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Australia Birds 1
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Australia Birds 1

This section showcases some of the more commonly found land Birds of Australia.  For water-birds, including Shore and Seabirds of Australia, check out our Australia Birds 2 page.

Australia is a birder's paradise, and to learn about the more than 750 species on this continent and all their habits and habitats would take a lifetime (or 2!).  We did get to several different eco-regions in Australia and got many good bird photos.  Too many, in fact, to fit on one web page.  So I've rather arbitrarily divided Australian birds into Water Birds (including sea, shore and fresh-water habitat birds) and this page of somewhat miscellaneous Birds.  Photos, large and small, are copyright HackingFamily.com, credits Sue Hacking, unless otherwise noted.

For identification we use the Birds of Australia (Princeton Field Guides) by Ken Simpson and Nicolas Day, but there are actually lots of good Australian bird books available.

Over the months in Australia we have seen and identified hundreds of species.  Not all were seen on our 9-month stay in 2006 aboard Ocelot.  Others were seen on our driving trip from Canberra to Daintree National Park, Queensland, in the winter of 2000 (but those photos are not included here).  If you have a special interest in the continent's parrots, see below.

Where to find birds in Australia.  Just look around. And listen.  They are everywhere, and their morning song is some of the best birdsong in the world as the Magpies and kookaburras awaken.  An Australian birding expedition need not be a "BIG" event, but can begin outside your hotel room, your tent or in a backyard.  Because insects, bugs, small lizards, geckos and skinks abound the birds have plenty to eat.  And the shrubs and trees are ripe with yummy seeds and fruits.  Your guide book will list many bird parks (in addition to the famous Australia Zoo) throughout the country.  A drive in the outback or national parks will yield the best birding if you camp or take an evening or early morning walk.  The Australian birding will astound you!

The distinctive Australian Magpie It seems fitting to begin the Australia bird pages with the Australian Magpie (Gymnorhina tibicen) (left) as it was one of the first birds to awaken us in the summer in Brisbane with its beautiful, fluting call that can also be called "caroling".  Found throughout Australia, the magpie is a large-ish bird (38‑44 cm or 12‑17") with distinctive black and white markings.  Birds in Tasmania, parts of Victoria, and southern Western Australia have white or grey backs.  They live in groups with up to 24 birds defending one territory; a dominant male mates with several females.  Young birds are driven from the group and form roving groups of their own.  Magpies live in open forest, farms and urban areas.  They are omnivorous and live on fruits, seeds, invertebrates, reptiles, small birds, and food they scavenge.  The magpie (left) was taken in Victoria in summer. The Pied Butcherbird  (Cracticus nigrogularis) (right) is in the same family, and also has a melodic, flute-like voice.  Note the "opposite" colors to the magpie. This shot was taken at Mt. Warning, NSW in spring. The distinctive Pied Butcherbird of Australia
Soon after the sun rose in the Brisbane Botanic Gardens the Laughing Kookaburra, Dacelo novaeguineae, joined the symphony of bird calls.  Unmistakable for its raucous voice, the laughing kookaburra is found all along the eastern side of Australia and the south west corner (where it was introduced) but not in the dry interior.  The largest of all the kingfishers (about 45 cm or 18")  this bird has a massive beak, brown eye stripe, a barred tail, and mottled blue on the wings.  Its cousin, the Blue Winged Kookaburra, lives in northern Australia, is smaller, and has no eye stripe.  Kookaburras DO sit in old gum (Eucalyptus) trees, as the song goes, but they sit in other trees as well, watching for insects and small vertebrates like frogs and reptiles to feed on.  They live in family groups in forest and open woodland, calling and cackling to each other.  They nest in tree hollows or termite mounds, and unmated birds up to 4 years old help parents incubate and raise new young.  (Victoria campsite in summer) Laughing Kookaburra
Eastern Spinebill A beautiful small bird, the Eastern Spinebill Acanthorhychus tenuirostris is in the honeyeater family of birds.  The male has a long, decurved bill, black capped head, white breast bordered by black, and cinnamon-tawny sides.  The female is less brightly colored.  They live in heath-land, forests and gardens feeding on the nectar of flowers with their long tongues that have a paint-brush-like end to help them gather pollen.  (Lamington National Park, South Queensland)
Classified as one of the "large honeyeaters", the Red Wattlebird (Anthochaera arunculata) is a fairly non-descript gray, black and white bird of medium size, remarkable mainly for its bright pink or red wattles under the ears.  For campers, it is one of the nuisance birds, always hanging about for tidbits, brazenly coming onto the cool barbie (BBQ) or the camp chairs.  They range across the entire southern coast and forest of Australia, and are aggressive to other birds.  (South Victoria) Red Wattlebird on a campsite BBQ, Victoria
Two Welcome Swallos perch on Ocelot's jib sheets. Gregarious and bold Welcome Swallows (Hirondo neoxena) spent many hours on Ocelot's mooring lines, jib sheets, and lifelines.  The twittering chatter of these small (14‑15 cm or 6") birds kept us company from early morning to early evening on the Brisbane River.  Welcome Swallows are found throughout much of eastern, southern, and south eastern Australia in all habitats, and especially near water.  (Brisbane River)

