Red-tailed Black Cockatoo
Eastern Yellow Robin
Black-necked Stork (Jabiru)
The geological evolution of the Australian continent has shaped the extraordinary variety of birds, estimated at 828 species (45% of which are endemic) at present. In fact, it has recently been determined that no other continent has contributed so greatly to the evolution of birds, with the majority of the world’s species having Australian ancestry. This means Australian is one of the iconic destinations for bird watching experiences.
Australia is the birthplace of glorious songbirds and alluring parrots, with the evolutionary process contributing to the development of birds that are generally more intelligent, aggressive, loud, melodious and socially cooperative. It is also home to a range of birding Australia families unique to the Australasian region including megapodes (mound builders), butcherbirds, bowerbirds, lorikeets, lyrebirds, Australian creepers, wrens, honeyeaters and iconic cockatoos.
With so many species spread across stunning and diverse habitats including tropical rainforests, coral reefs, coastal heaths, wetlands and swamps, hummock grasslands, sandy and stony deserts and Eucalypt woodlands, it is little wonder why Australia is recognised across the globe as a birdwatchers paradise.
Below you will see the collection's bird watching tours in Australia. We have a range of experienced bird guides to accommodate the most popular birdwatching Australia regions, with our birding tours covering the primary wildlife sites throughout the country.
Spring: Sep-Nov, You Yangs & Great Ocean Road
The adorable Tawny Frogmouth is an owl-like nocturnal bird, that have the endearing habit of roosting in favourite tree forks in plain view. Their camouflage is excellent – they look just like a tree stump, but their tendency to return to the same location is a boon for regular visitors and guides. From October to December they nest, and their white fluffy chicks are even more charming than the adults.
Short-tailed Shearwater migrate every year around the 22nd September, with the entire breeding colony of 12,000 birds returning from Alaska to their nesting grounds on Mutton Bird Island on the Great Ocean Road. They stay until 12 November, then depart for a 2 week ‘honeymoon’ at sea, returning on 25 November. Eggs are laid after this time, and the adult birds stay feeding the chicks until 3 May.
The springtime brings out beautiful flowering eucalypts, with honeyeaters abundant at this time including Red and Little Wattlebirds, Eastern Spinebills, New Holland, Yellow-faced, Tawny-crowned and White-plumed Honeyaters. Other sightings that are possible include the Black-chinned, White-naped , Spiny-cheeked, Yellow-tufted, Fuscous and Singing Honeyeater. Lorikeets often accompany the honeyeaters feeding on the nectar including the Rainbow, Musk and Purple-crowned species.
Summer: Dec-Feb, You Yangs & Great Ocean Road
The stunningly beautiful Rainbow Bee-eater arrives in southern Victoria in late spring, and by summer can be found nesting in river banks near the You Yangs. This is a prized species for photographers, with its green, blue, chestnut and yellow plumage, slender curved bill and distinctive tail streamers.
During the summer months, there are abundant opportunities to see parrots, including the iconic Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Little Corella, Galah, Red-rumped Parrot, Crimson Rosella, Eastern Rosellas. Across the warmer months, sightings of the Gang-gang Cockatoo are possible, with its distinctive scarlet red head and crest a beautiful contrast against its grey slate body.
Various raptors can be seen soaring the skies across the region including the gorgeous Grey Goshawk, Whistling Kite, Black-shouldered Kite, Nankeen Kestrel, White-bellied Sea Eagle and Swamp Harrier, with it’s unique habit of laying its eggs on the ground in rushes from September to January.
Other bushbirds that are typically active include Laughing Kookaburras, Superb Fairy-wrens, White-winged Choughs, Singing, New Holland & White-plumed Honeyeaters, Australian Magpies, Magpie-larks, Common Bronzewing and Crested Pigeons.
Spring: Sep-Nov, Flinders Ranges
The springtime brings numerous opportunities to spot Emu chicks with their cream colour and distinctive dark brown stripes. After hatching, the chicks stay close together and are looked after by their father for their first four months.
Australia’s largest raptor, the Wedge-tailed Eagle, will begin searching for food for their young, with hatchling occurring between August and September, fledging by November. Numerous raptors follow this pattern including the Little Eagle, Black Kite and Brown Goshawk.
Rainbow Bee-eaters are popular visitors to the region, as southern breeding populations spend the summer in the south of Australia, typically arriving in spring to breed. The alluring turquoise back, blue rump and tail, buff-white and cream collar of the Sacred Kingfisher is also an attractive migrant with breeding typically commencing in November.
Autumn: Mar-May, Flinders Ranges
Black-eared Cuckoos migrate from the sub-coastal areas of the southeast and southwest in early autumn and are often found in vegetation along creek beds. The melodious Brown Songlark is another nomad to the area at this time and is present across the winter as well. The male Brown Songlark is an outstanding singer, known for its 'song flights’ as they fly up above their territories.
Other songbirds commonly found at this time include the Grey-shrike Thrush Rufous Whistler and Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike. These species can be seen swooping with great skill upon insects. The end of the dry season brings beautiful orange, red and brown hues across the landscape, with colourful Galahs, Australian Ringnecks and Red-rumped Parrots providing beautiful contrasts. Emus are also a welcome sight as they feed on fruits, seeds, shoots, insects, and other small animals as they prepare for the breeding season.
