonesia, and the
Philippines (Kennedy et al. 2000, Ferguson-Lees & Christie 2001).
Eurasian Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus). A male was observed at the Guam
International Airport on at least six occasions from 15 December 2000 to 8
January 2001 (DV, JB, JF, PA). It was viewed once for about 15 minutes while
perched inside an airport hanger. Characteristics included a rusty back, gray head,
an absence of bold facial markings, and tan underparts marked with darker spots
running down the breast and belly. In flight, black speckling on the back and
upper wing coverts distinguished the bird from a Lesser Kestrel (F. naumanni). It
was seen feeding on Eurasian Tree-Sparrows (Passer montanus) and chasing
other birds (Vice & Vice 2004). The only other Micronesian records of Eurasian
Kestrels are from Guam and Saipan (Glass et al. 1990, Stinson et al. 1997a, Wiles
et al. 2000).
Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus). A single individual was seen flying
fairly high over the Guam International Airport on 13 January 2000 (GW). A
broad dark line was visible down the front of the face, along with fine barring on
the underwings and pointed wings. The bird was about 50% larger in size than
two White Terns following close behind it. Another Peregrine Falcon was
observed repeatedly and photographed at the same location from 4–23 March
2001 (DV, RB, JB, PA) (Vice & Vice 2004). Aside from an unconfirmed report on
Wiles et al.: Recent Micronesian Bird Records79
Andersen Air Force Base in 1986, these are the first observations for Guam since
1945 (Baker 1951, Stophlet 1946).
A Peregrine Falcon was captured on top of the north cable tower of the new
bridge spanning the channel between Koror and Airai, Palau, in September 2001
(YY). It was feeding on a Sulphur-crested Cockatoo (Cacatua galerita) at the
time and was later photographed (Fig. 1g). Prior to its capture, sightings of a sim-
ilar raptor were made in southern Airai near the bridge for up to several weeks
(LM). This is the first published account of F. peregrinus from Palau since the
species was originally reported (Finsch 1875). A few other Micronesian records
exist for Rota, Saipan, and Yap (Baker 1951, Wiles et al. 1993, 2000).
Common Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus). GD observed a moorhen at a
small pond near the old airport and heard another calling from a reedbed adjacent
the new airport in Ruul, Yap, on 5 November 2001. These records document the
continued presence of this recently established population (Wiles et al. 2000).
Eurasian Coot (Fulica atra). One individual was viewed as it swam across
a pond and foraged on the shore at Manengon Hills, Yona, Guam, on 5 and 17
January 2003 (TL, WW). It was entirely blackish in plumage and possessed a dis-
tinctive white bill and facial shield. A record from Guam in 1896 (Hartert 1898,
Baker 1951) and single sightings from Saipan and Tinian (Stinson et al. 1995,
1997a) are the only other published reports for Micronesia.
Black-bellied Plover (Pluvialis squatarola). One bird was seen in flight at a
mangrove-fringed tidal inlet a few kilometers west of Colonia, Pohnpei, on 27
October 2001 (GD). It was heavy bodied for a shorebird, with grayish plumage on
the upperparts and black axillaries. The only prior records of this species for
Pohnpei come from Pingelap and Oruluk Atolls (Buden 1995, 1999a).
Greater Sand Plover (Charadrius leschenaultii). Five individuals were
recorded at the Coral Ocean Point Golf Course ponds near Koblerville, Saipan, on
2 March 2000 (VC), followed by an additional sighting of possibly the same birds
nearby at the island’s airport water catchment basin on 19 April 2000 (VC). The
plovers were in breeding plumage with light colored legs and a rusty breast band
that did not extend down the sides to the flanks. Bill characteristics were not
noted. Mongolian Plovers (C. mongolus) were noted at other sites on the same
days and appeared smaller with darker legs by comparison. Greater Sand Plovers
are a rare and nearly annual migrant to the Marianas (Stinson et al. 1997b), but
relatively few published records exist (King 1962, Williams & Grout 1985, Glass
et al. 1990).
Little Ringed Plover (Charadrius dubius). JC saw single birds on Saipan at
the Puerto Rico mudflats on 19 January 2000 and along the shore at Unai Tanapag
on 5 May 2000. Separation from other small plovers was based on the presence
of a white collar, complete breast bar, and flesh colored legs, plus the absence of
a wing stripe and white eyebrow. An additional individual was seen foraging at
the first location on 30 December 2000 (NJ). It also had a white collar and com-
plete brown breast band, as well as a faint eye ring. The lack of a white wing stripe
was confirmed when the bird spread its wings. Charadrius dubius is a rare
80Micronesica 37(1), 2004
migrant to the Marianas, with all previous records restricted to Guam (Stinson et
al. 1997b, Wiles et al. 2000).
Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus). A stilt was seen at Lake
Hagoi, Tinian, on 4 April 2001 (TS), with its long pink legs, dark brown back, and
white underparts being noted. One to seven stilts were recorded at the water catch-
ment ponds of the Saipan airport from 9 September to 8 November 2000 (JC), one
bird was present there on 25 February 2001 (VC), and four sightings of one or two
individuals occurred at various other locations on the island between 22
September and 25 November 2001 (NJ, CK, JG). Additionally, three juveniles
with brown mantles and wings and dull pinkish legs were noted at a small pond
in northern Peleliu, Palau, on 23 December 2002 (GT, CC). This species is a rare
but increasingly frequent migrant to western Micronesia (Engbring 1988, Stinson
et al. 1997b, Wiles et al. 1987, 2000, Clements 2003). Our records are the first for
Tinian and second for Palau.
