pink galah

Bird-watching Australia

Discover native Australian birds


Birdwatching in Australia is so worthwhile. You will see beautiful native Australian birds (and introduced ones) wherever you go. Birdlife is abundant, even in the Outback. In parks and forests you won't always see the colourful birds, but you definitely hear them.
I just love the sound of birds in Australia. It can be heard everywhere around the country. The sound of birds is the first thing I recognize when I leave the airport down under. It is beautiful and unusual for European ears, but it always feels like coming "home".

colouful australian birds
Rainbow Lorikeets
(Photo taken in an Adelaide suburb)

So what's the best place for birdwatching?

Any place! Of course it depends slightly what kind of birds you want to see.
Australian cities and towns have many trees and bushes, along streets, in parks and your home's backyard. These places are visited by all kinds of pigeons, colourful parrots, magpies and perhaps a kookaburra.

Wedge-tailed eagles and other bird of prey hover majestic in the clear blue sky once you get out of the cities. You'll see them often while driving along the highways feeding on roadkills which is part of their diet. Not a pretty sight, but that's nature!

Australia's rivers and wetlands are home for many species of waterbirds. The Brolga is the most beautiful of them. Would you believe that a usually dry salt lake like Lake Eyre comes alive with thousands of pelicans and other birds once there's water in the lake?

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In the Outback you can see huge flocks of budgerigars, zebra finches and all kinds of cockatoos. It is amazing to see them, feeling free and happy to fly. You probably won't ever keep a budgie as a pet after you've seen that.

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Quick Australian bird facts

There are about about 800 bird species in Australia.

Emus, parrots and cassowaries are the oldest endemic Australian birds that originate from Gondwana.
Songbirds like wrens, robins and magpies belong to Australasia. Robins and wrens might look like the northern hemisphere species, however, they are not genetic related.
Later colonists came from Eurasia and include swallows, larks and some raptors.

Blackbirds, starlings and sparrows were introduced by humans and are rather destructive to the native fauna, while the goldfinch and greenfinch don't cause so many problems.

What are the most common birds in Australia?

Well, of course this depends where you are going for birdwatching.
The birds of the deserts are not the same than those in the tropical north. In the southern areas or in the mountains you will also find different species.

I am going to add a short list with facts about birds you are most likely to recognise & encounter when travelling in Australia. This list is far from complete, it is just based on my own experience.

Emu

The flightless Emu is an Australian icon that appears on the coat of arms.
Emus are large birds, so they can be easily seen in the open country. You won't find them in densely populated areas, but once you drive out into the countryside, they are a common sight. When you see them along the roads, slow down.

Emu eggs are huge with a thick, dark-green shell. Hatched chicks leave their nest after a few days and are protected by their fathers. Emus in the wild get 10 to 20 years old.
The birds are active during the day, their diet consists of plants and insects.

The second flightless bird native to Australia is the Cassowary, distributed in the rainforests of northeast Queensland.

Little corellas siting in a tree
Little Corellas
(Melrose, South Australia)

Parrots & Cockatoos

These birds can be recognised by their strong, curved bill, many of them are beautifully coloured.
Parrots usually feed on nuts, seeds & fruits while cockatoos add insects to their diet.
Cockatoos have a showy crest that is often of a different colour than the body.
Most parrots & cockatoos are monogamous and a pair stays close even if they join larger flocks. They love to breed in tree hollows which they can't carve themselves. So they depend on old and even dead trees for breeding.

Species you are most likely to see include

  • Pink Galah or Rose-breasted Cockatoo can be found in all states and are very common in cities like Adelaide & Melbourne.
  • Little Corella or Blue-eyed Cockatoo is found in northern, eastern & central Australia as well as in the coastal plains around Sydney & Brisbane. You will often see them in huge flocks feeding on open grounds.
  • Rainbow Lorikeets live in eastern Australia, from Queensland down to the south and Tasmania's northwest. They feed on fruit, nectar & pollen. In some densely polutated areas wild Rainbow Lorikeets are used to humans to the extent that they can be hand-fed.
  • Budgerigar or Shell Parakeet is well-known as a pet bird all around the world. The species has been bred in captivity since the 19th century.

    They are native Australian birds who adapted to the harsh inland conditions over million of years. Due to the always changing conditions, budgies are considered nomadic, but they stay in the same place when food and water is available. They feed on seeds of spinifex and grass. Adult buderigars live as pairs within small or larger flocks.

    If you really need to keep a budgie as a pet, have two of them, a single bird really feels lonely.

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Laughing Kookaburra

The Kookaburra is one of my favourite Australian birds. He's native to eastern Australia, but has been introduced to Kangaroo Island, Tasmania and the southwest of Western Australia.
When you hear a Kookaburra laughing it seems as he is laughing at you. The birds are hunters and feed on small lizards, mice & snakes.

Australian Songbirds

Although you will hear lovely birds singing in so many places, it is often hard to spot the marvellous singer. Most of them are tiny & hide in the trees. It needs also lots of patience, and luck, to take a decent photo.

Songbirds include robins, wrens, honeyeater, bowerbirds, magpies and many more.

Australian Magpie

The black & white bird is of medium size and quite conspicuous. You will find them anywhere around the country except in dry desert areas and very dense forests.
They are used to humans and are not shy to beg for food. I remember an occasion where we had lunch in the bush and a magpie was hopping around our feet. We gave her a few bread crumbs which she refused to eat. When we had tim tams (chocolate cookies) for dessert I gave her a few crumbs of them, and the bird happily ate them.

So magpies are usually quite tame, however, be careful during breeding season. Occasionally the birds get rather aggressive when humans or pets come too close to their nests on outer branches of trees.

Magpies are larger and have a stronger bill than the Magpie-lark which is also black & white.

Water Birds & Waders

Australia is also home to a large range of water birds along the coasts and the rivers.
Pelicans & Gulls are common on the coasts but also at rivers and lakes in the inland.
The Little Penguin can be found around southern coastlines.
Cormorans, Ibis, Black Swan are also common around the waterways, not to forget the majestic Brolga.

Birdsounds

Actually, all birds utter some kind of sound, whether they are called songbirds, or not. They sing, cackle, screech, peep, whistle, cry and they even laugh and talk.
Click here to listen to the top 40 bird songs.
By the way, I love the warbling sound of the magpies best.

Australian Bird Pictures

Colourful parrot on top of a tree
Australian Ringneck Parrot
(Rawnsley Park station, Flinders Ranges)

Emu family in the Australian Outback
Emu Family
(Adventure Way, Queensland)

Pink galah on a tree
Pink Galah
(Adelaide Hills)

A colourful rosella
Crimson Rosella
(Hanson Bay, Kangaroo Island)

A raven sitting on a post
Australian Raven
(Flinders Chase Nationalpark, Kangaroo Island)

Laughing Kookaburra
Laughing Kookaburra
(Adelaide Hills)

A magpie walking on the ground
Australian Magpie
(Arkaroola Village, Flinders Ranges)

Pelican
Australian Pelican
(Lock 1 Murray River, Blanchetown)

If you enjoyed reading about Australian birds you might like my other pages about Australian fauna.

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