Australia is home to some of the most magnificent birds on the planet. Looking to observe a Cassowary or an Emu, or an assortment of other large birds? Then a trip to the land down under should be on your to-do list. You can also feast your eyes on other unique birds from the Laughing Kookaburras to the dazzling Orange-bellied Parrots and numerous majestic birds of prey. It is for this reason that Australia is popular with birders from all over the world. Below are some recommended locations to pay a visit to:
Kakadu National Park, Northern Territory
Arguably the best birding spot in the whole of Australia, Kakadu National Park is home to 280 bird species. Abundance of wetlands and billabongs makes it especially attractive to water birds that fly in from afar to breed. Popular birds found here include kingfishers like the Azure Kingfisher, bee-eaters like the Rainbow Bee-eater, parrots, egrets, magpie geese, kookaburras, jacanas among others. Some of the spots for best viewing experiences include the Mamukala Wetlands, Bardedjilidji Walk, Mangarre Rainforest Walk, Gungarre Walk, Illigadjarr Walk and the Anbangbang Billabong. The Yellow Water Cruise at the Yellow Water wetlands will give you an opportunity to watch Snake-necked Darters darting up and down. Every year, between September and October, the park plays host to Kakadu Burd week which celebrates bird diversity. The week is characterized by talks, specialized birding tours, wetland cruises among others where you get to interact with locals, scientists and researchers.
Daintree rainforest, Queensland
Listed as a World Heritage Centre by UNESCO, Daintree region consists of lowland rainforest, tidal flats, wetlands, waterways, woodlands and grasslands. Such varying habitats mean a wide variety of birds can be seen. It is no wonder that it is home to more than half of birds found in Australia, more than 400 species, most of which can be seen all year round. Endemic species include Pied Monarch, Lesser Sooty Owl, Black Bittern, Victoria’s Riflebird, Red-necked Crake, Double-eyed Fig Parrot, Macleay’s Honeyeater and the Southern Cassowary. 9 out of the 10 Kingfishers native to Australia can also be spotted in the Daintree region. Wompoo Fruit Doves and Spotted Catbirds are seen in winter while Buff-breasted Paradise Kingfishers, Metallic Starlings and Pied Imperial Pigeons will be seen arriving for breeding in spring. Autumn sees the arrival of Rainbow Bee-eaters and Dollarbirds.
Atherton Tablelands, Queensland
One reason the Atherton Tablelands is a must see for birders, besides having nearly 500 recorded bird species, is that quite a number of the species are endemic to the region. Most of the nearly 500 species have been recorded within a radius of 50km of the Tinaroo dam. The terrain changes as one traverses it, opening up to rainforests to woodlands, wetlands and crater lakes. This gives the region variety in terms of bird species. Popular spots are the Bromfield Swamp, Lake Eacham, Malanda Environmental Park, Wongabel State Forest, Iron Range National Park and Mt Hypipamee among others. In these spots, you get to see some of the most spectacular parrots like the Crimson Rosella, Australian King Parrot, Red-winged Parrot, Red-tailed Black Cockatoo and the Sulphur-crested Cockatoo. Some of the endemic species found in the region include the Mountain Thornbill, Chowchilla, Bridled Honeyeater, Tooth-billed Bowerbird and the Fernwren. Other bird species you are likely to see are the Great Bower Bird, Apostle Bird, Squatter Pidgeon and Jabiru. The area also boasts of community birding, nature tourism and sustainable environmental conservation projects like the Jabiru Safari Lodge and the Mareeba Wetlands. Here, over 200 birds are protected and there is a project of re-establishing the multicoloured Gouldian finch.
Broome Bird Observatory, Western Australia
Broome Bird Observatory was established in 1988 as an educational, scientific and recreational facility by the Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union which is now part of BirdLife Australia. Its main aim is the conservation of “migratory shorebirds which visit Roebuck Bay”. Roebuck bay boasts of having the most diverse migratory waders in the whole of Australia. Birds to look out for are the Red-headed Honeyeater, Golden-whistler, the Yellow Chat and up to 22 different raptor species. Arguably, its biggest attraction is in March and April when multitude of shorebirds leave for their breeding grounds in the northern hemisphere each evening. More than 50 shorebird species form a mesmerizing spectacle as they feed, prepare and begin their journey northwards. For birders and enthusiasts, the observatory offers accommodation, tours, expeditions as well as courses and research facilities.
Lord Howe Island, New South Wales
Another UNESCO World Heritage area, the Lord Howe Island is a small island that is widely regarded as a good instance of the effects of isolation on wildlife. One of these effects is the boldness of birds found here. They can be approached quite close because they are not afraid of humans. According to some reports, if you shout really loud at the top of Mt Gower, Providence Petrels will quickly fly down to investigate what you are doing. Among the spectacles to look out for include the return of Shearwaters at dusk everyday between September and May and the aerial courtship rituals of the Providence Petrel, one of the world’s rarest bird, between March and November. From the Malabar cliffs, Red-tailed Tropicbirds can be seen having aerial ballets that is their courting ritual. Other bird species found in the island include the Lord Howe Island Woodhen, Black-winged Petrel, White Tern, Masked Booby and Muttonbird.
Four of Australia’s endangered birds can be seen at the Chiltern forest. These are the Turquoise Parrot, Swift Parrot, Square Tailed Kite and Regent Honeyeater. The Chiltern region is made up of the Chiltern National Park, the town of Chiltern and surrounding areas. This picturesque countryside has more than 200 bird species recorded there, around 180 of which are regulars and residents. The historic town of Chiltern offers a strategic point from which birding excursions can be made either by foot or bicycle. Numerous birding paths and positions exist where one gets to observe birds such as Barking Owls, Square Tailored Kites, Regent Honeyeaters, Sparrowhawks, Green Woodpeckers, Kestrels among others. The area is also dotted with numerous dams such as Cyanide dam, Green Hill dam and Lappin’s dam. You can choose a spot in any of these dams, sit back and watch as various birds come to quench their thirst.
When you do get a chance to visit any of these picturesque localities, do remember to record your observations.