Marsh Sandpiper (Tringa stagnatilis). One bird was viewed on a muddy
shore in mangroves near Colonia,Yap, on 5 November 2001 (GD). It was a slim
medium-sized shorebird, with grayish upperparts, a very thin medium-length bill,
and long pale yellowish legs. There is one earlier record from Yap (Pyle &
Common Redshank (Tringa totanus). Three birds were seen in a roadside
opening in mangrove forest in northeastern Peleliu, Palau, on 28 February and 1
March 2000 (GW). Red legs, a white rump, and broad white trailing edges of the
wings were noted on each. Although T. totanus is reportedly an uncommon
migrant in Palau (Owen 1977, Engbring 1988), the only published records appear
to be those of Owen (1977) from the mid-1970s.
Green Sandpiper (Tringa ochropus). We report three sightings of Green
Sandpipers from Saipan, including one bird at a small wetland on Hakmang
Peninsula on 2 January 1993 (GW, DS), another at a mitigation pond at Hakmang
on 5 October 2000 (JC), and five birds at the airport water catchment on 8
November 2000 (JC). All associated with Wood Sandpipers (T. glareola), but
were recognized by their plainer dark backs without obvious spotting, gray-green
legs, and more darkly streaked breasts and forenecks. A sighting of this species on
Saipan in 1989 is the only other record for the Marianas (Stinson et al. 1991).
Gray-tailed Tattler (Heteroscelus brevipes). A bird with a blue leg-flag on
its left tibia was viewed at an aquaculture pond at Agfayan Bay, Inarajan, Guam,
on 18 September 1999 (RB, GWt). It was tagged at Furen Lake near Nemuro City
in eastern Hokkaido, Japan, by T. Matsuo. This is the second sighting on Guam
of a Gray-tailed Tattler marked at this site (Wiles 1998).
Terek Sandpiper (Xenus cinereus). Two birds were seen at the Puerto Rico
mudflats, Saipan, on 19 April 2000 (VC) and at the Saipan airport water catch-
ment on 4 April 2001 (VC). The upcurved bill, which was yellow at the base and
dark on the outer half, and yellow legs were diagnostic. This species is a rare pas-
sage migrant through the Marianas, with nearly all records occurring in autumn
(Owen 1977, Pyle & Engbring 1985, Stinson et al. 1997b).
Wiles et al.: Recent Micronesian Bird Records81
Little Curlew (Numenius minutus). GD observed a Little Curlew at close
range at the airport on Weno, Chuuk, on 3 November 2001. The bird’s most
distinctive feature was its head pattern, which included pale unmarked lores
extending as a supercilium onto the rear ear coverts, a broad dark eyestripe behind
the eye, and broad dark lateral crown stripes joining on the nape. The bill was
shorter, less curved, and finer than in a Whimbrel (N. phaeopus), and was dull
pink at the base of the lower mandible. Body size was similar to that of a Pacific
Golden-Plover (Pluvialis fulva). In flight, the lower back and rump were uniform
with the upperparts, with no white markings evident. Numenius minutus is
extremely rare at all Micronesian locations except Palau (Pyle & Engbring 1985,
Engbring 1988, Stinson et al. 1997b). This is the first record for Chuuk.
Bristle-thighed Curlew (Numenius tahitiensis). This species is a rare migrant
to the Marianas, with only a few documented records (Hachisuka et al. 1932, King
1987, Glass et al. 1990, Stinson et al. 1991). Here, we report three additional sight-
ings. An individual seen at the Puerto Rico mudflats, Saipan, on 29 November
1999 (JC) was viewed closely enough to distinguish the protruding feather shafts
on the thighs. It also showed an overall cinnamon coloration, including the rump,
and wore an aluminum leg band. Two individuals foraging in a grassy field at the
Saipan airport on 18 December 1999 (GW, NJ, WW) were originally mistaken for
Whimbrels, but one gave a distinctive upslurred chu-lew call, catching the
observers’ attention. The birds were seen well on the ground and in flight. Both
were richer brown in coloration than N. phaeopus, with one having a buff-tinged
lower neck and upper breast, while the other showed a distinctive buffy spot on its
flank. A pale brownish central crown stripe and extensive flesh coloration on the
base of the bills were also viewed. In flight, the pale upper tail coverts were demar-
cated from the brown lower backs and were distinctly cross-barred.
Another Bristle-thighed Curlew was sighted along the exposed outer reef
margin between Facpi Point and Nimitz Beach, Agat, Guam, on 9 March 1997
(GW). The bird appeared similar in size to N. phaeopus, but upon flushing, it
showed a brown unmarked rump and gave several loud musical chu-lee calls that
were distinctive from those of N. phaeopus.
We also note here the existence of a previously unreported specimen of N.
tahitiensis from Guam, which is held at the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology,
Berkeley, California (MVZ 95095). It was collected by J. T. Marshall, Jr. at an
unspecified location on 6 June 1945 as it “flew over slough at river mouth … pos-
sibly one more seen that day compared to total of about a dozen” Whimbrels
(Marshall, unpubl. field notes). He probably found the curlew along the island’s
southeast coast, based on written remarks about other shorebirds seen that day (C.
