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Northern Territory

Rainbow Pitta Pitta iris ©Ian Montgomery Website

Darwin, the capital of the Northern Territory situated on the coast of mid-northern Australia, has much to offer the visiting birdwatcher. To give an example my yard list is 140 species, and the sewage pond twice that. The best time to come is about October - December, followed by March - May. However these are the hottest, most humid times of the year so be prepared! North-west Australia is renowned for mangrove birds (and reputed to have the highest diversity of specialised mangrove birds in the world). Among them are Chestnut Rail, a chicken-sized, very shy bird, the engaging but often hard-to-spot Mangrove Grey Fantail, and the tiny Mangrove Gerygone, a member of an ancient Australian family. Chestnut Rail, thought by many to be a very difficult bird to see, can be found within three kilometres of the CBD, at the Stuart Park mangroves. Remember that mangroves are quite safe for those used to them, but there are a few risks namely deep mud,mosquitoes and crocodiles. For those wanting to avoid these problems it is possible to hire a dinghy to visit any of the estuaries around town but because of our high tidal range it can be risky for someone not used to handling a boat.

Then there are monsoon forest birds e.g. Orange-footed Scrubfowl, Rose-crowned Fruit-dove, Emerald Dove, Rainbow Pitta, Little Shrike-thrush, Green-backed and Large-billed Gerygone. Many of these species are also found in mangroves. However in the wet season (roughly October-April) some disperse into open forest. Most songbirds breed at the beginning and end of the wet season. Others like Rainbow Pitta (the only suboscine in the Top End) mostly breed in the first half. This species begins calling about September (again depending on weather) and have mostly ceased by February. Wetlands are also found around Darwin. This habitat changes amazingly with the seasons. Grasslands during the dry they become densely-vegetated floodplains during the wet season with grasses up to three metres high. In the dry season these areas are inhabitated by few birds, namely Magpie-lark, Brown Quail, and Singing Bushlark (and perhaps our two cisticola species depending on the dryness of the area).

At the beginning of the wet season at Holmes Jungle, just twelve or so kilometres from the CBD, Brolga gather in their hundreds, along with Magpie Geese, strange pied birds that are probably most closely related to the Southern Screamer of South America, and around mid-September, Little Curlew gather to feed in the mud and still-short grass. As the wet season progresses and the vegetation continues to grow the careful viewer may see White-browed Crakes feeding among the sedges, and Tawny Grassbird or Red-backed Button-quail among the rank grass on the water`s edge. Another reason for spending time in Darwin is that many birds hard to see out of town are easily spotted in parks and gardens here, among them Yellow Oriole and Figbird and Brown, Dusky, White-gaped, Red-headed and Rufous-banded honeyeaters.

Top Sites

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Sightings

Click 'Get Birds Seen' to see a map with map pins on locations of the latest recorded sightings of rare or unusual birds.

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WebBirder Hot Spots

Botanic Gardens

Information

Satellite View

The Botanic gardens in the Darwin municipality are a great place for roosting owls and common passerines.

Fogg Dam

Website

Satellite View

Fogg Dam seventy kilometres from Darwin is great spot for birds. Here the juxtaposition of monsoon, paperbark and open forest and floodplains makes for a great mix of species. Waterbirds abound but so do raptors and many passerines… Jabiru, Pied Heron, Royal Spoonbill, egrets, jacana et al…

Gunlom Falls

Information

Satellite View

Many people go after White-throated Grasswren at Gunlom Falls but unless one can visit in the latter half of the year don't bother. This little bird has huge breeding territories. Later in the year the bird is found throughout the area often calling right beside the path at the top…

Howard Springs Nature Park

Information

Satellite View

Howard Springs Nature Park is 35 kilometres south of Darwin and brilliant for butterflies and birds. It is the haunt of Rainbow Pitta at the right time of year and is great for Shining Flycatchers, White-winged Triller, Black Butcherbird and Northern Fantails etc. but is also greatly favoured by some of the most predatory mossies I've ever encountered! [Fatbirder]

