Destinations · Expeditions · Things to Do · South Pacific
September 05, 2023 Words: Steve Futterman

The Birds (and Fish) of Paradise

The amazing creatures of the South Pacific, in the air and under the sea

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There are few experiences that can seem as gloriously otherworldly as observing the incredible tropical birds and ocean life during a Seabourn South Pacific Expedition. With their vivid colors, unusual shapes, and fascinating behaviors these breathtaking creatures seem as if from another sphere of existence. Here are ten unusual and unforgettable birds and fish that are among the highlights of an exceptional expedition uniting luxurious comfort with the thrill of discovering marvels of the natural world.

In the Air

The White Tern

The pantropical white tern has also been called a “fairy tern” because of its ethereal beauty and endearing habit of flitting about. The white tern nests in trees and bushes and feeds on small fish. Not so unique you might think, but this lovely bird will often lay its egg directly on a branch without the protection of a nest. The female and male parents take careful turns when nestling the egg to prevent a strong wind from sending it toppling.

Brown Noddy

Acquiring the “noddy” part of its name from the movements it makes during a courtship ritual, nodding to its perspective partner, the brown noddy is the largest of the South Pacific species. Unlike others in the tern family who are white with a dark cap, the brown noddy is dark with a white cap — in fact, it is the only entirely dark body tern.

Red-tailed Tropicbird

The red-tailed tropicbird is true to its name. Adult birds both male and female have red tail streamers that can be twice their body length. This striking appendage contrasts with its snow-white plumage, and bookended by its red bill, the red-tailed tropicbird is one of the glories of the Pacific. It is also distinguished by remarkable courtship rituals in which groups of up to twenty tropicbirds fly in circles, swinging their long tails to attract mates.

Blue Lorikeet

What it lacks in size, the blue lorikeet makes up for in appearance. A lorikeet is part of the Psittaculidae Family (parrots), which is characterized by specialized tongues that allow them to feed on various nectars and pollens. Both male and females share a rare blue plumage that contrasts with a lovely patch of white that covers its chest and face. And don’t miss its adorable orange beak. This small, lovable bird is native to the Cook Islands and French Polynesia.

In the Sea

Picasso Triggerfish

Why Picasso? The answer is obvious when you view these extraordinary fish who resemble the flattened images of Picasso’s famed Cubist period. With angular jolts of color —another nod to the Spanish artist—the Picasso triggerfish is a reef and lagoon dwelling creature that can be found in large areas of the Pacific. Its Hawaiian name is humu humu nuka nuka apua’a, or “the fish that snorts like a pig” in reference to the grunting noise it makes to ward off aquatic enemies.

Blacktip Reef Shark

A sure sign of a balanced coastal ecosystem is the presence of the blacktip reef shark which makes its home in shallower waters than its deep-sea brethren. Growing up to six feet, this shark — found along the coastlines of the Pacific — mainly consumes reef fish. With plentiful sea life surrounding it, it's not uncommon for an elated blacktip to jump fully out of the water at mealtimes.

Emperor Angelfish

It’s one thing to observe a magnificent sea creature like the emperor angelfish in a domestic tank; it’s quite another experience to view it in its natural Pacific environment, its brilliant colors reflected in the ever-changing waters. Whether as a juvenile whose body is marked by undulating curving lines, or as an adult with bold stripes, the emperor angelfish is awe inspiring, a glorious example of the incredible colors and shapes that nature can offer.

Moorish Idol

If the emperor angelfish has a rival for beauty, it may well be the Moorish idol, another extraordinary reef-dwelling Pacific fish. (As for its odd name, the jury is still out as to its origin and meaning.) The only member of the genus Zanclus, and the only extant species within the family Zanclidae, the Moorish idol is unique both in classification and individual glamour.

Humphead Wrasse

The enormous humphead wrasse — growing over six feet long with older males often displaying a prominent hump on their foreheads— is yet another fish whose spectacular shape, color, and very make-up will have you pondering the captivating wonders of the deep. Not only arresting in appearance, but this coral reef dwelling fish is also distinct in its longevity with a life expectancy of up to thirty years. The humphead wrasse also sports another fanciful name: it is also called the Napoleon fish— the hump resembling —to some— the bump in the famed Emperor's two-cornered hat.

Titan Triggerfish

Can a creature be unquestionably odd looking yet undeniably beautiful at the same time? Found in lagoons and reefs in most of the Indo-Pacific area, the titan triggerfish is a magnificently strange being, its peculiar bulging eyes counterbalanced by its soothing colors. Its size is nothing to be scoffed at either: the largest species of triggerfish in its range, it can grow up to thirty inches.

With an expert world-class Expedition Team leading the way throughout your Seabourn ultra-luxury adventure, the wonders of South Pacific wildlife are in reach. Kayak around dazzling atolls, hike to ancient sites, snorkel over pristine reefs or slip inside a custom-built submarine to watch colorful fish dart about the kaleidoscopic corals. Natural splendor has never been so close-at-hand to explore. On a Seabourn Expedition, guests don’t just visit the most coveted places, they experience them with all their senses.

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Red-tailed Tropicbird Red-tailed Tropicbird
The White Tern - Feiry Tern The White Tern
Blacktip reef shark Blacktip Reef Shark
Titan Triggerfish Titan Triggerfish

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