Birds of Eastern Australia

Hooper, 2012




  •            Orange-Footed Scrubfowl
  •           Australian Bush Turkey
  •           Black Swan
  •          Australian Wood Duck
  •           Magpie Goose
  •           Green-Pygmy Goose
  •           Northern Mallard
  •           Eurasian Coot
  •           Pacific Black Duck
  •           Rock Dove
  •           Peaceful Dove
  •           Bar-Shouldered Dove
  •           Pied Imperial-Pigeon
  •           Papuan Frogmouth
  •           White-Throated Needletail
  •           Little Black Cormorant
  •           Pied Cormorant
  •           Little Pied Cormorant
  •           Australian Pelican
  •           White-Necked Heron
  •           White-Faced Heron
  •           Cattle Egret
  •           Eastern Reef Egret
  •           Great Egret
  •           Straited Heron
  •           Australian White Ibis
  •           Glossy Ibis
  •           Eastern Osprey
  •           White-Bellied Sea-Eagle
  •           Wedge-Tailed Eagle
  •           Nankeen Kestrel
  •           Dusky Moorhen
  •           Purple Swamphen
  •           Bush Stone-Curlew (Thick-Knee)
  •           Masked Lapwing
  •           Banded Lapwing
  •           Comb-Crested Jacana
  •           Whimbrel
  •           Crested Tern
  •           Silver Gull
  •           Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo
  •           Rainbow Lorikeet
  •           Scaly-Breasted Lorikeet
  •           Pheasant Coucal
  •           Laughing Kookaburra
  •           Blue-Winged Kookaburra
  •           Forest Kingfisher
  •           Sacred Kingfisher
  •           Buff-Breasted Kingfisher
  •           Rainbow Bee-Eater
  •           Red-Backed Fairy-Wren
  •           Little Friarbird
  •           Helmeted Friarbird
  •           Yellow Oriole
  •           Australian Figbird
  •           White Breasted Woodswallow
  •           Black Butcherbird
  •           Australian Magpie
  •           Australian Raven
  •           Willie Wagtail
  •           Magpie-Lark
  •           Welcome Swallow
  •           Russet-Tailed Thrush
  •           Metallic Starling
  •           Common Myna
  •           Indian Myna
  •           Olive-Backed Sunbird
  •           Zebra Finch
  •           House Sparrow
  •           Common Paradise-Kingfisher


  •           Emu
  •           Southern Cassowary
  •           Wandering Whistling Duck
  •           Tawny Frogmouth
  •           Black-Necked Stork
  •           Double-Eyed Fig-Parrot
  •           Eclectus Parrot
  •           Sooty Owl
  •           Star Finch
  •           Blue-Faced Parrot-Finch
  •           Chestnut-Breasted Mannikin
  •           Emerald Dove


*Birds as identified by using The Field Guide to the Birds of Australia, written by Graham Pizzey and illustrated by Frank Knight, ninth edition edited by Sarah Pizzey. Published by HarperCollins Publishers, Sydney 2012.


 PICTURES & COMMENTARY (Roughly In Chronological Order)

I have written about the Birds of Eastern Australia, which I spotted through my trusty binoculars while in Sydney and Port Douglas in November, 2012.  My family and I were visiting the Bayles, who live Down Under and are some of our best friends.  Our trip to Port Douglas offered us wonderful access to the Great Barrier Reef for scuba and snorkeling, which made for the vacation of a lifetime.

I did not get photos of all of the birds, nor did I write about all of them.  Instead I picked some which I found to be particularly interesting to me.  The list is, therefore, idiosyncratic and different.  If there were lots of these species in the US, for example, I didn’t write about them.  If I were unsure about a positive identification, I left them off the list. I hope you enjoy the commentary as much as I did writing it.