Judbarra/Gregory National Park

Information

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Gregory National Park and the surrounding area, 500 kms southwest of Darwin, is terrific for Grey Falcon, and the Victoria River (in the same area) the most accessible site for Purple-crowned Fairy-wren…

Marraki Track

Information

Satellite View

Marraki Track which is a dirt road going many kilometres into the bush and eventually fording [in the dry season] the Adelaide River. It is great for finches, gerygones, Rufous-banded Honeyeater, Grey-crowned Babbler, White-bellied Cuckooshrike, Partidge Pigeon, Varied Lorikeet and Northern Rosellas. Of particular interest is Red-backed Kingfisher.

Palmerston Sewage Works

Information

Satellite View

This can be a great place for water birds but it is spasmodic even in very dry times. The surrounding scrub can be alive with finches, wrens, cuckoos etc. and the sky is often filled with hirundines…

Pine Creek

Satellite View

The Pine Creek area (200 kms south of Darwin) is situated between the tropics and the semi-arid zone, and is a great area in which to see a mix of birds, including Partridge Pigeon, Hooded Parrot and Gouldian Finch. The Fountainhead-Pine Creek area is also very good for diurnal birds of prey in the dry season - including Black-breasted Buzzard & Square-tailed Kite…

Contributor

Denise Goodfellow (Lawungkurr Maralngurra)

Darwin, Northern Territories

goodfellow@bigpond.com

Number of Species

Number of bird species: 380

State Bird - Wedge-tailed Eagle Aquila audax

Endemics

Number of endemics: 4

Hooded Parrot Psephotus dissimilis Chestnut-quilled Rock-Pigeon Petrophassa rufipennis Black-banded Fruit-Dove Ptilinopus alligator Brown Whistler Pachycephala simplex

Useful Reading

Birds & Animals of Australia`s Top End

Darwin, Kakadu, Katherine, and Kununurra
by Nick Leseberg & Iain Campbell | Wildguides | Paperback | July 2015 | 272 Pages | 400 Colour Photographs | See Fatbirder Review

ISBN: 9780691161464

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Birds of Australia's Top End

Denise Lawungkur Goodfellow 159 pages, col plates, b/w photos, illus, distrib maps. Scrubfowl Press See Fatbirder Review

ISBN: 0957884907

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Birds of the Darwin Area

By Niven McCrie And Richard Noske | CSIRO Publishing | 464 pages | 2015 | Paperback

ISBN: 9781486300341

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Birdwatching Kakadu

Katherine Kununurra - Includes checklist, map and lots of directions. AU $10.00 Includes Post within Australia - Cheques/money orders etc payable to: NT Birds PO Box 1771 Katherine NT Australia 0851

Finding Birds in Australia's Northern Territory

by D. Donato, P. Wilkins, G. Smith, L. Alford Paperback - 192 pages (July 1997) CSIRO Publishing

ISBN: 0643062580

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Finding Birds in Darwin, Kakadu and the Top End

(Northern Territory Australia) - Niven McCrie and James Watson 160 pages, tabs, maps. NT Birding (Niven McCrie)

ISBN: 0646460412

Buy this book from NHBS.com

The Birds of Groote Eylandt

By Richard A. Noske and Graham P. Brennan, Northern Territory University Press, Darwin, N.T 2002

ISBN: 1876248688

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Guides & Tour Operators

Click on WAND for tours, guides, lodges and more…

Arnhemland Barramundi Nature Lodge Tours

Tour Operator

Srarting in 2006, the Arnhemland Barramundi Nature Lodge has four exclusive bird tours. In September 2005, renowned Australian bird-watching authority, Dick Eussen, was engaged to conduct a survey of the bird species within a 50 km radius of the Arnhemland Barramundi Nature Lodge…

Australian Ornithological Services

Tour Operator

Philip Maher was born in Deniliquin, in south-western New South Wales in 1954. His interest in natural history was fostered by his parents from a young age. While Philip is an authority on Australian birds generally, his name is synonymous with the Plains-wanderer, a bird of the open plains in inland Australia. In 1980 Philip was with a party of local birders when they came across the Plains-wanderer. He went on to study the species extensively, banding about 600 birds and has shown the species to great numbers of Australian, American and European birders…

