The Animals and Birds You’ll See in Samoa
Wildlife enthusiasts will not be disappointed by the array of animals and birds in Samoa. There are around 80 species of birds, 2,500 invertebrate species, 900 fish species, 200 coral species and the list goes on. While many of the animals and birds in Samoa you’ll actually find across the South Pacific, there are an interesting few that are endemic to the islands. Identify what you will see (or have seen) as you’re travelling through the islands with this list of the top 20 animals and birds found in Samoa!
And for a more detailed look at Samoa’s wildlife, don’t forget to check out our guide, Wildlife in Samoa: Animals in Samoa & Where to See Them.
1. Manumea (Tooth-Billed Pigeon)
The manumea, commonly known as the tooth-billed pigeon, is the national bird of Samoa. This large ground pigeon is endemic to Samoa and is of the didunculus genus which has no close living relatives but has shown to be genetically close to the dodo (the genus name “didunculus” meaning “little dodo”). The manumea is classified as “critically endangered” on the IUCN Global Status.
The manumea is known to live in mature forests in Samoa in protected areas like the Uofato Conservation Area and Tafua Rainforest Preserve, for example.
2. Pe’ape’a (White-Rumped Swiftlet)
A fascinating bird that nests in caves and navigates using sonar clicking that is audible to the human ear, the pe’ape’a or white-rumped swiftlet is easy to spot in and around cave entrances. Visit caves like Laauoleola and Pe’ape’a Cave on Savai’i and you’ll have no trouble spotting them.
Find out more about these caves and more in the 10 Best Caves in Samoa.
3. Laumei (Greenback Turtle)
Sea turtles are endangered and rarely seen across the world. But in Samoa, they’re flourishing. The most common species of turtle you’ll see is the greenback turtle that swims within Samoa’s lagoons to feed, while hawksbill turtles are known to nest on Samoa’s islands. While you might chance on a turtle simply while snorkelling, there are dedicated turtle swimming tours and dive sites that will pretty much guarantee a sighting.
Find out more about where to see turtles in the 10 Best Places to See Turtles in Samoa.
4. Tiotala (Kingfisher)
Commonly seen across a variety of habitats in Samoa, tiotala or kingfishers are likely to be a bird checked off the list when visiting Samoa. They have a hard beak that they use to “spear” fish when they dive. While the flat-billed kingfisher is endemic to Samoa, white-collared kingfishers are also present on the islands.
5. Pacific Boa
The Pacific boa is one of only two species of snake recorded in Samoa. These snakes are not venomous or harmful to humans. They prey on lizards, birds and rats and live in forests across Samoa, as well as other South Pacific countries. Their scales are made of keratin; the same stuff fingernails are made of! Another fun fact; they have very bad eyesight, relying on heat sensors to pick up the temperature of their prey.
6. Fui’a (Samoan Starling)
Fui’a or Samoan starlings are medium-sized birds that are endemic to Samoa. They can live in just about any habitat between the forests and on the fringes of villages, which is why you’re more likely to see this endemic species while visiting Samoa. They have large screeching calls and make nests in the holes of large trees.
The Samoa Pocket Guide team spotted the pictured fui’a in the O Le Pupu Pu’e National Park, one of the 5 Best Places for Bird Watching in Samoa.
7. Segasegamau’u (Cardinal Honeyeater)
Segasegamau’u is a subspecies of cardinal honeyeater that is endemic to Samoa. These nectar feeders have a curved bill to easily slip into flowers, although they are known to eat insects too. As a species that can survive in coastal habitats, villages and forests, they are commonly spotted in Samoa.
8. Lupe (Pacific Imperial Pigeon)
A common forest bird in Samoa, the Pacific pigeon or Pacific imperial pigeon is native to Samoa amongst other islands in the South Pacific. They eat fruit and berries and occasionally leaves and flowers. The local name for this bird species in lupe.
9. Pe’a (Flying Fox)
The only land mammals that are native to Samoa are three species of bat: Samoa flying fox/insular flying fox, insular myotis and Polynesian sheath-tailed bat. Locally known as pe’a, flying foxes roost in forests, as well as islets off the shore of Upolu.