Willie Wagtail


Great name for this little guy, who looked like a fantail, but was all black above and white on his lower abdomen.  His tail moved back and forth as he flitted about.  We saw these clever birds in Sydney and in Port Douglas, as they entertained us with their tail wagging and their acrobatic chasing of insects from noon to dusk.


  cockatoo 2 cockatoo 1

Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo


These birds, which I spotted as we drove from the Sydney airport to see Maggie Bayles in her dance recital, were magnificent in their ostentatiousness.  They were equally loud in the early mornings as we attempted to sleep off the jet lag.  Their shrieking calls were remarkable in their intensity and duration, as our girls made comments about them, as if emerging from a dream.


emerald dove 

Emerald Dove


dusky moorhen 

Dusky Swamphen (Gallinule)


  spurwing 2 spurwing 1

Masked Spurwing Plover


Although first spotted in New Zealand, these plovers were everywhere in Eastern Australia.  We spied them in the Botanical Gardens in Sydney, in the vineyards of New South Wales, and in the sugar cane of Port Douglas.  The yellow on their masks is remarkable and it is unique.  We did not see the Spur projected on the wings of these plovers, but understand that it can be a potent deterrent to intruders, like dogs.


 wood duck 1 wood duck 2

Australian Wood Duck


I love American Wood Ducks!  Of all of the American ducks, I feel that they are the most colorful and beautiful, especially among the small, tree nesting ones.  The wood ducks of Australia are another matter, indeed.  They are much less colorful, quite bold, and more ubiquitous.  We followed a pair in the Sydney Botanical Gardens for about 100 meters, and they seemed quite content to waddle along ignoring the Sunday crowd.


 emu 2 emu 1



We saw the adult Emu at the Port Douglas Wildlife Park and the guide said, “The Emu shares one quality with the Kangaroo: neither one can move backwards.  They only move forwards; which is the reason that the country of Australia selected them as symbols for their coat of arms.”  Interesting remark, though I cannot guarantee its authenticity. (See image next page.)

emu 3

Australian Coat of Arms



Banded Lapwing Plover


whistling duck

Wandering Whistling Duck


 ibis 2 ibis 1


Glossy Ibis


  lorikeet 1 lorikeet 2

Rainbow Lorikeet


Without a doubt these are the most remarkable parrot-like birds I have ever seen! They are so colorful, it takes your breath away.  We were at the Sydney Botanical Gardens. They moved so fast, and called so loudly, I can’t imagine not getting a glorious view of them.  But they remained elusive.  Not only did they roost in the date palm trees of the Bayles backyard in Mosman, but they were nightly marauders in the center of town in Port Douglas.  Along with the Metallic Starling, the Lorikeet has a conflagration of birds that swarm and swoop and fly into the trees in the center of Port Douglas for a summer bacchanalia.  Their calls were so loud it felt like Seattle stadium during a Seahawks game.  We saw thousands of fruit bats flying by while the Lorikeets and Starlings were causing their dusk ruckus.  It was quite a loud scene.


   starling male starling female

Metallic Starling male & female




Pheasant Coucal


   cassawary 1


Southern Cassowary


The Southern Cassowary deserves a page or two of its own.  What an amazing bird!  Not only is it HUGE, but it is tusked and demands a territory of several hectares.  We looked for, but did not see, a cassowary in the wild.  Instead, we were left with the tales of these birds that had gored tourists and huddled over eggs.  We searched for them for hours in the Daintree National Park.  Cassowaries are called ratites, which means they are large flightless birds which originate from the tropical rain forests of New Guinea.  The Southern Cassowary is the world’s third tallest (ostrich & emu are taller) and the second heaviest (only the ostrich is heavier) living bird species.  Cassowaries are mainly herbivores, although all of the species are truly omnivorous.  They subsist on a diet of fruit, flowers, grass shoots, seeds, fungi, snails, insects, frogs, birds, fish, rats, mice, and carrion. Cassowaries are, therefore, called a “keystone species of the rainforest.”  The health of the ecosystem depends on them.  They eat fruit whole that has fallen from the canopy and they digest the sugars and distribute the seeds across the jungle floor through their feces.  No shit!