Summer: Dec-Feb, Flinders Ranges
The dry hot summer brings a variety of migrants to the majestic ranges, with Red-backed Kingfishers breeding in the south before moving back north from February to April. Areas of permanent water around Arkaba attract Cockatiels and fluorescent green Budgerigars, that are uniquely adapted to breed in response to prevailing conditions and may produce several broods if there is sufficient rainfall. Zebra Finches are also nomadic, with sightings much more prevalent in the drier, hotter months around pockets of water.
Mulga, Ringneck and Red-rumped parrots are commonly seen, feeding on the seeds of grasses, shrubs and trees usually in the morning and afternoons, with raptors such as the Wedge-tailed and Little Eagle, Black Kite and Brown Goshawk patrolling the skies, typically preying on small mammals, carrion and insects.
Winter: Jun-Aug, Flinders Ranges
The winter rains and surface water in the creeks provide additional food sources with many birds active at this time. Australia’s largest bird, the Emu, will begin laying their enormous eggs (average size of 13 cm × 9 cm or 5.1 in × 3.5 in) on large platforms of grass. Males and females have a long courtship period of around five months before this event.
Migrants to the area include the Fan-tailed Cuckoo, Pallid Cuckoo and the beautiful Horsfield’s Bronze Cuckoo, with its bronze to green sheen on the back and upper tail a delight to see in direct sunlight. These species arrive at Arkaba to escape the colder conditions of southeastern Australia and Tasmania, before heading back to these areas to breed in spring.
The beautiful Elegant Parrot and Mulga Parrot are highlights for visitors, with the Mulga Parrots occasionally having two broods a season depending on rainfall. Both can usually be seen feeding on the ground along with Galahs, where they take the seeds of grasses or low-growing shrubs.
Spring: Sep-Nov, Kangaroo Island
Spring sees lots of activity with one of the world’s great wildlife migrations occurring just off shore, with the movement of hundreds of thousands of Short-tailed Shearwaters in an endless stream, as they return to breed after an enormous loop through the north Pacific.
Smaller bush birds like Superb Fairy-wrens breed and the spectacular blue males are a stunning splash of colour. Flowering Eucalypts and Callistemons offer abundant nectar to a diversity of honeyeaters including New Holland, White-eared Honeyeaters and Eastern Spinebills. Nectar feeding parrots including Rainbow Lorikeets and tiny Purple-crowned Lorikeets, compete noisily with honeyeaters.
Saline and freshwater wetlands are filled with birds with many ducks breeding and often taking their young families to graze on flooded pastures. Chestnut-breasted Shelducks provide strong contrast to the green pastures and Yellow-billed Spoonbills share space with Australian White Ibis. On muddy shores White-headed Stilts step delicately around the water’s edge with their yapping contact calls alerting to their presence.
Winter: Jun-Aug, Kangaroo Island
Welcome rains after a dry summer and autumn spurs birds into nesting. Black Swans pull together large nests and start incubating, with both parents sharing the load of raising the cygnets. In Flinders Chase National Park, Cape Barren Geese nest in native iris tussocks with parents keeping an eye out for predatory Australian Ravens, Wedge-tailed Eagles or Peregrine Falcons waiting to pick off a striped morsel.
In late winter, the incessant calls of Western Whipbirds in mallee woodlands and dense coastal heaths frustrate the efforts of birdwatchers and photographers who know they are there but rarely get a glimpse. Scarlet Robins sit quietly in sheoak woodland waiting for insect activity and drop to the ground in a flash of red, quickly snapping up a meal. Brilliant colour flashes are not uncommon in this habitat with both Beautiful Firetails and Red-browed Finches found here as well as Striated Pardalotes and the spectacular endemic race of the Crimson Rosella.
Autumn: Mar-May, Kangaroo Island
Endangered Glossy Black Cockatoos nest in large hollows in sugar gum and red gums in the north of the Island. Males head out to feed in sheoak woodland, returning late afternoon to feed the incubating females.
Larger Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos aggregate post breeding (they breed in summer) and flocks of over 100 birds are sometimes seen. When feeding they will post several sentries keeping watch for Wedge-tailed Eagles, with these birds perched in conspicuous locations alerting observers to their presence. A symphony of crunching and cracking accompany their feeding on woody cones of introduced Monterey pines or Banksia.
Red Wattlebirds are common in coastal mallee and large post-breeding aggregations can be seen foraging in the low coastal heath for nectar and insects. Despite the large group of Acacias known as “wattles” the name of this species comes from the pendulous red skin flaps either side of their face below the eye.
Summer: Dec-Feb, Kangaroo Island
Hooded Dotterels nest in subtle scrapes with their black, grey and white plumage providing excellent camouflage as they breed on sandy beaches. Large aggregations of waterbirds such as Black Swans and Royal Spoonbills gather on sheltered seagrass meadows such as Pelican Lagoon and Bay of Shoals, often accompanied by shorebirds like Common Greenshank who summer here after breeding in the northern hemisphere.
Broad beaches like Seal Bay are populated by large flocks of Crested Terns with smart black caps, often accompanied by a couple of massive Caspian Terns, identified by their bright red bills, contrasting the yellow bills of the Crested Terns.
Summer sees the arrival of birds seeking respite from the hot interior of the outback including the Freckled Duck, Elegant Parrot and occasional Budgerigar. This is also the season for post-breeding flocks of Rock Parrots, with their subtle colours making them inconspicuous as they feed on low coastal vegetation. Resident Crimson Rosellas can be seen feeding on the ground on Arctotheca seeds or Dianella fruit.
