The French tropics all a-twitter
n a recent quest to learn more about New Caledonian birdlife, we set off for Nouméa, where its beloved wildlife and botanical park, le Parc Zoologique et Forestier Michel-Corbasson, overlooks the capital.
Opened in 1972, le parc occupies 34 hectares and houses mainly birdlife, with an emphasis on those found sur le Caillou. It’s a favourite for families and tourists alike, with both local and international wildlife on display in peaceful forest, lake and grassland habitats.
So let’s pack a picnic – allez!
Le Cagou – the official emblem of a French territory
Endemic to the grand terre, the introduction of domestic animals and mining threaten its survival. It is now listed as endangered and numbers are estimated to be less than 1000.
But to see this bird at the ‘zoo’ was a thrill! Much bigger than I expected, it is flightless, carnivorous and monogamous. It sports a unique ‘corn’ covering its nostrils and occasionally displays its iconic crest.
Like my adopted French countrymen, I too have found a place in my heart for the very special Cagou.
The Sacred Kingfisher – a tropical French hunter
Le Martin-chasseur sacré, or Sacred Kingfisher, is a gorgeous bird widespread in New Caledonia. Luckily for us, it is commonly seen in our corner of la territoire, perched high on telephone wires or treetops, scanning the landscape for a potential repas of insects, lizards or small fish.
Beautifully plumed, it has a blue-green back with a coppery chest and a distinct, strong beak. It nests in tree trunk hollows or rises of earth. The Martin-chasseur sacré is the only kingfisher species in this part of the French tropics and has protected status.
The Sacred Kingfisher is especially protected in our petit jardin – we love to have it visit!
La Roussette rousse – the unique French Flying Fox
Admittedly, la roussette is not a bird – but it does fly! La roussette is the term used for flying foxes and unfortunately for them, they are considered a delicacy in Kanak culture.
There are only four species of flying fox endemic to the Pacific French tropics and these represent the only native mammals found here today. For this reason les roussettes are very special and are increasingly admired for their uniqueness instead of their taste!
Being able to identify local wildlife makes being an expat much more enjoyable. If we are ever wondering “What bird is that?” – or looking for a good picnic spot in Nouméa – then le Parc Zoologique is our first destination.
Where do you go to learn about wildlife in your part of France? Share your experiences in the comments box below.