cassawary 2

Cassowaries, despite being flightless, sound like Super Bird: among their three claws they sport a five (5) inch long dagger-like claw; they can run up to 30 mph; they can jump a five (5) foot fence with ease; and they are good swimmers.  Cassowaries are very shy, but when disturbed, they are capable of inflicting serious or even fatal injuries to dogs and people.  

cassawary 4 cassawary 3

They have been known to ram cars that frighten them. What other bird do you know who deserves and gets its own SLOW DOWN sign from the Dept of Transportation?

butcher 2 butcher 1


Black Butcher Bird


The butcher bird has a reputation for killing young chicks of other bird’s in their nests.  Its appetite is varied, as it eats animals, vegetables and minerals.  And yes, it has a nasty habit of killing other birds.  We went on a guided birdwatching and Daintree animal safari with Bill Crew, who is a noted guide.  He took us in his van to some great remote and private spots to see the kangaroos, wallabees, platypus, and of course birds.  We heard the call of the Black Butcher Bird most distinctly during our walk at Cape Tribulation, which honored Captain James Cook as he ventured north and crashed amidst the coral reefs.  Tracy and I watched as an avid bird-watcher coaxed a novice to see the butcher bird in the trees.  We walked on to the look-out point and had some special acknowledgment of the time and place with our caresses of the landscape.  Why waste the wilderness on the wild?  We are part of the energy and fun.


 star finch


Star Finch  


blue finch


Blue-Faced Parrot-Finch


fig 2 fig 1

Australian Figbird


The nesting figbird is something to see!  When the male gets flustered, or excited, its eye patch turns bright, bright red, which you can see in the picture to the left above.  The male and female both watch the nest during incubation, but the male seems to be pretty active all day long.  I could see it in the tops of the trees in the park near the Lazy Lizard, preening and showing off, while it was catching bugs to feed the nestlings.  Although the nest seemed pretty flimsy, it seemed to do the trick for these birds, which we saw all over Port Douglas.


  pelican 2 pelican 1


Australian Pelican


We saw the pelican flying in New Zealand and again in Australia, around Cabin Point and they were quite spectacular.  Their wings were so distinctive, even on a cloudy day they looked so powerful and graceful.  Great images of avian beauty. (The web photos were better than mine, so here are three.)

    stone curlew 3 stone curlew 2


Bush Stone-Curlew (or Thick-Knee)


We saw the birds that Bill Crew called the Thick-Knees in a park, not far from the Lazy Lizard.  I guess they have thicker knees than some of the typical shore birds, but it seems a strange name nonetheless. We were driving by and I asked Kathleen to stop the car. Eleanor, Kathleen and I track after the birds as they walked, lay down, raced, flew up in patterns and stood sentinel still.  It was quite a scene, as the girls became as fascinated with the dance, as I did. There were about 10 of the Stone-Curlews in the park and we must have watched them for 30 minutes, as the light faded and the day ended.


 black swan 1 black swan 2

Australian Black Swan


Having read the book by Nassim Nicholas Taleb entitled The Black Swan, I was intrigued by the presence of this bird in the wild.  Never before have I actually seen a black swan.  They are rare in the States, hence the feeling that they must not be real.  We saw these birds a few times, however, so they are not as rare as I had assumed.  They are beautiful in the water and in flight, as their wing span is approximately 6 ½ feet in length.  Their white primary feathers and their red beaks with yellow and white tip, make this large swan a show stopper.  I loved the view.


    frogmouth 2


Papuan Frogmouth


The main page of this document is the face of the Papuan Frogmouth.  Our Innkeepers in Port Douglas, Penny & Jim Ewan at the Lazy Lizard Best Western Motor Lodge, showed me on our first morning.  Frogmouths, as we learned during our visit to the Nature Park in Port Douglas, are nocturnal and love worms…and frogs, I suppose.  I visited the roosting bird a few times, as he sat in a tree behind the Lazy Lizard, eyes closed. He opened his eyes for me just once, but it was great!  His piercing look went right through me.  I snapped this picture in the nick of time.


