10 Animals & Birds Found in Tonga© TongaPocketGuide.com
10 Animals & Birds Found in Tonga

20 Animals & Birds Found in Tonga

© TongaPocketGuide.com

Interesting Animal Species Found in Tonga

On land and in the ocean, Tonga harbours an array of interesting wildlife. Whether you’re a birder wanting to see some unusual South Pacific birds or a diver who wants to finally get the chance to swim with humpback whales, there’s something to entice all kinds of nature lovers. Tonga doesn’t have a huge array of endemic species, as many birds and marine life can be found across the South Pacific, but it is a good go-to if you want to see a vast range of impressive species all in one place. We go over some of those species in this list of animals and birds found in Tonga.

1. Humpback Whales (Tofuāʻa)

A species that Tonga is arguably most famous for is its humpback whales, present in Tonga’s waters between July and October. Humpback whales take an amazing 4,800 km (3,000 mi) journey from Antarctic waters to Tonga’s tropical waters to mate and calve each year. Tonga is one of the very few countries in the world where it is legal to swim with these gentle giants, which you can find out more about in The Guide to Whale Swimming in Tonga.

10 Animals & Birds Found in Tonga(c) Tonga Ministry of Tourism

2. Flying Fox (Peka)

The insular flying fox, also known as the Pacific flying fox or peka in Tongan, is a bat species found across the South Pacific Islands. Interestingly, flying foxes in Tonga are the official property of the King, so no one but royalty can legally hunt or harm them in any way. While flying foxes can be found in forest areas around Tonga, they are prevalent in the village of Kolovai on the eastern side of Tongatapu.

10 Animals & Birds Found in Tonga(c) tongapocketguide.com

3. Red Shining Parrot (Koki)

The red shining parrot, also known as a musk parrot or koki, has become a symbol of the island of ‘Eua. The parrot was introduced to the island in prehistoric times, originating from Kadavu island in Fiji. In Tonga, however, the bird can only be found on ‘Eua, making it one of the icons of the island. Koki are mostly found in moist lowland tropical forests – something to look out for in the ‘Eua National Park. See the 5 Best Places for Bird Watching in Tonga to learn more.

10 Animals & Birds Found in Tonga© TongaPocketGuide.com

4. Tongan Whistler

An endemic species in Tonga, the Tongan whistler is found in the Vava’u group, as well as the island of Late. Classified as “near threatened” due to habitat loss, there are conservation programs to distribute the Tongan whistler to uninhabited islands around Tonga. They can be observed with some bird-watching resort tours in Vava’u.

10 Animals & Birds Found in Tonga(c) Aviced on Wikipedia

5. Golden Orb Web Spider

A relatively common sight in Tonga, the golden orb web spider, golden silk orb spider or nephila tetragnathoides is known for their impressively woven webs and their size – reaching 4.8-5.1 cm (1.5–2 in). They are a common sight across the islands of Tonga, typically spinning webs between trees. We’ve seen them at the ‘Ene’io Botanical Garden in Vava’u – see the 15 Best Culture Tours & Experiences in Tonga to learn more.

10 Animals & Birds Found in Tonga(c) tongapocketguide.com

6. White-Tailed Tropicbird

Tonga has a wide array of seabirds, one of the most beautiful being the white-tailed tropicbird. They are found on the coast of many places in Tonga, but a good go-to for seabirds, in general, is the Lakufa’anga Cliffs on the southern coast of ‘Eua where it’s also possible to spot grey noddies, brown noddies, brown boobies, white terns and more.

10 Animals & Birds Found in Tonga© TongaPocketGuide.com

7. Pacific Black Duck

Want to see a duck in Tonga? The Pacific black duck is your likely sighting, found in wetland areas around Tonga. A good place to spot these dabbling ducks is in the Sopu Mudflats of Tongatapu, where it’s also possible to spot reef egrets, crested and black-naped terns, white-faced herons and more.

10 Animals & Birds Found in Tonga(c) tongapocketguide.com

8. White-Collared Kingfisher

This medium-sized kingfisher is also found in the islands of Tonga. The white-collared kingfisher is found in coastal areas, particularly around wetlands and coastal swamps where they eat small crabs, insects, worms, small fish and more. See them across all island groups!

10 Animals & Birds Found in Tonga(c) tongapocketguide.com

9. Turtles (Fonu)

Tonga is home to green sea turtles and hawksbill sea turtles. There are controversial issues over sea turtles in Tonga, where it is a Tongan tradition to eat green sea turtles as part of religious ceremonies. Nevertheless, there are now conservation programs in place to help protect sea turtles in Tonga, as well as hunting restrictions for more sustainable practices surrounding these species that are on the endangered list. Divers and snorkellers in Tonga are sometimes lucky enough to spot them in the water.

10 Animals & Birds Found in Tonga© TongaPocketGuide.com

10. White-Rumped Swiftlet (Pekapeka)

A fascinating bird that nests in caves and rockfaces and navigates using sonar clicking that is audible to the human ear, the pekapeka or white-rumped swiftlet is commonly spotted in and around cave entrances, like Swallows Cave (‘Ana Pekapeka) in Vava’u, as well as in the forests of the ‘Eua National Park which features a lot of caves and sinkholes. Learn more about some of these caves in the 10 Best Caves in Tonga.