Spring: Sep-Nov, Uluru-Kata Tjuta & Red Centre
Raptors such as Black-breasted Buzzards, Black Falcons, Australian Hobbys, Wedge-tailed Eagles, Nankeen Kestrels and Brown Goshawks are nesting at this time, actively searching for prey to feed their hatchlings.
Rainbow Bee-eaters and Red-capped Robins are an opportune sighting with the beautiful bee-eaters arriving around August from their northern migration. A host of bush birds can be seen across the Mulga, grasslands, rocky terrains and Spinifex and including Crested Pigeons, Mudlarks, Butcherbirds, Fairy Martins, Yellow-throated Miners, Crested Bellbirds, Chiming Wedgebills, Grey Shrike Thrush and Grey-headed Honeyeater and occasionally the Spinifex Pigeon and Major Mitchell Cockatoo.
Across the woodland areas, keep an eye out for colourful Australian Ringneck Parrots, Torresian Crows, Galahs and Emus.
Autumn: Mar-May, Uluru-Kata Tjuta & Red Centre
Many birds can be seen nesting and laying eggs in April and May including the region’s numerous raptors; Black-breasted Buzzards, Brown Falcons, Australian Hobby, Nankeen Kestrels and Wedge-tailed Eagles.
Large flocks of Zebra Finches are generally seen across the desert skies at this time along with Galahs that are known to breed throughout the year. This abundant boisterous parrot is a seed-eater, able to crack though seed shells with their large beaks.
The beautiful red crown, breast and rump of the Crimson Chat and vivid blue breast of the Splendid Fairy-wren can be seen at this time of year if recent rainfall has occurred, with both species being nomadic due to the reliance on insects. Australian Bustards are also highly nomadic following rain and feed.
Summer: Dec-Feb, Uluru-Kata Tjuta & Red Centre
The Budgerigar population generally booms at this time and green flocks of all sizes can be seen ducking and weaving throughout the sky. It should be noted that the timing of this natural phonomena is variable due to its reliance on rainfall and weather conditions.
At this time, the chicks of Black-breasted Buzzards, Brown Falcons, Australian Hobby, Nankeen Kestrels and Wedge-tailed Eagles have fledged and will commence hunting for small mammals, carrion and insects. This is also the ideal season to see a variety of honeyeaters and bushbirds such as White-plumed Honeyeaters, Yellow Throated Miners, Crested Bellbirds, Chiming Wedgebills, Pied Butcherbirds, Black-faced Cuckoo Shrikes and Willie Wagtails.
Waterholes found around the iconic rock formations are also a draw for the Painted Firetail, Grey-headed Honeyeaters and Zebra Finches.
Winter: Jun-Aug, Eyre Peninsula
Big Swamp offer the opportunity to see a wide variety of waterbirds, with many commencing their nesting season during the winter season. Black Swans, Grey Teal Ducks, Chestnut Teal Ducks, Pink Eared Ducks, Musk Ducks, Black Winged Stilts, Banded Plovers and Cape Barren Geese are all possible encounters.
Across Coffin Bay National Park, there are active Osprey and White-bellied Sea Eagle nests, with pairs often seen fishing along the cliffs and sandy white beaches. The area is also home to Caspian Terns, Hooded Plovers, Red Capped Plovers, Red Necked Stints, Golden Whistlers, Masked Lapwings, Emus and Wedge-tailed Eagles. There is also a chance to see the Southern Emu-Wren and a remnant flock of Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos.
Summer: Dec-Feb, Eyre Peninsula
Summer conditions signal the nesting season for numerous shorebirds including Pied Oystercatchers, Hooded Dotterels and Red-capped Plovers. This is an ideal time to see various waterbirds at Big Swamp including Black Swans, Grey Teal Ducks, Chestnut Teal Ducks, Pink Eared Ducks, Musk Ducks, Black Winged Stilts, Banded Plovers. Migrant Common Greenshanks can also be seen in the area after their enormous flights from the Northern Hemisphere.
Port Lincoln (Australian Ringneck) Parrots, Purple-Gaped Honeyeaters, Striated Pardalotes, Spiney-Cheeked Honeyeaters, Common Bronzewing Pigeons, Black-faced Cuckoo Shrikes, Dusky Woodswallows, Australian Pipits, Western Yellow Robins, Blue Breasted Wrens, and White-Browed Scrubwrens can be seen across Port Lincoln National Park whilst, Pallid Cuckoos are a welcome migrant visitor over the warmer months.
Autumn: Mar-May, Eyre Peninsula
Rugged cliffs along the Great Australian Bight provide an opportunity to view Osprey and White Bellied Sea-Eagles along with other raptors including kites and Swamp Harriers. In beautiful Memory Cove, birds that may be encountered include Purple-Gaped Honeyeaters, Striated Pardalotes, Spiney-Cheeked Honeyeaters, Dusky Woodswallows, Western Yellow Robins, Blue-breasted Fairy-wrens and White-Browed Scrubwrens.
A small flock of remnant Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos aggregate post breeding Port Lincoln (Australian Ringneck) Parrots, Australian Magpies, Galahs, Red Wattlebirds, Black-Faced Cuckoo-shrikes, Masked Lapwings, Golden Whistlers and an occasional Scarlet Robin can be seen across Port Lincoln National Park and Mikkira.