Cicero, pers. comm.). This is the only Bristle-thighed Curlew specimen known
from Guam and was apparently overlooked by Baker (1951).
Far Eastern Curlew (Numenius madagascariensis). This species is distin-
guished from other curlews by a combination of long bill, large body size, lack of
pronounced head stripes, brown underparts, and dark rump without a white blaze.
It is rare in the Marianas with only a few sightings reported in recent decades
82 Micronesica 37(1), 2004
(Stinson et al. 1997b, Wiles et al. 2000). On 19 April 2000, one bird was located
feeding on the Puerto Rico mudflats, Saipan (VC). Two Far Eastern Curlews were
also observed at the airport on Weno, Chuuk, on 12 February 2003 (GF,AKi, SK,
DP, IP), which is just the second sighting for Chuuk (Pyle and Engbring 1987).
Eurasian Curlew (Numenius arquata). A single Eurasian Curlew was seen
foraging in the yard of a home in Duge, Rota, on 14 December 2000 (JC). It was
identified by its very long decurved bill, large body size, lack of dark stripes on
the head, and white underparts. Bill length and body size were larger than for a
Whimbrel. An additional Eurasian Curlew was seen on several occasions along the
shoreline and standing on a partially submerged barge at Unai Tanapag, Saipan,
from 29 November to 29 December 1999 (JC, GW). In flight, the diagnostic white
back, rump, and underparts were conspicuous. The bird had a huge decurved bill
and was much taller than several nearby Whimbrels. A few previous sightings of
N. arquata from Saipan and Guam (Engbring & Owen 1981, Stinson et al. 1991,
Wiles et al. 1993, 2000) represent the only other records for Micronesia.
Great Knot (Calidris tenuirostris). A Great Knot in non-breeding plumage
was seen with other shorebirds at the Guam International Airport on 9 November
2000 (GD, GA, RB). It resembled a Red Knot (C. canutus), but was larger with a
longer heavier bill that was slightly drooped at the tip. Plumage traits suggested
the bird was an immature, with feathering on the mantle, scapulars, and wing
coverts showing blackish centers and clean cold grayish fringing. The upper
breast feathers had dark central markings, but were not spotted, making a fairly
clear pectoral band. The lower breast and belly were white. In flight, the bird
showed a dark mid-line through the white rump, but was otherwise quite plain
without significant wing stripes. Stinson et al. (1991) and Wiles et al. (1993,
2000) reviewed the few previous records of this species from the Marianas.
Red Knot (Calidris canutus). One bird was viewed at a drained aquaculture
pond at Agfayan Bay, Inarajan, Guam, from 16-19 September 1999 (RB, GW,
KO, GWt). The knot was molting from breeding to wintering plumage and
retained a fair amount of reddish feathering on the belly and lower breast, with a
little red extending to the vent. Some dark streaking was also visible on the upper
breast. The back and wings showed an even mix of dark feathers and pale gray
ones with black shafts and buff edging. Fine pale gray streaking and a whitish eye-
line marked the head, while the bill was fairly stout and equal in length to the
head. The legs were dark yellow. The bird was about the same size, but taller, than
a Gray-tailed Tattler feeding nearby. The only two previous records in Micronesia
are from Guam and Palau (Owen 1977, Wiles et al. 2000).
Long-toed Stint (Calidris subminuta). Two birds were sighted at close range
in a small roadside pool on the west side of Yap on 26 December 2002 (GT, CC).
They had yellowish legs, brown-gray mantles with pale edging on the feathers,
and were noticeably smaller than several Wood Sandpipers also present. Their
size and lack of a cap distinguished them from Sharp-tailed Sandpipers. The stints
also displayed the elongated neck stretch that is characteristic of C. subminuta.
However, none of these characters are considered adequate to separate the birds
Wiles et al.: Recent Micronesian Bird Records83
from Least Sandpipers (C. minutilla), which regularly reach Hawaii (Pratt et al.
1987). Long-toed Stints are a rare to uncommon migrant to western Micronesia
(Engbring 1988, Stinson et al. 1997b), with only one earlier record for Yap (Pyle
& Engbring 1987).
Pectoral Sandpiper (Calidris melanotos). On Rota, a Pectoral Sandpiper
was observed along the edge of a wastewater treatment pond at the Rota Resort
and Country Club on 16 December 1999 (NJ), and two others were found in a
mowed field at the island’s airport on 14 September 2000 (NJ). On both occa-
sions, the observer noted the obvious dull yellow legs and sharp demarcation
between the brown breast and white belly. On 12 December 2001, two Pectoral
Sandpipers were seen standing along the rocky coastline near Puntan I Maddok,
Saipan (NJ). Both exhibited the same features noted above and crown coloration
was brown rather than rufous, as in a Sharp-tailed Sandpiper (C. acuminata).
Pectoral Sandpipers are rare migrants to the Marianas (Stinson et al. 1997b), with
most sightings coming from Guam (G. Wiles, pers. obs.). Our observations are the
first for Rota.