10 Animals & Birds Found in Tonga© TongaPocketGuide.com

11. Wattled Honeyeater (Foulehaio)

A nectar-feeding bird, the Polynesian wattled honeyeater, also known as foulehaio in Tongan or the eastern wattled honeyeater, is commonly seen in Tonga’s lowland, mangrove and montane forests. The name “wattled” comes from the small pieces of flesh found on either side of the bird’s bill.

10 Animals & Birds Found in Tonga© TongaPocketGuide.com

12. Pacific Imperial Pigeon

A common forest bird in Tonga, the Pacific pigeon or Pacific imperial pigeon is native to Tonga amongst other islands in the South Pacific. They eat fruit and berries and occasionally leaves and flowers. Tonga was also once home to a now-extinct giant pigeon called tongoenas burleyi which was thought to be 51 cm (20 in) long not including the tail.

10 Animals & Birds Found in Tonga© TongaPocketGuide.com

13. Wild Horses

Introduced to the island of ‘Eua by Europeans during the 19th Century, wild horses can be seen roaming the rugged terrain of the island, particularly around Lakufa’anga Cliffs and Rock Gardens. Learn more about this area in the Sightseeing on ‘Eua: Top 10 Sights & Natural Attractions.

10 Animals & Birds Found in Tonga© TongaPocketGuide.com

14. Black and Brown Noddies

Common seabirds seen across Tonga are the black and brown noddies. These medium-sized birds are graceful flyers often flying low alongside boats as they scout Tonga’s waters for food. That’s why you’re most likely to see these birds on one of the 10 Best Boat Tours & Day Cruises in Tonga.

10 Animals & Birds Found in Tonga© TongaPocketGuide.com

15. Sharks

With plenty of open water, sharks are commonly found in Tonga, including blue, Oceanic whitetip, silky, mako, thresher, whale, hammerhead, bull and white sharks. Several species of reef sharks can be found in Tonga’s lagoons, while larger species are found in the open water. The best way to see sharks is to join scuba diving trips and visit some of the 10 Best Dive Sites in Tonga. Note that there is a safety risk concerning sharks when whale swimming, as discussed in Is it Safe to Swim with Whales in Tonga?

10 Animals & Birds Found in Tonga© TongaPocketGuide.com

16. Branded Rail (Veka)

Despite being skittish around humans, branded rails are another commonly spotted bird in Tonga. Tip-toeing in grassy areas, particularly on the roadsides, branded rails are commonly known as “roadrunners” as they are often seen darting across the roads.

10 Animals & Birds Found in Tonga© TongaPocketGuide.com

17. Polynesian Triller

Birders will also be delighted to likely see plenty of Polynesian triller in Tonga, also found across other South Pacific nations. They can occur in a wide variety of manmade habitats, such as plantations and gardens. They are named after their nasal rasping call.

10 Animals & Birds Found in Tonga© TongaPocketGuide.com

18. Pacific Reef Heron

Often not too afraid to come near humans if there’s a school of fish nearby, Pacific reef herons are another one of Tonga’s common seabird species. The interesting thing about these birds is that they have an unusual non-gender-related dimorphism, whereas some birds have an all-wite plumage and others (more commonly) are all-grey.

10 Animals & Birds Found in Tonga© TongaPocketGuide.com

19. Red-Vented Bulbul

Although not native to Tonga, red-vented bulbuls are among some of the most frequently seen birds. Their inadvertence or even sometimes reliance on the food scraps of humans means that sharing an outdoor meal with one or two of these birds isn’t uncommon. It is believed that these birds made it to Tonga after being introduced by indentured labourers in Fiji in the early 1900s, eventually becoming common in Tonga by the 1940s.

10 Animals & Birds Found in Tonga© TongaPocketGuide.com

20. Pigs (Puaka)

Finally, an introduced species and probably the most-seen species in Tonga are pigs! While pigs can be seen along just about every roadside on Vava’u’s main island, there is even a tourist attraction called the “Fishing Pigs” on Tongatapu where pigs are seen foraging for fish in the mudflats at low tide. They are also a prized aspect of Tongan feasts, sitting centre stage of any umu or spitroast dinner.

10 Animals & Birds Found in Tonga© TongaPocketGuide.com

More Animals and Birds Found in Tonga

That’s it for the animals and birds found in Tonga. For more wildlife talk, take a look at the following guides:

Finally, inspire yourself with more experiences with the 101 Best Things to Do in Tonga: The Ultimate List. Plus, get even more tips in The Complete Travel Guide to Tonga.


Laura (Lola) S.

This article was reviewed and published by Laura, editor in chief and co-founder of Tonga Pocket Guide. Since arriving solo in the South Pacific over 10 years ago with nothing but a backpack and a background in journalism, her mission has been to show the world how easy (and awesome) it is to explore a paradise such as Tonga. She knows the islands inside-out and loves sharing tips on how best to experience Tonga’s must-dos and hidden gems. Laura is also editor of several other South Pacific travel guides.

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