Spring: Sep-Nov, Eyre Peninsula
White-bellied Sea Eagles and Osprey nest along the spectacular coastal cliff habitats and rocky offshore islands, with young typically fledging late in Spring.
A range of bush birds can be seen including Striated Pardalotes, Western Yellow Robins, Golden Whistlers, Superb Blue Wrens, White-Browed Babblers, Red Wattlebirds, Black-faced Cuckoo Shrikes, New Holland Honeyeaters, Brown-Headed Honey Eaters along with Port Lincoln and Rock Parrots. A careful eye will also be able to occasionally spot Blue-Breasted Wrens, Scarlet Robins, Diamond Firetails, Weebill, Southern Emu-wrens and Western Whipbirds.
A number of waders are also seen such as Eastern Reef Egrets, Australiasian Shovelers, Cape Barren Geese, Wood Sandpiper, Latham's Snipe, Buff-banded Rail along with raptors such as Peregrine Falcons and Swamp Harriers.
Spring: Sep-Nov, Tasmania
Spring sees a number of migrant birds arrive after their flight from the mainland across Bass Strait. Fan-tailed, Pallid and Shining Bronze Cuckoos migrate to breed and will lay their eggs in the nests of Superb Fairy-wrens, Satin Flycatchers and Yellow-rumped Thornbills.
Welcome Swallows, Tree Martins, Dusky Woodswallows, Striated Pardalotes, Grey Fantails and Silvereyes are other welcome visitors, along with the vividly coloured Swift Parrot that breed at the same time as the flowering of the Tasmanian Blue Gums. The nest is usually in a hollow in the trunk, with pairs often returning to the same nest site each year.
Another one of the world’s great wildlife migrations occurs between September and April, along Bass Strait and the southeast coast of Tasmania, as the region comes alive with 18 million Short-tailed Shearwaters. Little Penguins also breed along the coastline at this time along with numerous shorebirds including Red-capped Plovers, Hooded Dotterels, Pied & Sooty Oystercatchers, Cormorants, Masked & Banded Lapwings and a variety of Gulls and Terns.
Summer: Dec-Feb, Tasmania
Adorable Little Penguins breed along the coastline between September and March and this also the time to look out for nesting shorebirds, with Kelp Gulls, Pacific Gulls, Silver Gulls, Pied Oystercatchers, Hooded Dotterels, Crested Terns and Fairy Terns the most commonly sighted. A number of migratory waders arrive in Tasmania over the summer months after long journeys from the Arctic Circle including Eastern Curlews, Curlew Sandpipers, Ruddy Turnstones, Red-necked Stints, Common Greenshanks.
Further inland across Tasmania’s rainforests and sub-alpine regions, Black Currawongs, Green Rosellas, Olive Whistlers, Pink Robins, and Grey Goshawks are a sample of species that can be spotted. Satin Flycatchers are typically one of the last of the summer migrants to arrive to feed on insects.
Waterfowl such as Pacific Black Ducks, White-faced Herons, Australian Shelducks, Chestnut Teals, Australasian Shovellers and Crested Grebes take refuge around the island’s numerous lagoons and estuaries.
Winter: Jun-Aug, Tasmania
Between June and August, male Little Penguins return to either renovate old burrows or to dig new ones, with noisy male courting displays greeting females on arrival. Around the regions lagoons and estuaries Cattle Egrets, Australasian Shelducks, Black Swans, Chestnut Teals, Australasian Shovellers, Crested Grebes and Australasian Bitterns.
A number of migrant visitors return to the southeast Australian mainland at this time, however, there are abundant endemic species that can be spotted in the the woodlands and Eucalypt forests, including Forty-spotted Pardalotes, Green Rosellas, Tasmanian Thornbills, Dusky Robins, Yellow Wattlebirds along with Strong-billed, Yellow-throated and Black-headed Honeyeaters. Native Tasmanian Hens also begin breeding in July with hens laying around 5 eggs. They are also capable of producing more than one clutch per year.
Other bushbirds that are popular with visitors at this time include Spotted Pardalotes, Crescent and New Holland Honeyeaters, Brush Bronzewings, Golden Whistlers and Eastern Spinebills and Flame Robins that generally move into lower and more open areas at this time. This is also usually the courtship period for raptors across the region including the Tasmanian Wedge-tailed Eagle, White-bellied Sea Eagles, Brown Falcon, Brown Goshawk and Swamp Harriers.
Autumn: Mar-May, Tasmania
A number of spring and summer migrant visitors to Tasmania begin flying north to mainland Australia during the Autumn months including Welcome Swallows, Tree Martins, Dusky Woodswallows, Striated Pardalotes, Grey Fantails and the vividly coloured Swift Parrot.
By April, millions of Short-tailed Shearwaters leave the Tasmanian coast on their migration flight to the sub-Arctic region around Alaska, along with other migratory waders such as, Ruddy Turnstones, Red-necked Stints, Common Greenshanks and Eastern Curlews.
Beautiful Firetails can be seen feeding on the ground on various seeds, being most prevalent in coastal areas. Although this species is also located on the mainland, it is most prolific in Tasmania and the Bass Strait islands. Another well known endemic is the Green Rosella, Australia's largest rosella. This beautifully coloured bird occurs throughout a wide range of forest types, from the mountains to the coast.