Ruff (Philomachus pugnax). GD saw a Ruff with other shorebirds in a
muddy drainage channel along the airfield on Weno, Chuuk, on 3 November
2001. Diagnostic features were its medium length and slightly decurved black
bill; prominent scalloped pale fringes across its mantle, scapulars, and wing
coverts; medium length dull green legs; and rather long neck. The bird was
probably a male, because it was slightly larger than several nearby Pacific
Golden-Plovers. Three Ruffs in apparent first basic plumage were found in the
same locality on 12 February 2003 (GF, AKi, SK, DP, IP), an unusually late date
for Micronesia (see below). This species has been reported only once previously
from Chuuk (Pyle & Engbring 1987).
Four to seven Ruffs resided at an artificial pond and a set of concrete pads
amidst a large mowed field at the Guam International Airport from 27 September
1999 to 14 February 2000 (GW, DV, RB, TL). This observation represents the
largest number of Ruffs ever recorded for the island. Most previous sightings in
the Marianas have involved only one or a few individuals from late August to
November (Stinson et al. 1997b, G. Wiles, unpubl. data). Our sightings also con-
firm that the species may occasionally overwinter in Micronesia.
Long-billed Dowitcher (Limnodromus scolopaceus). A juvenile Long-billed
Dowitcher was viewed at close range in a water buffalo wallow on the U.S.
Ordnance Annex in southern Guam on 22 November 1999 (GW). Narrow rufous
edging on the dark feathers of the back, scapulars, and lesser wing coverts and a
lack of any markings on the interior of these feathers distinguished the bird from
a Short-billed Dowitcher (L. griseus) (Paulson 1993, Zimmer 2000). Gray
feathers with black shafts in the median and greater coverts and a mostly black
posterior half of the tail with thin white cross-barring were also noted. The bird
fed with a rapid up-and-down probing style that is characteristic of this genus.
Another dowitcher was seen at a small marsh near the Guam International
Airport on 8 November 2000 (GD, GA). It foraged in a small area of open water
84 Micronesica 37(1), 2004
at dusk and also displayed a rapid probing motion. Poor light conditions prevent-
ed positive identification, but the pattern of the tertials appeared to be plain with
fine white fringes, suggesting L. scolopaceus. The bird did not vocalize. Other
features were a long straight bill that was 1.5–2 times the total head length and a
prominent white supercilium from the bill-base to behind the eye. In flight, a
white central back, pale rump and upper tail, and a diffuse white trailing edge on
the wings were recognized.
We also report an additional record of L. scolopaceus for Saipan, where a
pair of birds was found at the airport water catchment on 14 December 2001 (VC)
and an adjacent field on 29 December 2001 (NJ, GB). One bird gave a single
sharp kik call while in flight, which differs from the call of a Short-billed
Dowitcher. Although still rare, sightings of Long-billed Dowitchers have become
nearly annual in the southern Marianas since the first record in 1991 (Wiles et al.
1993, 2000). There is only one earlier report for Guam (Wiles et al. 2000).
Oriental Pratincole (Glareola maldivarum). This species is a rare but regu-
lar migrant to the main islands of Yap (Wiles et al. 2000), but is unreported from
the atolls to the east. Here, we note two sightings from Ulithi Atoll, where single
birds were seen on the islets of Falalop on 10 March 1986 (JE, GW) and Fossarai
on 11 March 1986 (GW).
Skua sp. (Stercorarius sp.). Single sightings of unidentified skuas were made
near Tobi (3º14'N, 131º21'E) on 3 June 1992 and near Fana and Sonsorol between
about 15–18 June 1992 in the Southwest Islands of Palau (AK; Kepler 1993).
Each of the birds was too distant to permit identification, but all showed the bulky
body and heavy direct flight typical of skuas rather than jaegers. White flashes at
the base of the primaries were also visible. The birds were most likely South Polar
Skuas (S. maccormicki), the only species of skua known to range into the tropical
and northern Pacific Ocean (Harrison 1985, Furness 1996). Several sightings of
this species near Kosrae and Pohnpei are the only other skua records for
Micronesia (Kepler et al. 1992).
Pomarine Jaeger (Stercorarius pomarinus). We report two records of S.
pomarinus, the first confirmed for Micronesia. On 29 May 1986, a sub-adult was
sighted about 5 km northwest of Kwajalein Atoll, Marshall Islands (KG). It was
very thick-necked in appearance and had a gold wash on the neck, a short dark
crown, a complete scaly breast-band, and large white flashes on the shafts of the
outer primaries. Tail streamers were absent. This bird was originally reported by
Garrett & Schreiber (1988), but details on location and identification were not pro-
vided. There are two previous records of jaegers from the Marshalls, but neither
individual was identified. One was seen at Taka Atoll in October 1964 (Amerson
1969) and the other at Ujelang Atoll in September 1975 (Anderson 1981).
An additional Pomarine Jaeger was observed from the ferry traveling from
Saipan to Tinian in the Marianas on 15 November 2000 (GD, GA). Although pas-
sengers were not permitted outside, viewing was adequate to allow identification
of all seabirds seen, including many White Terns and Brown Noddies (Anous
stolidus). The jaeger was sighted flying low over the ocean, initially parallel to the
Wiles et al.: Recent Micronesian Bird Records85
ferry. Its plumage, structure, and flight were clearly that of a jaeger. It was dark
brown with obvious white markings at the base of the primaries and an ill-defined
whitish belly, which indicated that it was an adult or subadult in non-breeding
plumage. Neither tail streamers or a strong contrast in head and neck coloration
were discerned. The bird was identified as S. pomarinus by its thickset structure
and relatively slow deliberate flight. Both observers had extensive experience with
all three jaeger species in temperate and tropical seas.
