Some of the richest seabird (pelagic) viewing opportunities occur on the doorstep of Australia’s two major cities of Sydney and Melbourne. Albatrosses are nature’s ultimate gliders and are amongst the largest of all flying birds. Just off the coast of Sydney between May and October, Black-browed, Campbell, Shy, Yellow-nosed, Gibson’s and Wandering Albatross can be seen regularly. Black-browed and Shy Albatross are also commonly seen off Philip Island, especially during the winter months. A variety of petrels are also prevalent at this time, particularly off the coast of Sydney, including the Providence, Grey-faced, Cape, Northern Giant and Southern Giant Petrel species.
In summer months, the Short-tailed Shearwater is found along the south and south-east coasts of Australia, with great vantage points around Tasmania, Philip Island and the Great Ocean Road. Over 20 million birds making the trek from northern Pacific, off Japan, Siberia and Alaska every year to breed, with the ability to dive up to 10 metres underwater in search of fish to feed chicks. Off the coast of New South Wales, Fluttering, Wedge-tailed, Hutton’s and Flesh-footed Shearwaters also follow a similar migratory pattern.
The Black-faced Cormorant is endemic to the southern coasts of Australia, with sightings of the Pied, Little Pied, Little Black and Great Cormorant widespread. Raucous Australasian Gannets and Australian Pelicans are also a highlight for visitors to Philip Island, Kangaroo Island and the Eyre Peninsula. Visitors will have no issues finding the Crested Tern and ubiquitous Silver Gull along the coastal beaches, whilst Australia’s only endemic gull species, the Pacific Gull can be found in Tasmania and the southern parts of the continent.
Perhaps the most adored seabird in Australia is the Little Penguin. Although the world’s smallest penguin species, they delight birdwatchers with their antics and are most common around Phillip Island, Tasmania (including Maria Island), but can be occasionally seen around Sydney Harbour, Kangaroo Island and the Great Ocean Road.
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.
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, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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, 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.
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.
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.
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, 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.
Winter: Jun-Aug, You Yangs & Great Ocean Road
Emus breed in winter and this is the most likely time to see a male emu sitting on his nest on the ground, or tiny striped emu chicks following their father who has the sole responsibility of looking out for his brood.
The cooler weather provide ideal conditions to see a fine array of skilled aerialists chasing insects, including the handsome Scarlet Robin, Eastern Yellow Robin, Rufous Whistler, Jacky Winter, Restless Flycatcher, Grey Fantail, Dusky Woodswallow, Brown and Yellow-rumped Thornbill, Tree Martin, White-browed Scrubwren, Superb Fairy-wren and the Willie Wagtail. The Rufous Bristlebird with it’s broad tail can be seen occasionally, along with the Diamond Firetail, which has been known to build a nest in the base of existing hawk's nests.
The picturesque coastlines and estuaries are alive with a huge range of waterbirds and shorebirds, including Cape Barren Geese, Magpie Geese, Black Swans, Australian White Ibis, Wood Ducks, Yellow-billed Spoonbills, Australian Shelducks, Australasian Grebes, Australian Gannets, Pied and Black-faced Cormorants.
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.