Autumn: Mar-May, Maria Island
Pacific, Kelp and Silver Gulls, Crested Terns, Little Pied and Great Cormorants and Australian Pelicans are common sights across the white sandy beaches, feeding on small surface fish, squid, crabs, insects and other aquatic prey. During the summer breeding season, the Crested Tern’s black crest is commonly raised, but this becomes mottled in the earlier part of Autumn.
A number of migrants depart Tasmania for the mainland in Autumn including Swift Parrots, Fan-tailed Cuckoos, Satin Flycatchers, Yellow-rumped Thornbills, Tree Martins and Black-faced Cuckoo-shrikes. Residents of the island that can be sighted in the lead up to winter include Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos, Cape Barren Geese, Tasmanian Native Hens, Green Rosellas, Grey Fantails, Flame Robins, Golden Whistlers, Eastern Spinebills and the Beautiful Firetail.
One of the largest eagles in the world with wingspan of 2.3m, the Tasmanian subspecies of the Wedge-tailed Eagle are often seen soaring in pairs around the island’s peaks. They are endangered with only 100 pairs breeding across Tasmania.
Spring: Sep-Nov, Maria Island
The brightly coloured Swift Parrot flies to Tasmania from the Australian mainland in Spring to nest and feed on beautiful flowering Tasmanian Blue gums. Another common migrant at this time is the Fan-tailed Cuckoo, known for they laying eggs in nests constructed by Superb Fairy-wrens, Satin Flycatchers and Yellow-rumped Thornbills.
Welcome Swallows, Tree Martins and Dusky Woodswallows also arrive to breed with Welcome Swallows building mud nests under the verandahs of the convict settlement buildings ad Darlington whilst Dusky Woodswallows are often seen perched communally in a line on a branch. Shorebirds such as Hooded Plovers, Sooty & Pied Oyster Catchers nest on Maria’s pristine beaches, whilst young White-bellied Sea Eagles and the Tasmanian Wedge-tailed Eagles fledge at this time. Between September and April, Bass Strait and the south east coast of Tasmania come alive with 18 million Short-tailed Shearwaters, commonly seen from the cliffs and beaches of Maria Island.
Across the woodlands and Eucalypt forests, rare Forty-spotted Pardalotes, Spotted and Striated Pardalotes, Scarlet Robins, Silvereyes, Green Rosellas, Yellow-rumped Thornbills and Strong-billed, Yellow-throated, Black-headed, Crescent and New Holland Honeyeaters are commonly sighted.
Summer: Dec-Feb, Maria Island
The endemic and rare Forty-spotted Pardalote can be seen living in community groups in creek gullies and amongst the upper foliage of flowering White Gums forests. These patches are some of the last remaining sanctuaries for this attractive and active tree dweller. All of Tasmania’s eight honeyeaters can be found feeding on nectar around the island including the raucous Yellow Wattlebird, which is the largest honeyeater in the world. Black-headed and Strong-billed Honeyeaters prefer to feed on the browntop stringybarks scattered around the island.
A number of migrants from the mainland are present after nesting at this time including Swift Parrots, Fan-tailed Cuckoo, Satin Flycatchers, Yellow-rumped Thornbills, Tree Martins, Welcome Swallows, Black-faced Cuckoo-shrikes and Dusky Woodswallows.
Common seabirds seen along the stretches of coast include Pied and Sooty Oystercatchers, Crested Terns, Pacific Gulls, Hooded Plovers and Short-tailed Shearwaters whilst Cape Barren Geese and Tasmanian Native Hens are commonly seen grazing in natural or historic clearings alongside flighty Flame Robins.
Winter: Jun-Aug, Phillip Island
Winter is the best time to look for the magnificent Shy Albatross with their impressive 2.5m wingspan. They skim effortlessly above the sea surface off the Phillip Island and Wilsons Promontory coastline. They feed by a combination surface-seizing and some pursuit diving, with the species recorded diving as deep as 7 metres. They mainly eat fish, cephalopods, and crustaceans.
The waters around Phillip Island and Wilsons Promontory offer an abundance of food, attracting seabirds such as Crested Terns, Giant Petrels, Australasian Gannets, Fluttering Shearwaters, Black-faced and Pied Cormorants, Darters and Little Penguins. Many rocky outcrops along the shore provide roosting platforms for some of these birds.
Shore and wader birds can also be seen at Seal Rocks and other rocky outcrops along Phillip Island, such as the Sooty and Pied Oystercatchers and the Ruddy Turnstone. This remarkable bird vies for the record of the world’s most northerly breeding shorebird, migrating from the very edge of the Arctic.
Autumn: Mar-May, Phillip Island
In autumn, adult Short-tailed Shearwaters leave Phillip Island and start their long journey to the Aleutian Islands in Alaska where they feed over the winter months. On their migration flight pattern they travel to Antarctica, New Zealand, Siberia, Alaska, South America and Japan. The chick stays in the burrow for the next 2-3 weeks surviving on its fat and oil reserves. During this time they also replace its down with adult feathers. It then begins its first migration, using strong westerly winds.