The Tawny Frogmouth (Podargus strigoides) is endemic to Australia and is normally nocturnal.  It was unusual to see this one on its day-perch with eyes wide open.  When alarmed, the frogmouth opens its wide beak to show its thin tongue and yellow-green mouth, while hissing loudly to deter predators.  It must not have felt threatened by us, as it sat peacefully, staring at us with its owl-like eyes.  The coloration of this bird is almost rufous (rather than the normal gray) so it is perhaps the rufous morph.  Tawny Frogmouths reside throughout most of Australia, hunting at night for small vertebrates, snails and arthropods.  Their normal day-time posture is to stretch out, stick-like on its branch for camouflage.  Their call is a constant low "oooommm".  (Lismore, New South Wales)

A Tawny Frogmouth, surprisingly alert in daytime
Common bronze-winged doves A resonating deep "oom" indicates the presence of Common Bronzewing doves (Phaps chalcoptera) which can be found in all but the direst interior of Australia.  These lovely birds have a palette of colors in their feathers, from the purple-brown of the nape to the metallic greens and gold of the wings, to the pink chest and feet, and white facial stripes.  As shown, the underwing has a rich bronze tone.  The birds are found in mallee scrub, farmlands, dry forest, and coastal brush.  They are about 28‑32 cm or 12".  (Victoria interior)
If you hear a high whistling "woop woop woop" sound it might be the Wonga Pigeon (Leucosarcia melanoleuca) calling during mating season.  These medium-large pigeons (about 37 cm or 15") inhabit coastal areas, rainforest and scrubland in southeast Australia.  Mostly gray, they are distinctive with their black and white patterned lower breast, abdomen and under-tail.  They live mainly on the ground, although they call from the trees.  Wongas are endemic to Australia.  (Pebbly Beach, New South Wales) Wonga pigeon on leaves near the beach
A lone emu deep in the Victoria forest

Emus (Dromaius novaehollandiae) are large birds and easily seen in open fields (right), but are more difficult to spot in wooded areas (left).  Near our campsite in the Grampians, Amanda heard a low drumming sound she didn't recognize and went to investigate.  She was probably as startled to see an emu as it was to see her!  Their call is not vocal and not even throaty, but a deep sound like a bass drum.  They can be found throughout much of Australia except the very dry interior and the wettest rainforest.  They are nomadic, sometimes migratory, and eat grasses and shrubs, sometimes small insects.  These flightless birds stand over 2m (6.5 feet) tall, and are distinctive with their massive body plumage, long blue/black necks, and long strong legs.  About 12 large green eggs are laid in a nest on the ground and incubated by the male, with the young being raised and cared for by the male.  (Photos: in and near Grampians National Park, Victoria.  Photo left by Amanda Hacking)

