• Gymnomyza viridis

As the name suggests, the Giant forest honeyeater is a relatively large honeyeater, measuring 27cm from the tip of its beak to the tip of its tail. It has a typically slender, slightly down-curved bill and dull feathers.
Also known as: Giant Forest Honeyeater
Local Names: Sovau, Ikou, Cavucavuivalu

Description

As the name suggests, the Giant forest honeyeater is a relatively large honeyeater, measuring 27cm from the tip of its beak to the tip of its tail. It has a typically slender, slightly down-curved bill and dull feathers. The entire bird is olive-green. Juveniles have lightly streaked and spotted underparts. There is a variation in bill and feet colour between the Viti Levu where they are dark, and the, Vanua Levu and Taveuni populations where they are light yellowish.

Distribution

Endemic to Fiji, and found only on Viti Levu, Vanua Levu and Taveuni.

Habitat Ecology and Behaviour

The Giant forest honeyeater is generally found in large contiguous areas of mature forest where it feeds primarily in the canopy, although on occasions it may be observed at lower levels, even on the ground. It has also been observed in relatively disturbed forest. The Giant forest honeyeater is primarily a nectar feeder, but also forages actively for insects; takes small berries and tackles soft fruit. A single nest has been described. It was located in mature forest, consisting of a fairly substantial basket formed of probable epiphyte rootlets hung beneath a leafy branch in the outer foliage of large forest tree; it was approximately 18-20 m above the ground. Only a single dependent juvenile has ever been observed and there is believed to be an extended period of juvenile dependence of two to three months or longer. The flight of the Goant forest honeyeater is strongly undulating, and they tend to keep close to cover. They are quite loud birds, with calls that vary between the three islands on which they are found. On Viti Levu, a loud ringing eekou is often jumbled together in a series, frequently one bird initiates the call, and it is then taken up by another or by several others, resulting in a loud and characteristic yodelling cacophony reverberating through the forest (the “car alarm call” !). These calls can be heard well over a kilometre away in dense forest and are often delivered several hours before dawn. On Vanua Levu and Taveuni, the loud yodelling cacophany is never heard; calls are much more similar to the Wattled Honeyeater but louder.

Threats

Forest loss and fragmentation is probably the biggest threat to the survival of this species as it needs large areas of forest to forage and live in.

Conservation Status

Until 2006, the Giant forest honeyeater was categorised as a Vulnerable species in the IUCN Redlist of Threatened species due to the lack of data available on their conservation status. However, it is now known to be common in seven of Fiji’s 14 Important Bird Areas (IBAs). These IBAs are forested areas that were identified to be important for the survival and conservation of Fiji’s globally threatened birds. The Giant forest honey eater has been re-categorised to Least Concern in the IUCN Redlist of Threatened Species.

Remarks and Cultural Significance

Until 2006, the Giant forest honeyeater was categorised as a Vulnerable species in the IUCN Redlist of Threatened species due to the lack of data available on their conservation status. However, it is now known to be common in seven of Fiji’s 14 Important Bird Areas (IBAs). These IBAs are forested areas that were identified to be important for the survival and conservation of Fiji’s globally threatened birds. The Giant forest honey eater has been re-categorised to Least Concern in the IUCN Redlist of Threatened Species.

References

Masibalavu and Dutson (2006);
Watling (2004)

Photo: Unknown (but NatureFiji-MareqetiViti gratefully acknowledges the photographer)
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Located in the Province of Cakaudrove, the island of Taveuni is Fiji’s 3rd largest island. Since the 1980s, the National Trust and the Fiji Department of Forests have been advocating for the merger of the Ravilevu Nature Reserve, Taveuni Forest Reserve and the Bouma National Heritage Park to form the Taveuni National Park. In 1993 the Fiji Department of Environment proposed the ‘Integrated Development Plan for Taveuni’ supporting this combination to better promote the wilderness and cultural features of Taveuni to harness Taveuni’s tourism market to its full potential. The Fiji Department of Forests, National Protected Areas Committee, Cakaudrove Provincial Council and NatureFiji-MareqetiViti, with support from the Critical Ecosystems Partnership Fund are revitalising efforts to bring Taveuni's three current protected areas into one Taveuni National Park: 1. Taveuni Forest Reserve (FR). Declared in 1914. Size: 11, 160 HA 2. Ravilevu Nature Reserve (NR). Declared in 1959. Size: 4, 108 HA 3. Bouma National Heritage Park (BNHP). Established by covenant in 1990. 1, 417 HA. TAVEUNI’S WILDLIFE AND LANDSCAPE Much of Fiji’s land and forest has now been impacted and modified by deforestation, commercial and subsistence agriculture, plantation timber production and/or invasive alien species. We must also remember the historic impacts of the first human settlement that resulted, for example, in the extinction of many species and conversion of dry forests to grasslands. Not only has Taveuni retained significant forest and wetland ecosystems across a full altitudinal range (ridge to reef), but also it has not been severely impacted by invasive species, in particular the mongoose. The absence of the mongoose from Fiji’s third largest island has resulted in the retention not only of Taveuni’s endemic fauna species but also Fijian endemics that have been extirpated or are highly threatened on Viti Levu and Vanua Levu. SPECIAL LANDSCAPES ON TAVEUNI Taveuni’s outstanding landscape qualities are derived mainly from its tropical forest cover. From all points around the Taveuni coastline, there are views of the undisturbed, densely forested uplands. Frequently cloud and mist-capped, the rugged central range dominates the landscape with characteristic emergent volcanic cones. From the peaks of the central range descend the long symmetry of old lava flows covered with dense rainforest. Taveuni is one of the very few islands where the scale of negative land use impacts has been limited. But current trends of widespread soil degradation and encroachment into the reserves indeicate taht this is changing for the worse. The thriving agricultural industry of Taveuni can attribute its success to the Taveuni Forest Reserve which was established to ensure unlimited water supply and free ecosystem services to the people of Taveuni. While the Taveuni FR currently provides little monetary benefit to landowners, combined with the Ravilevu NR and Bouma National Heritage Park, the Taveuni National Park will build a strong imperative for ecotourism development. THE PROJECT Not until 2009 were landowners informed about plans which had been around for 30 years on possible Protected Areas development, and the potential of Taveuni's forests for conservation. If there is one conspicuous lesson of the lead up work of the Sovi Basin Protected Area project, it was that there was no real progress until the landowners and the Fijian administration took up ownership of the process. Getting the landowners involved in the PA discussions is the main objective of this project.
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