There are more than 700 different species of birds occurring naturally in Australia, and many are unique. They attract attention worldwide from bird lovers of all expertise, for their unusual individuality, spectacular colours and variety.
One bird actually features on our country’s national coat of arms, and being fortunate enough to see emus wandering along road verges near Nariel in North East Victoria, always gives me a thrill that something so large and majestic can still be found close to population centres.
One of the greatest pleasures of going ‘outdoors’ is being able to live amongst and get a close up look at, our native animals and birds. Taking a pair of binoculars in your vehicle or pack, along with a bird identification field guide, will lead to many leisurely hours out camping, hiking or kayaking along rivers or estuaries where birds come and go on a regular basis.
The list of birds that can be seen by anybody exploring our country is immense. Our robins and wrens delight with their frantic hopping and fluttering about, while our kingfishers and iconic kookaburras grace our farmland verges and waterways.
Some areas of Australia are recognised for their rarity of species or diversity of birds. Some areas are remote while others are on the doorstep of capital cities. Here are a few of our favourite spots.
No more than 50 kilometres to the east of Victoria’s capital city, Melbourne, lies the majestic Dandenong Ranges, long a popular tourist destination and one of the best bird watching areas close to the city. The majestic mimicking lyrebird frequents the damp fern gullies and paths that are such a popular place for tourists to visit, especially to beat the heat of summer.
The best time to catch a glimpse of these iconic birds, however, is during winter and spring. The ranges are dominated by towering eucalypt trees as well as fern gullies. Other bird species of note in the region are the eastern yellow robin, powerful owl and the impressively large, yellow-tailed black cockatoo.
This state is home to some of the best dry bushland and Mallee scrub bird habitat in Australia. One area of world renown is Gluepot Reserve, which is located 1.5 hours drive north of Walkerville. The reserve, which is open to the public year-round, features a visitor’s centre, campgrounds, bird-hides and numerous paths located in the habitats mentioned above. The area features almost 200 species of birds, of which 18 are threatened nationally. The best time to visit is between April and October before the stifling heat of the summer months kicks in.
A few of the species in the reserve include emu, mallee fowl (vulnerable), Major Mitchell’s cockatoo (near threatened), hooded robin and black-eared miner.
The dense rainforests of the Atherton Tablelands, just to the west of Cairns are home to some stunning bird species and famous with bird-watchers everywhere. There is a wide diversity of habitat, from upland rainforests, wetlands, farmlands and eucalypt woodlands in the area which features more than 300 of Australia’s bird species in such a relatively small area. The township of Atherton, which is situated in the centre of the Atherton Tablelands, is a mecca for bird-watchers, artists and photographers.
Perhaps the highlight of the area for bird-watchers is the Mareeba Wetlands, where there is a purpose-built bird watching facility. This location currently boasts a list of identified birds as over 200!
The Daintree Rainforest, a world heritage listed area is also a major attraction for bird-watchers travelling to Queensland. Visitors from around the world make the pilgrimage to this iconic location to tick off on some of the 400+ species in this area!
The best bird-spotting often occurs during the wet season, which is the summer months.
Mention the Northern Territory to any bird-watcher and they immediately start talking about the amazing Kakadu National Park. Located roughly 170 kilometres south-east of the capital city of Darwin, this tropical wet-dry zone is home to almost 300 species of birds. The park covers an area of 19, 804 square kilometres, that’s about one-third the total area of Tasmania. The huge marshes and flood plains attract vast numbers of water birds including magpie geese, brolgas, wandering whistling ducks and Australian pelicans.
The savannas of Kakadu NP are of major international importance and home to the iconic and endangered Gouldian finch and red goshawk.
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