Black-headed Gull (Larus ridibundus). A Black-headed Gull was viewed in
flight at Mochong Beach, Rota, on 30 December 1999 (NJ, MS, RH). It was in
non-breeding plumage, having a white head with black ear coverts, black tips on
the outer primaries, and bright red-orange legs. Larus ridibundus is a rare winter
visitor recorded annually in the Mariana Islands (Stinson et al. 1997a), but this
represents the first record from Rota. Seven Black-headed Gulls seen at East
Hagatña Bay, Guam, from 11–25 January 2003 (TL) is the largest flock size
recorded to date in the Marianas (Stinson et al. 1997a).
Black-naped Tern (Sterna sumatrana). A Black-naped Tern inhabited Sasa
Bay, Apra Harbor, Guam, from 13–27 February 2000 (GW, RB, DV). Observers
had good views of the bird when it perched and noted a full unmarked white cap,
narrow black eyeline, black nape, and black bill. The wings were light gray. No
black was seen on either surface of the wings during flight or while perched. Two
Common Terns (S. hirundo) were also present in the area and were slightly larg-
er in size. On 4 February 2003, five Black-naped Terns were observed perched on
rocks and steel debris near the southwest shore of Cocos Island, Guam (CA).
They featured thin black eyelines and broader black napes, entirely white crowns
and foreheads, faintly gray wings and backs, and black bills and legs. They resem-
bled White Terns in size and had deeply forked tails.
Another Black-naped Tern with similar traits was seen at Lake Susupi,
Saipan, on 2 March 2000 (VC). Three additional birds were observed in flight at
this site on 30 December 2000 (NJ, GB). Each bird had a distinct white cap and
black line leading from behind the eye to a completely black nape, and a deeply
forked tail distinguishing them from White-winged (Chlidonias leucopterus) and
Whiskered (C. hybridus) Terns. The absence of black in the wings was not
These represent the first positive records of Black-naped Terns in the
Marianas since 1973 and 1974 (Drahos 1977), although there were several
unconfirmed sightings from Guam and Rota during the 1980s (Maben 1980; G.
Wiles, pers. obs.). Dixon & Starrett’s (1952) sightings for Rota and Pagan are
best considered hypothetical because of a lack of descriptive notes (Reichel &
Little Tern (Sterna albifrons). Two individuals were seen perched on a buoy
and in flight about 1 km from shore near the lagoon edge off northeastern Gagil
Tamil, Yap, on 26 December 2002 (GT, CC). They were distinguished from
Black-naped Terns by their small size, fast wing beats, moderately forked tail, and
grayer upperparts. Sterna albifrons is a rare to uncommon visitor to Micronesia
86 Micronesica 37(1), 2004
(Pratt et al. 1987, Engbring 1988, Stinson et al. 1997a), with a sighting from
Ulithi being the only other record for Yap state (Wiles et al. 1987).
White-winged Tern (Chlidonias leucopterus). An adult in breeding plumage
was observed in flight near the airport on Majuro Atoll, Marshall Islands, on 13
May 1986 (KG). It was easily separable from all other tern species by its com-
pletely black head, breast, belly, back, and underwing linings, which contrasted
with the white upperwing coverts, undertail coverts, and tail.
A first-winter White-winged Tern was seen dip-feeding and perched on wires
at a small pond near the old airport in Ruul, Yap, on 5 November 2001 (GD).
Distinctive features included a black ear covert patch that extended beneath the
eye and joined on the nape, pale gray upperparts with indistinct dark scalloping,
a faint dark bar on the leading lesser coverts, a less distinct dark trailing edge to
the secondaries, and darker fringes on the outer primaries. The tail was paler gray
and notched. The bird was occasionally seen with a Whiskered Tern (C. hybridus),
which displayed a slightly larger body and stouter bill.
TS photographed a White-winged Tern at Lake Hagoi, Tinian, on 1
November 2001 (Figs. 1h, i), thus providing improved documentation for this
island. Previously, only a single sight record existed (Glass et al. 1990).
This species is a rare to uncommon visitor to western Micronesia, with
reports obtained nearly annually (Engbring 1988, Wiles & Worthington 1996,
Stinson et al. 1997a), but our records are the first for the Marshalls and Yap. Most
reports from the region occur between August and March, thus the Marshalls
sighting is also noteworthy for its late spring date.
Whiskered Tern (Chlidonias hybrida). An adult Whiskered Tern was seen
dip-feeding at two small ponds located between the old and new airports in Ruul,
Yap, on 5 November 2001 (GD). The bird was in winter plumage and displayed
an ear covert flare, a faint gray wash over the entire crown, blackish hindnape,
uniform plain gray upperparts, darker fringes on the outer primaries, and a slight-
ly paler gray forked tail. It was observed several times with a White-winged Tern,
which permitted comparison with that species (see previous account). Prior
records of C. hybridus for Yap were in 1976 (Clapp & Laybourne 1983), 1988,
and 1993 (Wiles et al. 2000), indicating that it may be a semi-regular visitor to
this island group.