Birding Pal

Information

Local birders willing to show visiting birders their area…

John Young Wildlife Tours - Kimberley

Tour Operator

Journey through the heart of Australia's last frontier - The Kimberley region of W.A - discovering World Heritage-listed wilderness areas, ancient cultures, pristine natural landscapes, and abundant bird-life, flora and fauna. Special scenic highlights will include the Bungle Bungles, Mitchell Plateau, Broome, Litchfield National Park, Lake Argyle and more…

Kimberley Birdwatching

Tour Operator

Kimberley Birdwatching is based in Broome, which is situated in the southwest corner of the Kimberley division. The Kimberley is one of the most exciting and least explored regions for the birdwatcher and naturalist. Our tours also cover the Northern Territory. This company is owned and operated by George Swan (what a great name for a birder) and a jolly nice fella he is too. He will be desperately disappointed if he can't get you the bird you are after and will turn out for an extra half day or evening to try again.
Fatbirder Recommended

Lily-Hopper

Boat Trips

Lily-Hopper provides an opportunity, for individuals and small groups to view and experience a close up exhibition of the unique Top End wetland wildlife, especially birds, from a purpose built vessel along with specialist information and Lily-Hopper quality service…

Northern Territory Bird Specialists

Tour Operator

NT Bird Specialists is an award-winning birding and photography tour operation, owned and operated by Luke Paterson and Sarah Burgess in Darwin and Kakadu, Northern Territory, Australia.

Trip Reports

Click on WAND for tours, guides, lodges and more…

CloudBirders

Trip Report Repository

CloudBirders was created by a group of Belgian world birding enthusiasts and went live on 21st of March 2013. They provide a large and growing database of birding trip reports, complemented with extensive search, voting and statistical features.

2004 [04 April] Fatbirder

Report

This was my third trip to Australia but my first to the Darwin area and I had particular target birds in mind to extend my world list but, as always, never went in pursuit of one rare or difficult to find species [with one exception] at the expense of more common lifers, or, indeed variety. So many birds are special to Australia that seeing many species again was welcome…

2009 [10 October] - Iain Campbell

Report

Having run the Northern Territory trip every year since 2005, and multiple times in some years, I figured it really is about time that I wrote a trip report for this tour. The tour program changed this year as it was just so dry in central Australia, we decided to limit the tour to the Top End where the birding is always spectacular, and skip the Central Australia section where birding is beginning to feel like pulling teeth; so you end up with a shorter but jam-packed tour laden with parrots, pigeons, finches, and honeyeaters…

2012 [07 July] - Rosemary & Peter Royle

Report

…Although there were plenty of the commoner (and often colourful and spectacular) birds to be seen, most of our key birds were harder to find than we expected. The “sandstone” species were not at all easy to locate in Kakadu (we found none of these species at Nourlangie despite two visits) and we struggled to find any decent numbers of honeyeaters - there were just tiny flocks of the same few species all the time…

2015 [04 April] - Peregrine Rowse - Kakadu

Report PDF

Following business appointments in Sydney and Melbourne I spent a week birding around Darwin and the Kakadu National Park. Most birders visit in the dry season in October/ November and most of the published gen also relates to this time of year. Mike Reed’s Top End Birdwatching is essential but also seems to be geared towards a dry season visit.

2015 [11 November] - Petter Zahl

Report

... My mate Gavin Goodyear from Brisbane joined me. Despite our local guide cancelling on us at the last moment we had a very successful trip as we managed to find all our main targets including Western Bowerbird, Dusky and Striated (Sandhill) Grasswren, Rufous-crowned Emu-Wren, Slaty-backed Thornbill, Banded Whiteface, Grey Honeyeater, Cinnamon Quail-Thrush and Painted Finch. We provide some up-to-date info on sites and key species as this seems to be a bit hard to come across...