Shy Albatross chicks also fledge mostly in April. Immature birds can be seen off Phillip Island and Wilsons Promontory as they forage for food. Interestingly, they do not return to their breeding colonies for at least 3 years after fledging. Seabirds including Crested Terns, Pied & Black-faced Cormorants, and Australasian Gannets are commonly seen close to shore as they forage for fish and rest on the rocky coastlines. Little Penguins are feeding close to shore to ensure they can feed their growing chicks in the rookeries on Summerlands Peninsula on the southwest corner of Phillip Island.
White-bellied Sea Eagles and Wedge-tailed Eagles are often seen in pairs in trees and soaring above high ground along Phillip Island’s Cape Woolamai, and the Wilsons Promontory coast.
Spring: Sep-Nov, Phillip Island
In September, the Short-tailed Shearwaters, return from their Alaskan feeding grounds. Approximately 1 million shearwaters arrive on Phillip Island, after completing this spectacular migration of 15,000km in about 8 weeks. They seek out their partner from the previous breeding season, renovate their burrows in the sand dunes or build new ones under Bower spinach vegetation. They mate in late November, and then head out to sea for 2 weeks on their ‘honeymoon’ period. Upon return in late November, they lay one large egg (85g) and both parents share the incubation in 12-14 day shifts over an average of 53 days.
The Crested Tern colony on Purple Island just off Point Grant on the southwesterly point of Phillip Island is home to 3000+ birds, being the largest rookery in Victoria. These terns breed here between October and November. To prepare for breeding season, raptors including White-bellied Sea Eagles and Wedge-tailed Eagles are busy soaring across the skies, building large nests along the cliffs of Cape Woolamai, on the southeast of Phillip Island. During this time the graceful Shy Albatross can be seen foraging for food in Bass Strait, including Phillip Island and Wilsons Promontory.
Summer: Dec-Feb, Phillip Island
The warmer conditions provide ideal breeding conditions for seabirds such as Crested Terns, Silver Gulls and Pacific Gulls, with the rookeries at The Nobbies and Seal Rocks abuzz with nesting birds. Seal Rocks is one of the few locations in the area where you can see Kelp Gulls, a locally uncommon species.
Out at sea, Australasian Gannets, Giant Petrels, Darters, Little Penguins, and Shearwaters are hunting for fish, with some birds showing spectacular skills as they plunge dive into the sea at high speeds to catch their food. The magnificent Shy Albatross can also be commonly seen shearing above the sea surface as they forage for food.
Every night at sunset time over the summer months, hundreds of Short-tailed Shearwaters return to their burrows on Phillip Island. In early January their egg hatches and both parents feed the chick regurgitated food inside the burrow. Chicks can wait up to 2 weeks between meals when the adults travel to the waters around Antarctica to feed on krill. White-bellied Sea Eagles and Wedge-tailed Eagles can be spotted soaring above the cliffs of Cape Woolamai, with a chance of spotting their huge nests.
Autumn: Mar-May, East Gippsland
One of the world’s most amazing songbirds, the Superb Lyrebird, is in full voice at this time. These birds reside in East Gippsland year round but early breeding season brings out their best. During May, males can be heard singing loudly from specially-constructed dancing mounds used to attract females. Males with complex songs featuring the largest number of mimicked sounds are successful breeders.
At this time of year it is normal to hear the lyrebird’s perfectly-imitated calls from Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos, Crimson Rosellas, Golden Whistlers, Pied Currawongs, Eastern Whipbirds and Laughing Kookaburras, all coming from the same location on the ground. Patience and a quiet approach will usually reveal a singing, dancing male Lyrebird with it’s remarkable lyre-shaped tail feathers.
Eastern Yellow Robins, Jacky Winters and Rose Robins can be seen at this time along with the Beautiful Firetail. Dusk and early evening provides the opportunity to see Australia’s largest owl species, the Powerful Owl, which preys upon animals such as possums, gliders and rodents.
Spring: Sep-Nov, East Gippsland
Australia has 12 native cuckoos and East Gippsland is home to six of these, all of which have distinctive songs. September and October in the forests of East Gippsland can be almost deafening with these calls including the piercing, repetitive whistle of the Shining Bronze Cuckoo, the rising trill of the Fan-tailed Cuckoo, the frenzied feminine squeal of the Brush Cuckoo and the high-pitched ‘chew’ of the Horsfield’s Bronze Cuckoo.
The springtime brings out beautiful wildflowers and flowering eucalypts, with Red and Little Wattlebirds, Eastern Spinebills, New Holland, Yellow-faced, Tawny-crowned, Blue-faced and Crescent Honeyeaters particularly active. It is also a peak time to see Eastern Yellow Robins, Scarlet Robins, Jacky Winters and the radiant pink breast of the slender Rose Robin.
Iridescent parrots are a magnificent sight flying across the lush forests of the region including the King Parrot, Crimson and Eastern Rosellas, Rainbow and Musk Lorikeets, Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos, Galahs and the iconic Sulphur-crested Cockatoo. Beautifully coloured songbirds compete for the attention of visitors with the Crested Shrike Tit, Golden Whistler, Red-browed Finch, Beautiful Firetail, Mistletoe bird, Superb Fairy-wren and Spotted Pardalote ever popular.
Summer: Dec-Feb, East Gippsland
Brilliantly coloured male Scarlet Honeyeaters migrate southward to East Gippsland in late spring and are scattered over the region following the nectar of Eucalypts and other large forest trees. Black-faced Monarchs are another migrant at this time, typically seen foraging for insects among foliage, or catching flying insects on the wing.