White-throated Ground-Dove (Gallicolumba xanthonura). NJ observed a
group of 15 White-throated Ground-Doves (12 males, 3 females) foraging on the
ground in dense forest comprised mainly of Aglaia mariannensis and Terminalia
catappa on Guguan, Mariana Islands, on 6 June 2000. The birds occupied an area
measuring about 20 x 30 m in size. No interactions between individuals were
noted. Each male had a distinctive dirty gray tinge to the breast, possibly indicat-
ing that they were juveniles. Gallicolumba xanthonura is generally solitary or
found in pairs (Fisher 1950, Engbring et al. 1986, 1990). Our sighting appears to
be the largest feeding aggregation ever reported for the species.
Cuckoo sp. (Cuculus sp.). RD observed a grayish cuckoo fly over him and
land in a shrub in Ameliik state on Babeldaob, Palau, on 28 September 1999.
Wiles et al.: Recent Micronesian Bird Records87
He then viewed the bird for several minutes at a distance of 10 m. It showed
the typical flight profile and behavior of Cuculus, with a distinctive cruciform
shape, level unhurried flight, and shallow wing beats that did not extend above
the body. When perched, the bird was seen to be a gray morph adult, with a
noticeable yellow orbital ring, deep yellow-orange eyes, and bright yellow legs
and feet. The blue-gray coloration of the dorsal surfaces and head extended
down the neck to a terminal line across the breast. The absence of a buffy tinge
on the upper breast indicated the bird was a male (Beaman & Madge 1998).
Close dark gray-black barring marked the white lower breast and belly, while
fainter gray barring was present on the white vent. The tail and primaries were
blackish gray, with light spotting on the tail. The cuckoo looked rather limp
and drooped its wings as it perched, with its tail cocked upward at a rather
awkward angle. No vocalizations were heard. These characters did not allow
positive identification, but the lack of a buffy wash on the vent and belly, the
droop-winged “wet looking” perching behavior, and the upwardly cocked tail
suggest that the bird was more likely a Common Cuckoo (C. canorus) than an
Oriental Cuckoo (C. saturatus) (Beaman & Madge 1998, Mullarney et al.
1999, Robson 2000). Oriental Cuckoos are an uncommon annual visitor to
Palau (Engbring 1988), whereas there is apparently just one published record
of C. canorus for the island group dating from the mid-1800s (Hartlaub &
Finsch 1872, Baker 1951).
Short-Eared Owl (Asio flammeus). An owl was seen perched on fence posts
in the village of Sinapalu, Rota, by a resident in December 2000. It was found
dead shortly after and was turned over to ET, NJ, and VC, who identified the car-
cass as that of a Short-eared Owl based on the presence of short ear-tufts and
uneven brown streaking on a cream-colored breast (Fig. 1j). Coloration of the
head, back, and wings was mostly dark brown with buffy mottling. The bird also
had yellow irises and a black bill. Total length and exposed culmen length mea-
sured 35 cm and 17 mm, respectively. A second Short-eared Owl was seen at the
Saipan airport from 20-24 February 2003 (JC, JS), but was probably present for
a much longer period before and after these observations, based on the reports of
airport staff. The bird was closely viewed several times, allowing the short ear-
tufts and many of the other traits noted above to be seen. This species is a rare
migrant to the Marianas, with several earlier records for Rota and Saipan (Stinson
et al. 1997a).
Fork-tailed Swift (Apus pacificus). We report some additional observa-
tions of this species from the Marianas, where only a handful of prior records
exist (Stinson et al. 1997a, Wiles et al. 2000). Two sightings were made at
Ritidian Point in northern Guam, with one involving a single swift flying above
the upper cliff on 11 October 1995 (JM) and the second involving three birds
foraging over the fields at the headquarters of the Guam National Wildlife
Refuge on 4–5 November 1997 (MR, CN). Three additional individuals were
seen along the upper cliffline at Tagua Point, Guam, on 13 November 1999
(GW). One swift occurred at Pona Point, Rota, on 15 November 1999 (DiV, RC,
88 Micronesica 37(1), 2004
LH) and another was sighted at Mt. Takpochao, Saipan, on 8 October 2003
(NH). All birds were recognized by their distinct white rumps, dark bodies,
forked tails, and large size.
Dollarbird (Eurystomus orientalis). Single Dollarbirds were observed at
Tobi on 4 and 9 June 1992 and Sonsorol on 15–16 June 1992 in Palau’s Southwest
Islands (AK; Kepler 1993). The bird on Tobi occurred in good quality mixed
native forest at the northwest corner of the island. It perched in fairly dense
foliage with its head slightly upturned in the typical posture of eurystomids and
made short foraging flights 8-13 m high. This individual was collected and
deposited at the B. P. Bishop Museum, Honolulu, Hawaii (BPBM 178864).
Dollarbirds are rare but perhaps regular visitors to Palau (Baker 1951, Engbring
1983, Pratt et al. 1987).
