In conjunction with the 10th International Coral Reef Symposium in Okinawa, I participated in a 3-day scientific excursion to Palau in June 2004. Although the primary purpose of the trip was to dive on Palau's coral reefs, I also hoped to see many of the islands' endemic bird species while there. Our first two days were fully occupied by diving, however, and I was only able to get out birding for the hour or so after dawn each morning. Unfortunately, the hotel at which we stayed (West Plaza Desekel) was in "downtown" Koror (if it can be called that), and it was difficult to find good birding areas within easy walking distance. The best spot I found was a rock island situated in the middle of the causeway connecting Koror to Malakal. From a recreation/swimming area running along the shore here it was possible to bird the wooded north slope of the island. At this site I found Caroline Islands White-eye, Micronesian Kingfisher, Micronesian Starling, Blue-faced Parrotfinch, a pair of Cicadabirds, and had very good looks at Palau Fruit-Doves. Palau Swiftlets were common everywhere, as were Micronesian Myzomela and flocks of Chestnut Mannikins. I saw small numbers (1-3) of Nicobar Pigeons fly over shortly after dawn each morning, and found dozens of Rufous Night-Herons frequenting the landfill at M dock.
While out diving each day I had good opportunities to see near-shore seabirds. Black Noddies and Black-naped Terns were especially common, often forming large feeding flocks, and I also saw a few Brown Noddies, Bridled, Sooty and Great Crested Terns, and White-tailed Tropicbird. While snorkeling in Jellyfish Lake I heard several Palau Bush-Warblers singing from the surrounding forest, but never saw this species. I also found fresh Micronesian Scrubfowl tracks on a beach where we picnicked, but could not locate their owner.
On our third morning I opted to go birding instead of diving, and, on the advice of Ron Leidich (proprietor of Planet Blue kayak rentals and one of the only birders on Palau), I took a taxi to the Palau Pacific Resort and birded their nature trail. This is a rugged loop of about a mile that winds through dense tropical forest. Palau Fantail and Palau Flycatcher were common and conspicuous, and I also found a small flock of Dusky White-eyes. Although Ron had told me that Giant White-eye could be found here, I did not locate any.
During my 3 day visit, I saw 10 of the 17 possible Palauan and Micronesian endemics. I missed Micronesian Scrubfowl, Palau Ground-Dove, Micronesian Pigeon, Morningbird, Giant White-Eye, and only heard Palau Bush-Warbler. I never had a chance to go out looking for Palau Owl. Several of these species are reportedly easier to find on Pelelieu, so if I ever have a chance to return to Palau I'll make it a point to visit that island!