 pigeon 2 pigeon 1

Pied Imperial-Pigeon

There were a lot of nesting pairs of Imperial Pigeons in Port Douglas while we were there, and they we flying about incubating eggs, building nests, feeding their young, you name it.  They have a strong presence in that city, and are fun to watch in flight.  Their coloration makes them look like miniature pelican, without the large head and beak.

  cormorant 2 cormorant 1

Little Pied Cormorant


  cattle egret 1 cattle egret 2


Cattle Egret




White-Necked Heron


jacana 2 jacana



We went to a lake/reservoir with Bill Crew, which he felt was a good place to try to find a Jacana.  It was mid-day and very hot, so I was doubtful. However, I had never seen one, so who was I to judge?  I was not sure what I was looking for exactly.  I knew it by its nickname, “The Jesus Bird”.  The Jacana looks like it is walking on water, as in the picture on the right above.  It is a very light bird, with a red comb, and it has enormous toes, which it uses to dance “the quick step” along on lily pads in the lakes.  It appears to be walking so fast that it is levitating!  I got some good pics of it as it was strolling along and dining on the bugs that surfaced around the lily pads in the area.  A beauty!






  fairy wren 3 fairy wren 2 fairy wren 1  


Red-Backed Fairy-Wren & Nest


Bill Crew took us to a cow trampled marsh area, where he thought we might see the Fairy-Wren.  A special blind is set up for birdwatching. Many of the Fairy-Wren species are blue, but this one has a vermillion red back, which is very distinctive. I spotted this little guy jumping around the grassy area, near the marsh, as we were about to leave the blind. He seemed to be gathering moss for his nest, which Bill point out to us as we walked on the path to the marsh.


  paradise kingfisher 2 paradise kingfisher 2 paradise kingfisher 1


Buff-Breasted Paradise Kingfisher & Nest


The Buff-Breasted is one of the signature birds that birdwatchers come from around the globe to see.  Bill Crew was excited for me to see one on the wing.  As he was describing them one flew in front of our van.  A second was sitting on a branch, just after we had finished seeing a platypus in a neighbor’s pond.  The platypus was pretty cool, but the Paradise Kingfisher was breath-taking.  He has the longest white tail feathers and brightest red beak I have ever seen.  The blue on his head and back is iridescent.  He nests in termite mounds and is fond of lizards and small rodents.  It was a thrill to see this little guy on the first try. (Web bird photos.)


dove 1 dove 2


Bar-Shouldered Dove


  sacred kingfisher 2 sacred kingfisher 1


Sacred Kingfisher


We saw this medium sized kingfisher sitting on telephone wires and tree limbs; then it darted in front of Bill Crew’s van for a rear-flight view.  It has a beautiful turquoise color, and a bright white breast and collar, which makes it easy to spot. (Web photos)


  turkey 3  turkey 1


Australian Bush-Turkey


We saw a few of these birds in Australia, both in the city and in the burbs.  We did not see the yellow part of the male’s throat extended and hanging low, like a frigatebird, but understand that they have a brilliant display during mating season (web pic on right).  Thanksgiving anyone?


  friarbird 2 friarbird 1


Helmeted Friarbird & Nest


The Friarbirds were nesting in their grass hanging baskets in the trees across from the Lazy Lizard in Port Douglas.  The nests of Pied Imperial-Pigeon, Australian Figbird, Metallic Starling, Rainbow Bee-Eater and Rainbow Lorikeets were very close by in the same trees or a short distance away.  The racket of the Lorikeets made them a distraction from these other amazing birds, not found in America.


  scrub fowl 1 scrub fowl 2


Yellow-Footed Scrubfowl


These birds were all over the place in Queensland, rummaging through the scrub for insects under every leaf.  They are aptly named because they don’t fly much, but their big yellow-orange feet are in nearly constant motion kicking up detritus in the woods, eating bugs, and even strutting across the sand (notice the Vibram soled shoe marks above).