Flowering forest trees are irresistible to a variety of species including Red and Little Wattlebirds, Eastern Spinebills, New Holland, Yellow-faced, Tawny-crowned, Blue-faced and Crescent Honeyeaters.
The region offers abundant opportunities to see vividly coloured parrots against the rich forest landscapes, including the majestic King Parrot, Crimson and Eastern Rosellas, Rainbow and Musk Lorikeets along with the Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo. It is not just vibrant colours that are a highlight for visitors, with melodious songbirds such as the Golden Whistler, Rufous Whistler, Eastern Whipbird, Flame Robins and Grey Shrike Thrush providing remarkable soundtracks throughout the day.
One of the most famous residents is the Satin Bowerbird, which nests until February, renowned for its practice of building and decorating a bower to attract females, with bright blue coloured objects.
Spring: Sep-Nov, Sydney Harbour
Wedge-tailed, Flesh-footed, Sooty, Hutton's and Fluttering Shearwaters arrive in significant numbers to the continental shelf of Sydney in September and October. Wedge-tailed shearwaters breed in colonies across small tropical and sub-tropical islands off the east coast and will begin breeding around September.
Black-browed, Shy and Indian Yellow-nosed are the most likely albatross encounters. The Black-browed Albatross is one of the most common albatross seen in southern Australian waters and migrates north to the region after spending time in colonies in the sub-Antarctic islands. Giant Petrel, Great-winged Petrel and Providence Petrels are also occasionally seen, with Australasian Gannets, Silver Gull and Greater Crested Terns ever present.
Summer: Dec-Feb, Sydney Harbour
Summer is the peak season to see a variety of shearwaters. Wedge-tailed, Flesh-footed, Sooty, Hutton's and Fluttering Shearwaters are commonly sighted off Sydney’s continental shelf. Wedge-tailed shearwaters are abundant at this time, with the species breeding in colonies across small tropical and sub-tropical islands and will begin breeding around September. Wedge-tailed shearwaters return to their colony of birth to commence breeding at the age of four.
The summer months also provide the best viewing opportunity to see jaegers including the Pomarine and Long-tailed Jaeger species. These birds migrate from their breeding grounds in the Arctic Circle and are present from September through April. Australasian Gannets, Greated Crested Terns and Silver Gulls are common encounters and visitors should keep a keen eye out for Little Penguins on approach to Sydney Harbour.
Winter: Jun-Aug, Sydney Harbour
Winter is the peak season for viewing albatrosses, petrels and prions off Sydney’s continental shelf. Black-browed, Campbell, Shy, Indian Yellow-nosed, Buller’s, Gibson’s, Grey-headed and Wandering Albatrosses are sighting possibilities.
The Black-browed Albatross is one of the most common albatross seen in southern Australian waters and like most albatrosses, will depart to breed on many sub-Antarctic islands, between in the warmer months, usually between September and March.
Fairy Prions congregate in the region in strong numbers and Providence, Wilson’s Cape, Northern Giant, Southern Giant Petrels, Brown Skuas are also welcome visitors to the area. Australasian Gannets, Crested Terns and Silver Gulls are abundant in the area, and visitors should keep an eye out for Little Penguins on approach to Sydney Harbour.
Autumn: Mar-May, Sydney Harbour
The shoulder season provides opportunity to see a broad array of seabirds as it intersects peaks seasons for shearwaters in the warmer months and albatrosses, prions and petrels in the cooler months.
Black-browed, Shy and Indian Yellow-nosed are the most likely albatross encounters, especially towards the middle and end of Autumn. Towards the start of Autumn, there are still plentiful shearwaters that can be seen especially Wedge-tailed and Flesh-footed Shearwaters. Providence, Wilson’s, Southern Giant Petrels, Brown Skuas, Pomarine and Long-tailed Jaegers are also opportune sightings.
Spring: Sep-Nov, Lady Elliot Island
The Pacific Golden Plover settles on the island after arriving from their mammoth flight from northern Siberia in August. They can be seen feeding on molluscs, crustaceans and other invertebrates. Bar-tailed Godwits also arrive from the Arctic Circle at this time and have a very distinctive long, slightly upturned bill which they use to find deep burrowing creatures such as lugworms. The Ruddy Turnstone has a slightly different approach, as their name suggests, using their beaks to flip over rocks to prey on worms, sand fleas, and small crabs.
There are a number of waders active across the reefs and shores, with Sooty and Pied Oyster-catchers and the majestic Eastern Reef Egret popular sightings. Brown Boobies often roost around the mooring barrels and boats, and will dive at speed from great heights to pluck their prey from beneath the surface. Inland from the coast, the endemic Capricorn Silvereye can be seen along with the Buff-banded Rail with its orange-brown band and attractive streaked breast.
Autumn: Mar-May, Lady Elliot Island
After the hectic summer breeding season, there are abundant opportunities to see a variety of terns including the Crested, Roseate, Bridled and Black-naped Tern. After the breeding season, the Roseate Tern’s bill and legs change back to black in colour, after turning vivid blood orange over the summer.
Black Noddies are the island’s most prolific breeder and the resident population can be seen across the shoreline and within the Pisonia forest. Lesser Frigatebirds and Great Frigatebirds are known as pirates of the sky and soar patiently across the horizon, looking for the perfect opportunity to steal food from other seabirds. Brown Boobies, Sooty and Pied Oyster-catchers and the majestic Eastern Reef Egret are also common sightings along the reefs and shoreline.
