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Researching Christmas Island’s Endemic Birds with Mark Holdsworth

According to Mark Holdsworth, Indian Ocean Experiences' bird expert, one of the best times to experience Christmas Island’s birds is during Bird ‘n’ Nature Week. “May to November is our dry period here, and this year Bird ‘n’ Nature week falls between 30 August and 6 September,” Mark says.

“The birds are about, and the time is optimal as it coincides when researchers, including me, visit the island. Guests can assist us with capturing, measuring and placing bands on the birds before we release them. It’s a great opportunity for close encounters with some of the island’s special birds.”


Christmas Island FrigatebirdChristmas Island Frigatebird. Image: Indian Ocean Experiences

Although the island is home to only a handful of endemic birds, Mark explains that the bird-watching experience is unforgettable. “Christmas Island sits atop of an ancient volcanic seamount surrounded by a vast ocean. And, because there is no easy way to land on the island, the wildlife has either flown or washed up here over millennia,” Mark explains. “We don’t have many bird species on the island because of its location, but what we do have is unique.”

Red-footed Booby, Christmas IslandRed-footed Booby. Image: Indian Ocean Experiences

Mark likens the Christmas Island nature experience to Galapagos, with ample opportunities for guests to get close to the birds. “There was no human occupation on the island until Europeans created a settlement in 1888 to exploit phosphate, so the wildlife had not evolved to fear people. The birds are approachable, especially the critically endangered Christmas Island Goshawk, which I have spent many years studying,” he says. “We are able to get within a metre of these birds, and this provides great opportunities for both research and bird-watching.”

GoshawkChristmas Island Goshawk. Image: Indian Ocean Experiences

To seal the deal, Mark and the team ensure that guests are split into small groups during Bird ‘n’ Nature Week, with each group assigned their own researcher for the day. “The beauty of doing it this way is that we are able to work around the island and show guests all of the island’s birds, including Goshawks, Abbott’s, Brown and Red-footed Boobies, and White-tailed (including the unique golden form) and Red-tailed Tropicbirds.” Mark says. “Each group has their own dynamics, and I can’t think of any other bird-watching experience that offers such a personal and direct connection.”

Christmas Island Birdwatching

Christmas Island is one of Australia's best birdwatching destinations. An internationally renowned seabird rookery, the island attracts about 80,000 nesting seabirds every year. You will have the opportunity to see the world's rarest booby and frigatebird!

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