Places to Stay

Click on WAND for tours, guides, lodges and more…

Arnhemland Barramundi Nature Lodge

Accommodation

The comfortable lodge is situated on an escarpment fringe overlooking the Liverpool and Tomkinson River Valleys. You can choose between safari tent accommodation and purpose-designed, large, comfortable and breezy deluxe cabins. The deluxe cabins have spacious en suite bathrooms and a small bar fridge offer a taste of luxury in an otherwise remote and unspoiled environment. The main lodge includes a large, kitchen/dining area, a bar and tasteful dining decor overlooking the river valley…

Gagudju Lodge Cooinda

Accommodation

Kakadu is home to about one third of Australia's bird species and this spectacular natural aviary is well represented at Yellow Water, from the comb-crested Jacana to hawks, eagles and the magnificent Brolga and Jabiru…

Mary River Retreat

Accommodation

We offer accommodation, camping, river cruises, 4WD tours, and woodland, grassland or wetland bushwalks that are perfect for birdwatching or simply being close to nature. Meals are country hospitality at its best - homestyle meals are served in our tropical design dining room overlooking the woodlands. Meal times are flexible, and are adjusted to suit guests leaving or returning on tours away from Mary River Park…

Rakhi Retreat

Accommodation

Rakhi retreat has been designed to cater for a number of different uses. Birdwatchers can use it as comfortable base while visiting the various local bird watching sites or simply relaxing on the veranda or in the bird hide and enjoying the local avian inhabitants going about their daily business. Larger groups can use the space for health or corporate retreats just a short drive from Darwin.

Seven Spirit Bay Wilderness Lodge

Accommodation

Seven Spirit Bay Wilderness Lodge has recently been purchased by Outback Spirit.... Located in Garig Gunak Barlu National Park on the Cobourg Peninsula at the Top End of the Northern Territory in Aboriginal Arnhem Land Australia, where entry is by permit only and extremely limited. The Cobourg Peninsula became the first reserve for the protection of flora and fauna in northern Australia when it was proclaimed in 1924. Seven Spirit Bay Wilderness Resort is perfect for the adventurous or those who just want to relax. Adventure into the great diversity of the landscape and learn about the fascinating environments from our experienced guides. Every morning, every afternoon, a different experience is yours to enjoy if you want it…

Organisations

Alice Springs Field Naturalists Club

Website

The object of the club is to promote interest in all aspects of natural history…

BirdLife Australia Northern Territory

Information

BirdLife Central Australia

Information

Central Australian regional branch based in Alice Springs but includes members from a very broad geographic catchment in the inland regions of South Australia and Northern Territory - from our most southerly members in Roxby Downs all the way to our most northerly in Tennant Creek.

The Environment Centre Northern Territory

Website

The Environment Centre Northern Territory was established in 1983 and has played a crucial role in achieving environmental protection and management throughout the Territory…

Museums

Charles Darwin University

http://www.cdu.edu.au/shortcourses/tropical_birds

Charles Darwin University, based in Darwin Northern Territory of Australia, offers a short course 'Discovering Monsoon Tropical Birds'…

Reserves

Connells Lagoon Conservation Reserve

Information PDF

Satellite View

Connells Lagoon Conservation Reserve is situated in the heart of the Barkly Tableland. It is the only Reserve in Australia established primarily for the conservation of Mitchell grassland communities. The Reserve is dominated by perennial Mitchell Grass. Trees are found only in the watercourse and floodout areas with Bluebush dominating the wettest areas. The Parks and Wildlife Commission of the Northern Territory carried out the onlymajor biological survey in the region in 1982. Even though the Reserve looks flat and uninteresting, the PWCNT found 189 species of plants which is surprisingly rich. At the time 9 mammal, 53 bird and 19 reptile species were also recorded in and near the Reserve. Several birds considered endangered, including the Flock Bronzewing Pigeon, Pictorella Mannikin Finch, Red-chested Button-quail and the Australian Bustard were recorded in higher then expected numbers…