Brown Shrike (Lanius cristatus). JH observed a single probable Brown
Shrike perched on an electrical powerline in southern Peleliu, Palau, on 19 April
2003. The bird was briefly seen at a distance of about 12 m before it flew off and
could be viewed with binoculars. Body shape, both while perched and in flight,
was typical of shrikes. The bird was also characterized by brownish upperparts
and a dark facial mask. The observer did not note the presence of a long black tail,
as in a Long-tailed Shrike (L. schach), and was unable to determine if barring
occurred on the back or underparts. Several Brown Shrikes seen at Tobi in the
Southwest Islands of Palau in the late 1970s (Engbring and Owen 1981) appear
to be the only previous shrike records for Micronesia.
White-breasted Woodswallow (Artamus leucorynchus). Woodswallows are
rare in Palau, with a population of perhaps fewer than 100 birds (Engbring 1992),
and were long thought to be confined to Babeldaob (Pratt et al. 1980, Engbring
1992). A bird perched atop a television antenna on a building roof was recorded
along the Malakal-Koror causeway at the northwest tip of Ngermalk island,
Palau, on 4 March 2000 (GW). It periodically foraged with several Barn
Swallows over nearby limestone forest. An additional record from the causeway
by R.P. Owen in the 1970s or earlier has been reported to us (J. Engbring, pers.
comm.). One or a few woodswallows were also observed at Long Lake in the
Rock Islands south of Koror in November 2001 (DaW, AB-W) and on 21
February 2003 (GF, AKi, DP, IP).
Rufous Fantail (Rhipidura rufifrons). An albino Rufous Fantail was seen in
tangantangan (Leucaena leucocephala) forest at Marpi, Saipan, on four occasions
from 12–19 February 2002 (NJ, JG), once on 5 April 2002 (VC), and once on 3
June 2002 (NJ). The bird was observed closely with binoculars, allowing its
physical traits to be viewed in detail. These included entirely white plumage, a
peach-colored bill and legs, and black eyes. The bird exhibited typical fantail
behavior, including quick movements through the forest understory and repeated
tail fanning, but did not vocalize. On one occasion, a fantail with normal plumage
chased the albino bird through the understory. Albinism in R. rufifrons has been
observed once before on Saipan, with an albino individual seen at As Perdido in
May 1996 (CK, VC) (Fig. 1k).
Wiles et al.: Recent Micronesian Bird Records89
Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica). During bird surveys on Agrihan, Mariana
Islands, two Barn Swallows were sighted on multiple occasions as they flew over
the village at the southern end of the island on 10-12 August 2000 (JC, NJ). They
were identified by their fairly deeply forked tails, dark iridescent blue backs, and
chestnut throats. This species is an uncommon migrant in the Marianas (Stinson
et al. 1997a), but has not been previously recorded at Agrihan.
We also report several Barn Swallow records from the Marianas that appear
to represent the earliest southward migration dates for this species in Micronesia
(Baker 1951, Stinson et al. 1997a, many other reports). These included five imma-
tures foraging over Lake Hagoi, Tinian, on 24 July 2002 (TS), two birds near
Tanapag, Saipan, on 24 July 2002 (JC), and one adult at Garapan, Saipan, on 26
July 2002 (NJ). The sightings occurred during a week-long period of blustery
weather and westerly winds associated with a large monsoon system passing
through the archipelago.
Gray Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea). Seven sightings of one and two Gray
Wagtails were made along the edge of a small newly created mitigation pond in
Lower Base, Tanapag, Saipan, from 27 October 2001 to 26 January 2002 (NJ,VC,
NH, JC). The birds were viewed at distances as close as 25 m, which allowed mul-
tiple diagnostic characters to be seen. The presence of a slate gray mantle and
head, a bright yellow rump and vent, a noticeably long tail, and a white V-shaped
edge on the secondaries of standing birds distinguished them from Yellow
Wagtails (M. flava). Other plumage features included a creamy white throat,
breast, and belly; a white eyeline; and dark gray flight feathers and tail. The birds
gave quick ti-ti flight calls, which also separated them from M. flava. Records of
Gray Wagtails are extremely scarce for Micronesia, with the only other records
being single reports from Palau, Guam, and Sapwuahfik Atoll near Pohnpei
(Engbring & Owen 1981, Maben & Wiles 1981, Buden 1999b).
White Wagtail (Motacilla alba). A White Wagtail was present at the Koror
municipal dump in Palau on 19 and 21 February 2003 (DP). It was in basic
plumage, with no noticeable black in the head feathering, a weak postocular line,
dark primaries and secondaries, black tail with white outer feathers, and sec-
ondary coverts pale with darker centers fading to white edges. The breast showed
a squarish oval patch of black that differed from the pattern shown in most field
guides in that it did not form a crescent extending upwards at the sides of the neck.
Except for that feature, the bird closely resembled the illustration of an immature
female shown in Sibley & Howell (1998). It was seen perched on the roofs of
buildings as well as on the ground, and gave a sharp two-note call in flight that
somewhat resembled the calls of Barn Swallows foraging nearby. A 1975 report
from the same locality (Owen 1977, Pyle & Engbring 1985) is the only previous
one for Palau.
Black-backed Wagtail (Motacilla lugens). One individual was viewed in
flight at a condominium complex in Harmon, Dededo, Guam, on 8 November
2001 (DV). The observer noted largely white wings that contrasted against a black
back and scapulars, a dark tail with white outer feathers, and a strong undulating
90 Micronesica 37(1), 2004
flight pattern. The bird landed in a tree and was seen tail bobbing, but other
plumage traits were not discernable. The only other certain record of a Black-
backed Wagtail in Micronesia is from Saipan (Stinson et al. 1995).
