Australia has approximately 800 native bird species, from the iconic emu and the good humoured kookaburra, to the eye-dazzling (critically endangered) orange-bellied parrot, or the rare Victoria Riffle Bird. Greater Cooktown is a birdwatchers paradise – almost 200 bird species are documented at Mungumby throughout the year.
The Greater Cooktown region, Cape York and Atherton Tablelands are rated by many in their Top Ten Bird watching spots in Australia. Whether you’re a hardcore binocular-wielding twitcher with multiple species ticked off or have a casual interest in birds, bird watching is a splendid excuse to get amongst nature.
Helpful Birdwatching Tips
- Take your time – don’t rush. By walking slowly you will see more birds, especially the quiet or skulking ones.
- Make sure to listen for birds calling. These records are as valuable as those of birds seen. Take time to follow up unfamiliar calls (never ignore them!).
- Don’t just record the obvious species (e.g. large birds or birds that are calling vociferously). You should be aware that there will also be less-obvious species present, so look and listen carefully, and make sure to check all likely areas.
- Listen for noises other than bird calls. For example, Crested Shrike-tits are often first detected by the
sound of them tearing at bark with their stout beaks; and parrots quietly feeding in the treetops are
often first detected by the sound of dropped seed-pods falling to the ground.
- Be quiet. It lets you hear more birds and disturbs them less. However, talk in your normal voice. Never shout, and try not to whisper, as sibilant noises may disturb birds; many species use similar sounds to indicate alarm or aggression.
- Avoid wearing bright clothing or clothing that rustles.
- Try to go bird watching early in the morning. Birds are more active then, and tend to call more often.
- Try to avoid bird watching on windy days. Wind makes it more difficult to hear birds calling, and they are also less active in these conditions.
- Try to avoid bird watching on hot days. Birds are inactive during the heat of the day, and are difficult to find. If hot weather is unavoidable, go bird watching early in the morning or late in the afternoon, when it is cooler and birds are likely to be more active.
- Birds are more easily detected in open habitats than in more heavily wooded ones. However, don’t be lulled into a false sense of security in open areas, as cryptic species can be easily missed. In all habitats, take your time and you will see more birds.
- Please respect private property; always ask for permission before entering private property.
- Be mindful of snakes and carry a fully-equipped first aid kit.
- Always wear sturdy boots or shoes.
How to go bird watching in an open forest or woodland
- Scan the ground for any birds
- Check out the shrubs in the undergrowth
- Check out the trunks of the larger trees, and the lower branches
- Check the canopy of the trees
- If there are any clearings, check the airspace above for aerial species like raptors, swallows or swifts
How to go bird watching in a wetland
- Scan the nearest water edges for any birds
- Check out the marginal vegetation
- Check areas of open water
- Scan the far banks
- Check the tops of trees for roosting or nesting waterbirds
How to go bird watching on a beach
- Scan the water’s edge for any birds; also check exposed rock platforms if present
- Check out the upper beach and foredunes and associated marginal vegetation
- Check areas of open beach, including among clumps of beach cast seaweed
We’d love to hear about your bird watching adventures. Please share your bird watching photos and stories with us on social media!