Nu’ulopa Island in the Apolima Strait is commonly known as “Bat Island” for its bat sanctuary, while bats can also be found flying to islets off the shores of Aufaga village.
10. Pacific Black Skink
Many of Samoa’s reptile species can be found on land. One of the most common is the Pacific black skink, also known as the black emo skink. They can be found in any bush or foliage area. Other skink species found in Samoa include snake-eyed skink, Micronesian skink, Murphy’s skink, Samoan skink, dusky-bellied skink, white-bellied skink and moth skink.
11. Mourning Gecko
Geckos are easy to spot in Samoa, happy to hang around urban areas and resorts and are most active at night. There are around six species of gecko, including the stump-toed gecko, Oceanic gecko, house gecko, fox gecko, mourning gecko and Pacific slender-toed gecko.
12. Manu Palagi (Red-Vented Bulbul)
Although not native to Samoa, red-vented bulbuls are among some of the most frequently seen birds in Samoa. Their inadvertence or even sometimes reliance on the food scraps of humans means that sharing an outdoor meal with a “manu palagi” isn’t uncommon. It is believed that these birds made it to Samoa after being introduced by indentured labourers in Fiji in the early 1900s, eventually becoming common in Samoa by the 1950s.
13. Va’e (Branded Rail)
Despite being skittish around humans, va’e are another commonly spotted bird in Samoa. Tip-toeing in grassy areas, particularly on the roadsides, va’e are commonly known as “roadrunners” as they are often seen darting across the roads.
14. Tuli (Golden Plover)
Found in open grass areas in the wet season of Samoa, the golden plover comes some 10,000 km (6,214 miles) from Alaska. During their mating season, during February and March, their plumage changes colour in time for the “courtship parties” they will hold upon their return to Alaska.
15. Giant Clam
There are five giant clam species in Samoa, with most being introduced to the islands to create an aquaculture industry: the largest giant clam tridacna gigas, the smooth shell tridacna derasa, the fluted clam tridacna squamosa, the small giant clam thought to be native to Samoa tridacna maxima, and tridacna noae.
However, some of the giant clam species cultivated in Samoa are part of eco-tourism projects, like the Savaia Giant Clam Sanctuary where clams are protected in a lagoon marine reserve. Learn more about the snorkelling spot in The Best Snorkelling in Samoa: Top 10 Places to Snorkel.
16. Miti Tai (Polynesian Triller)
Birders will also be delighted to likely see plenty of Polynesian triller in Samoa, 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. Samoa is also home to the endemic Samoan triller, which are more likely to be seen at the forest edge or canopy.
17. Atafa (Lesser Frigatebird)
Not forgetting our seabird friends, dozens of species can be seen off the coast of Samoa with important seabird nesting habitats being found on off-shore islands, such as Nu’utele and Nu’uala in the Aleipata Islands. Great and lesser frigatebirds are among some of the common seabird species in Samoa, along with several species of terns and noddies.
18. Fua’o (Brown Booby)
Another common seabird species in Samoa is the brown booby, locally known as fua’o. Perhaps you’ll see them on the ferry crossing between Upolu and Savai’i (pictured). Masked boobies and red-footed boobies are also present in Samoa.
19. Maina Fanua (Common Myna Bird)
A controversial bird in Samoa, common myna and jungle myna birds threaten native wildlife and crops. Like many species-introduction stories, myna were introduced in Samoa in 1965 to control pests. They became widespread by 1988 and have now become considered pests themselves. With that, you’re highly likely to see a few while visiting Samoa.
Finally, on this list of animals and birds found in Samoa, dogs have been used for domestication and companionship on the islands of Samoa for centuries. Needless to say, you’ll encounter dogs on your travels, whether they are the friendly pets of beach fale owners or villagers or are free-roaming on the side of the roads.
More About Animals and Birds in Samoa
That’s it for our list of animals and birds found in Samoa. For more information about experiencing animals and birds while visiting Samoa, check out the following articles:
- 10 Best Nature & Wildlife Tours in Samoa
- 10 Best Eco Tours in Samoa
- The Top 20 Natural Wonders in Samoa
Finally, plan more of your Samoa itinerary using the 101 Best Things to Do in Samoa: The Ultimate List.