The Cook Islands (once called the Hervey Islands) are located in the geographical region of Oceania. The islands lie between Hawaii and New Zealand in the South Pacific.
Named in honor of Capt. James Cook, the Cook Islands were first inhabited by Polynesian people who migrated from Tahiti. Since the arrival of the Spanish in the 1500s, the islands have been explored by other nations, including England and Russia.
Comprised of 15 islands, the archipelago makes up the Cook Islands. Spread out over 850,000 square miles, the islands contain only about 92 miles of land. According to the 2006 census, less than 20,000 people inhabit the islands.
The Cook Islands are often mistakenly believed to be ruled by New Zealand. The nation is self-governing but depends on the larger nation for military and foreign relations.
The bird population of the Cook Islands has been devastated by the infestation of omnivorous Polynesian rats. It is believed that the rats are responsible for the deforestation of Easter Island.