Emus on the fields of Victoria
Australian Brush Turkey The dark-feathered, large Australian Brush Turkey (Alectura lathami) lives in the forests of the northeast coastal region of Australia.  Both male and female have bare red skin on the head and face, and the male has a wattle or collar of yellow around its neck.  The tail is distinctively broad and fowl-like.  A member of the Megapod family, the Brush Turkey builds large leaf-litter mounds into which the eggs are laid where they incubate in the heat of the mound.  The Brush Turkeys are omnivorous, and, when threatened, can fly awkwardly.  One female Brush Turkey may lay eggs in several mounds.  (Lamington National Park, South Queensland)

The Brisbane Botanic Garden was a popular haunt for the Australian White Ibis (Threskiornis molucca).  Ranging throughout most of northern and eastern Australia, these large (65-75 cm or 27") birds are unmistakable with their long down-turned bills, white body and wings (though often stained dirty brown) black heads and necks and the appearance of black tails (formed by black inner secondary feathers).  They can be found in wetlands, meadows, urban parks, and garbage dumps foraging with their strong bills deep into the earth for worms and grubs.  They roost in trees and mangroves.  They used to be called the Sacred Ibis.  (Brisbane)

White Ibis perched on railing in Brisbane Botanic Garden

PARROTS

Australia is home to two families of parrots (as we collectively call them): the Family Cacatuidae (the cockatoos) and the Family Psittacidae (which comprise the majority of parrots) together including about 50 species.  The cockatoos are generally larger (up to 52 cm or 20") and the parrots can range in size from the Australian King Parrot (at 42 cm or 16") to the small lorikeets (about 12 cm or 5").  All parrots have short, strongly hooked bills, prominent eyes and bright plumage.  Many are able to mimic human words.  Most breed in tree hollows and are fairly long-lived.  Many species feed on small berries and fruits, while some grub for insects.

Crimson Rosellas on a roof top in a Victoria park A pair of Crimson Rosellas, Platycercus elegans (possibly one juvenile and one adult) perch on a rooftop in New South Wales.  These blue-cheeked rosellas are found in SE Australia in parklands and moist forests.  Gregarious and not shy around humans, they are often fed by tourists, a practice that harms the birds and may result in disease and dependency on humans.  They are about 35 cm (14") tall, and make a metallic "kweek-kweek" when in flight and a softer whistle when perched.

The strikingly beautiful Australian King Parrot (Alisterus scapularis) often keeps company with Crimson Rosellas, especially in parks where the birds are hand fed.  They are found in the moist, tall forests and adjacent farmlands of eastern New South Wales north to central Queensland.  Small flocks are often seen in flight, characterized by their strong, but erratic wing beats.  The photo is of an adult male; the females have a green head and breast with a belly of the same brilliant red as the male.  (Lamington National Park, Queensland)

A male Australian King Parrot
A sulfur-crested cockatoo on a porch rail in Canberra Throughout much of eastern Australia, and across the top, snowy white Sulfur Crested Cockatoos (Cacatua galerita) screech and call with loud, raucous voices from treetops and rooflines of forests, suburbs, fields and parks.  Often seen in large flocks, these cockatoos are unmistakable with their yellow head plumage and distinctive flight pattern of flap, flap, glide.  They are not shy and are often attracted to backyard feeders.  (Canberra)
The lovely white, pink and grey Galah (pronounced ga-LAH) Cactua roseicapillus, is considered the clown of the Australian parrots.  Indeed, in Australian slang, to call someone a "galah" is to imply they are a buffoon or fool.  They are found in open woodlands, grasslands and parks, often in small flocks.  They call with a shrill "chi-chi".  (Victoria) Galahs are often seen on grassy fields and lawns.
A flock of Long-billed Corellas feed on farmland, Victoria Long-billed Corellas (Cacatua tenuirostris) are often found in large flocks feeding on the grasslands and pastures of southern New South Wales and Victoria.  A few isolated birds are also found in Tasmania and south-eastern Queensland.  They have a long, down-hooked bill, bluish bare skin around the eyes, an orange-red forehead, with touches of orange-red on the neck and breast.  (Victoria)

Want more Birds of Australia?  Go to Australia Birds 2 to read about the water-birds of the shore, sea, and inland waters.

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