Black-Necked Stilt


 sunbird 2 sunbird 1


Olive-Backed Sunbird


Both the male and female of this bird are beautiful to watch, as they seek nectar in the flowers of Queensland.  We saw them drinking the essence of the the flowers in Port Douglas.  They darted in and around the vibrant ixora, red hot poker and clivia buds, right outside of our room and by the pool. (Photos from the web.)


heron 2 

White-Faced Heron


zebra finch

Zebra Finch


   osprey 2



 magpie lark 2 magpie lark 1




   oriole 2 oriole 1


Yellow Oriole


Tracy and I heard the distant call of an unusual bird coming from the tropical border of the property of The Lazy Lizard in Port Douglas.  As we searched for the bird it took us about 20 minutes to finally locate the caller, who had moved stealthily in the trees.  When we finally spotted him, he was perfectly camouflaged with the background of leaves.  His call was very distinctive.  Once we figured it out, we heard that call every day that we were in Queensland.  It is fun to know a bird by its call and to hear it, even though you can’t see it.


  bee eater 2 bee eater 1


Rainbow Bee-Eater


I finally got a good look at this bird on the last day in Port Douglas.  Bill Crew had pointed him out to us while we were in the Daintree, but he seemed illusive, until I spotted one on the telephone wires by the Lazy Lizard.  He moved around a lot like a Flycatcher, as he chased after flying insects on the wing.  He must have come back to the same spot 10 times, before flying off to feed his nestlings. I identified him because of the eye stripe (Photos from the web.)


 white ibis 2 white ibis 1


Australian White Ibis


We saw these Ibis in Sydney at the Botanical Garden and again a few times in Port Douglas.  They are magnificent in flight and gracefully landed in the grass and put on a dance for us.


 red billed gull 1red billed gull 2


Red-Billed Gull


 magpie 2 magpie 1


Australian Magpie


  wedge tail 1 wedge tail 2


Wedge-Tailed Eagle


Bill Crew spotted this eagle, darting in and out of the trees and called it about four other birds before getting it right: “There’s an Osprey, no a Kite, no a Hawk, no a Kestrel…it’s a Wedge-Tail, I am sure.”  It is still a beauty.


  kookaburra 1 kookaburra 2


Laughing Kookaburra


Among other songs, we sang the round, “Kookaburra Sits In The Old Gum Tree” with the Bayles, while we were in Sydney and had a great time of it.  We loved it even more hearing the actually laughing, which woke us up most mornings in Sydney.  Along with the Cockatoos and Lorikeets, we alarm-clock moments, which could awake someone from the deepest sleep.  The tropical birds will serenade you awake, so to speak. The Kookaburra is one of the signature birds of Australia and they are very fun to watch.  We got good shots at Cottage Point. Greg Bayles saw one fly between his mouth and his fork, stripping off the meat from the prongs in mid-flight, without hitting him.  They are talented!


  Nankeen Kestrel 2 Nankeen Kestrel 1


Nankeen Kestrel


Bill Crew said that the Chinese have an imported cotton that is extraordinarily white, called Nankeen Cotton.  A lot of birds and animals are called Nankeen due to the bright whiteness of their natural coloring and camouflage. (Web photos.)


  black necked stork 2 black necked stork 1


Black-Necked Stork


We saw a pair of storks and two young chicks in their nest, while visiting the Port Douglas Wildlife Park.  Every few hours during the day the storks greet each other with wing flapping and beaks clacking.  It is the cutest reunion.  This pair has been mated for 20 years and they have repeat the ritual several times a day, for as long as they have been mated.  This is a great lesson for both newly weds and older married couples.  It takes celebrations many times a day to honor your union with your spouse, for as long as you both shall live.  Wow, could we all use that one!


  woodswallow 2 woodswallow 1


White Breasted Woodswallow


The Welcome Swallow celebrated our arrival and the White Breasted Woodswallow bid us a grand farewell.  We had a flock of these swallows on the telephone wires in Port Douglas, who hung out together several times a day.  They were very sweet.

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