A variety of migratory visitors prepare for their long journey to Siberia, feeding on crustaceans, fish including the Pacific Golden Plover, Bar-tailed Godwit, Ruddy Turnstone and Grey-tailed Tattler.
Summer: Dec-Feb, Lady Elliot Island
During the summer months, the island is a birdwatchers paradise, hosting colonies of thousands of breeding birds. The Black Noddy and larger Common Noddy visit in vast numbers, with Black Noddies constructing large nests in the Pisonia forest.
In contrast, Crested Terns lay their eggs in the open, mostly on patches of short grass. Upon hatching, adult birds take turns in looking after the wider brood as they head out in search of food. Roseate, Bridled and Black-naped Terns are also nesting at this time, with adults frequently dive-bombing straight into the water to swallow fish.
Wedge-tailed Shearwaters nest in burrows with both sexes incubating the single egg, in stints that can last up to 13 days. Incubation takes around 50 days. A highlight for many visitors is to spot the small colony of rare Red-Tailed Tropic Birds, with their spectacular long red tail streamers.
A variety of migratory visitors can be seen feeding including the Pacific Golden Plover, Bar-tailed Godwit, Ruddy Turnstone and Grey-tailed Tattler.
Winter: Jun-Aug, Lady Elliot Island
The resident population of Black Noddies wait over the winter for their migratory cohorts to arrive later in the year. These birds are very apt swimmers, but will not dive in the water, instead seizing their prey from the surface. Crested, Sooted Terns and Silver Gulls are a common sight along the shorelines, with Lesser Frigatebirds and Great Frigatebirds soaring the skies above, looking for an opportunity to harass other seabirds an steal their prized catches. Brown Boobies can also be found roosting around the mooring barrels and boats.
Also scouring the skies is the White-bellied Sea-Eagle, looking for the opportunity to pluck fish from the surface with their razor sharp talons. Land birds that can be seen include the endemic Capricorn Silvereye, Buff-banded Rail, Tawny Grassbirds, Black-faced Cuckoo Shrikes and the Golden-headed Cisticola.
In early August, migratory visitors arrive from the Arctic Circle after their massive flight including the Pacific Golden Plover, Bar-tailed Godwit, Ruddy Turnstone and Grey-tailed Tattler.
Autumn: Mar-May, Kakadu & Arnhem Land
By the end of the northern tropical summer (locally known as the wet season), native speargrasses have grown up to three metres high, providing delectable seeds for Red-winged Parrots, Double-barred, Star, Crimson and Long-tailed Finches to feed upon. After their migration from southern areas, large flocks of Red-tailed Cockatoos can be heard screeching and flashing their vibrant banded tails over the woodlands as they migrate from southern areas in flocks of up to one hundred birds.
This is the time that various cuckoos are breeding including the Pheasant Coucal, known to build their nests up to two metres above the ground in low shrubs. White-bellied and Black-faced Cuckoo Shrikes are also prominent at this time, as is the Dollarbird that feeds on insects before making the flight to the islands of New Guinea to spend the winter.
There are numerous pigeons and doves that are active during the day foraging for seeds including the Bar-shouldered Dove, Peaceful Dove, Pied Imperial Pigeon and the small Diamond Dove.
Winter: Jun-Aug, Kakadu & Arnhem Land
Magpie Geese are spread far and wide over the pristine floodplains at this time, having laid their eggs with a typical clutch of 5-14 eggs. Some males mate with two females, all of which raise the young, unlike other polygamous birds. White-bellied Sea Eagles, Brahminy and Whistling Kites target newly hatched chicks from the skies above, with the best opportunity to see their aerial skills at Bamurru Plains on an airboat ride.
Standing at over a metre tall, the Great Billed Heron is Australia’s largest heron and feeds in shallow water, spearing fish with its long, sharp bill. It will wait motionless for prey, or slowly stalk its victim. The alluring Azure Kingfisher also waits patiently along the waterways on its fishing missions. Plumed Whistling, Wandering Whistling and Spotted Whistling Ducks all pluck on tropical grasses in between uttering their high pitched whistles. Other waterbirds popular with photographers across the swamps include the Royal Spoonbill and Glossy Ibis, which at the right angle, takes on a beautiful iridescent green and purple gloss.
Spring: Sep-Nov, Kakadu & Arnhem Land
As the end of the dry season approaches, the shrinking floodplains bring together a higher concentration of waterbirds, providing excellent opportunities to spot Great Egrets, Royal Spoonbills, Black-winged Stilts and the Black-necked Storks (locally known as the Jabirus) with it’s amazing wingspan of over 2 metres.
One of the most famous meeting rituals in the bird kingdom is common at this time as Brolgas gather in the wetlands across the region. The courtship dance of the Brolga is an elaborate and majestic event, involving strutting, head-bobbing and bowing, with the mate bowing in return.
Known by a number of names including the Lotus bird and Jesus bird, the Comb-crested Jacana appears like it can walk on water at a distance, although it is really walking on waterlily pads and plants with it’s extraordinary long toes. The Blue-winged Kookaburra changes its diet with the drier conditions, to eat fish, crayfish, snakes, earthworms and small birds, as family groups defend their territory with great vigour.