An unidentified wagtail of this species or M. alba was noted feeding with
shorebirds along the high tide line at Dungcas Beach, Tumuning, Guam, on 4
January 1992 (GW, KO, RF). A number of features were recorded on the bird, but
none proved diagnostic upon later review (see Howell 1990). These included a
white forehead, a whitish chin, a black crown and nape, a yellowish tinge to an
otherwise white face, and a black eyeline. Other characters were a gray back and
scapulars, a large white patch on the wing coverts and secondaries, an extensive
black bib, a white belly and flanks, and a black tail with white outer edges. Wing
coloration in flight was not noted. The wagtail was aggressive toward the other
birds and frequently chased Gray-tailed Tattlers, Red-necked Stints (Calidris
ruficollis), and Sanderlings (C. alba) up to 50 m over the bay. Another individual
that could not be distinguished from a White Wagtail was seen on Guam in 1984
(Wiles et al. 1987).
Gray-streaked Flycatcher (Muscicapa griseisticta). One bird was seen at a
roadside dump along the dirt road east of Bloody Nose Ridge 3 km south of
Kloulklubed village in central Peleliu, Palau, on 29 February and 1 March 2000
(GW). It showed the diagnostic dark streaking on the breast extending to the
flanks, a white eye-ring and whitish lores, a black malar line, and a single faint
wing bar. This species is an uncommon migrant to Palau (Engbring 1988), but
only a few published records exist for the island group, as summarized in Wiles
et al. (2000).
Eurasian Tree Sparrow (Passer montanus). A pair of tree sparrows was
seen twice near the main government building at the north end of Kloulklubed
village on Peleliu, Palau, on 29 February 2000 (GW). They were first noted in
association with a flock of 18 Chestnut Munias (Lonchura malacca), but were
perched alone on a power pole later in the day. Each bird had a brown cap and
black auricular patch. An additional sighting of five individuals was made near the
village on 23 December 2002 (GT, CC). Tree sparrows were not seen elsewhere
in Palau by the observers. This species has been introduced to Yap, the southern
Marianas, and the Marshalls (Pyle & Engbring 1985), but these are the first
records for Palau. It would be desirable to eradicate these birds before a popula-
tion is established and spreads to other islands in Palau.
Orange-cheeked Waxbill (Estrilda melpoda). We report a large number of
sightings of this species in the wild on Saipan from June 2001 to September 2002.
Waxbills were first discovered at the Price-Costco wetland complex in San Jose,
where a flock of about 25 birds was found on 28 June (GB, CS). Between 20 July
2001 and 24 September 2002, an additional 80 observations were made of flocks
containing 1–30 birds at Tanapag, Lower Base, Hakmang, Dandan, Fina Sisu,
San Jose, and Koblerville (NJ, JC, JG, CK, GB, CS, DW). Most sightings
occurred in grassy habitats with Panicum maximum and Pennisetum, or in
Phragmites wetlands. About 10 birds were collected and examined in the hand.
Wiles et al.: Recent Micronesian Bird Records91
All had red bills, gray underparts and heads, and dark brown wings, backs, and
tails (Fig. 1l). Considerable individual variation was noted in the coloration of
cheek patches (from pale orange to bright orange) and rumps (from rust to bright
red). Juveniles with black bills and light orange cheek patches comprised about
20% of the population in 2002. This indicates that breeding is well established
even though nests have not yet been observed. Orange-cheeked Waxbills are
native to western and central Africa and are a popular cage-bird. They are not
known to be sold by pet stores on Saipan, so we assume they were deliberately
released or escaped from the home of a private breeder. Control efforts have been
initiated by the government of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana
Islands in conjunction with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. This species has
been established in Hawaii since the 1960s, but occurs nowhere else in Oceania
(Lever 1987, Pratt et al. 1987).
Blue-faced Parrotfinch (Erythrura trichroa). Single parrotfinches were
observed at two locations on Peleliu, Palau, on 29 February and 1 March 2000
(GW). One was seen in scrubby forest along the roadside leading up the hill to the
military memorial at Rois Kar. The second was found along a narrow dirt road
about 2 km southwest of Kloulklubed village and was also in scrubby vegetation.
Both showed the characteristic green, red, and blue plumage of this species.
Parrotfinches have previously been reported from Babeldaob to Mecherchar
(Baker 1951, Pratt et al. 1980, 1987, Engbring 1988, 1992), but these appear to be
the first sightings for Peleliu and represent the southernmost records for Palau.
Coultas (1931) was told by island residents that this species was present on
Peleliu, but he was unable to confirm their reports.
This study was partially supported by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration projects for Guam (W-1-R-8) and the
Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (W-1-R-15, W-2-R-1, and W-2-
R-2). We are especially grateful to T. Sutterfield, C. B. Kepler, T. Lloyd, and the
many other observers who contributed their field records. K. Knittle, M.
Patterson, S. Mlodinow, J. Morlan, and Craig Kessler kindly gave us their assess-
ments of the scaup photographs. C. Cicero of the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology,
Berkeley, California, and R. C. Banks of the National Museum of Natural History,
Washington, D.C., provided background information on specimens. J. V. Remsen
kindly reviewed the manuscript.
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96 Micronesica 37(1), 2004