Fogg Dam Conservation Reserve

Information

Satellite View

Fogg Dam is a remnant of early attempts to produce rice on the Adelaide River flood plains. Today it provides an important refuge for wildlife…

Howard Springs Nature Park

Information

Satellite View

Howard Springs Nature Park protects 283 ha of diverse habitats including monsoon forest, extensive swamps and riverine areas. These areas provide valuable wildlife habitats, especially for Magpie Geese, Whistling Ducks, Radjah Shelducks and Pygmy Geese…

Kakadu National Park

Information

Satellite View

Internationally recognised, the World Heritage listed Kakadu National Park is one of the nation's most prized cultural and ecological treasures…

Mary River National Park

Information

Satellite View

Mary River Wilderness Retreat and Caravan Park is located halfway between Darwin and Kakadu National Park. This family owned and operated eco-tourism property offers budget to deluxe accommodation, caravan & camping sites, restaurant, campers kitchen & amenities, bush walks, river cruises and many other great facilities and experiences.

Newhaven

Website

Satellite View

Newhaven, 400 kilometres north-west of Alice Springs, is not the first property the bird lovers have transformed into a bird sanctuary. Three years ago the organisation acquired Gluepot station, now Gluepot is the largest running community-owned bird conservation park in Australia…

The Territory Wildlife Park

Website

Satellite View

Many captive native species etc… a chance to get up close to species albeit in captivity…

Other Links

Birding the Katherine Area

Information

As a keen bird watcher with 25 years experience observing and recording birds in the Katherine region of Australia's Northern Territory, I am pleased to be able to make information available about the region. Bird watching can be so much easier and more rewarding if local knowledge is available of the habits, behaviour and location of birds in an area you are visiting, or planning to visit…

Birds of Darwin's Mangroves and Mudflats

Website

Denise Goodfellow's book, Birds of Darwin's Mangroves and Mudflats, contains descriptions and illustrations of about 75 bird species found in the mangroves, and on mudflats and saltflats in and around Darwin. It is part of a much larger work, Birds of the Top End, which has recently been published…

Birds of the Northern Territory

Website

Finding Birds in Kakadu, Darwin & the Top End A NEW 19 page book with maps, notes and directions to good birdwatching sites along 1000km of the Kakadu, Stuart and Victoria Highways for the most sought after Top End Birds…

Birdwatching

Website

The Ilparpa Swamp and adjacent sewerage ponds are a permanent site which is home to a variety of birds and an important staging point for migratory birds on their way across Australia and overseas…

Eremaea Birds

Website

A free birding atlas to which anyone can contribute…

Top End Birder at Colombia Bird Festival

Article

On hearing of my invitation to speak at the Colombia Bird Festival friends warned of kidnappings and nasty diseases. But intrigued, I googled Manizales where the event was to be held. High in the Andes it looked a beautiful city, and there were twelve universities - it couldn’t be too dangerous! I went; it wasn’t…

Video - Birdwatching in Kakadu National Park, Northern Territory, Australia

Website

Jabiru, Brolga, Gouldian Finch, Red Goshawk, Rainbow Pitta and Purple-crowned Fairy Wren all thrive in the wetlands, savannah plains and escarpments of Kakadu National Park in Australia's Northern Territory…

Video - Through the Lens: Birds of Australia's Northern Territory

Website

Join wildlife photographer Marie Read as she documents the bird life in Kakadu National Park in Australia's Northern Territory…

Photographers & Artists

Artist - Denise Goodfellow

Birds of Darwin's Mangroves and Mudflats - Denise Goodfellow's book, Birds of Darwin's Mangroves and Mudflats, contains descriptions and illustrations of about 75 bird species found in the mangroves, and on mudflats and saltflats in and around Darwin. It is part of a much larger work, Birds of the Top End, which has not yet been published…

Photographer - Richard Waring - Richard’s Birds of Australia

Gallery

I have taken the photos appearing in this Blog. I use a Canon EOS 1000D DSLR/or my new 500D. The photos are cropped on occasions, but not doctored. I use two main settings on the camera: the speed or action setting, and the AV setting that boosts the sharpness and saturation…