South Australia offers some 440 species of Australian birds, and habitat areas available in South Australia comprise a mix of waterways, wetlands and mudflats, heath and hilly timbered areas, the famous semi-dry mallee, and the deserts. There are several distinct habitat types in SA, each with its own complement of endemic avifauna. There are a number of good wetland sites that always carry a good range of water birds, plus in the summer months they are often loaded with migratory waders. Some of these are north of Adelaide and some south, each direction probably being a separate day trip.
In the north are the Penrice Saltfields, (always a Mecca for waders) a number of samphire and mudflat beaches, and Price saltfields on the Yorke Peninsula. In the south are the Onkaparinga wetlands, long areas of soggy land (Cape Barren Geese) along the edge of Lake Alexandrina, ending in Tolderol Game reserve. Tolderol has long been recognised as a wader site, with the odd rarities such as Lesser Yellowlegs, Yellow wagtail, and Oriental Pratincole turning up. For longer trips the Coorong is further south, and there are some good wetland areas inland from the Coorong which need permission for access. Not many people know of these. We have huge areas of semi-dry mallee that run both sides of the Murray River and many kilometers north of it, and way out to the east to the Victorian border. Some of these have an enormous diversity of birds, obviously different to the wet areas. These areas are accessible on longish day trips, but are better surveyed with at least one overnight stay.
The Murray River system also has vast wetland areas adjacent to mallee so we get the benefit of two habitat types in close proximity. There are some excellent birding conservation parks along the river. The Adelaide hills provide yet another range of habitat types carrying mostly bush birds. All of these are readily accessed on day trips from Adelaide, so city accommodation is convenient.
Further afield, i.e. further north and west, one can access desert and other dry areas, some of which are saltbush/gibber plains, whilst others carry mallee communities. In these more remote areas are found the real desert species such as grasswrens, whitefaces, chats, gibberbird etc. Obviously these involve overnight accommodation and are best seen over periods of some days or weeks.
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Birds Australia Gluepot Reserve
Birds Australia's Gluepot Reserve covers 50,000 ha large area of virgin mallee scrub and contains no less than 6 nationally endangered bird species and a unique flora and fauna adapted to the harsh conditions. Gluepot's easy accessibility means it is one of the few areas in Australia where birdwatchers can relatively easily observe otherwise hard-to-find species. Some of the nationally significant species breeding on the Reserve are Malleefowl and Red-lored Whistler. Regent Parrot breeds along the Murray River and occupies the reserve when not breeding, and there are regular sightings of Scarlet-chested Parrot.
The area contains by far the largest remaining population of the endangered Black-eared Miner, one of Australia's rarest birds. Much of the field research and monitoring required in the species' Recovery Plan is centered on the Reserve. Black-eared Miners were once considered common within their mallee habitat. By the early 1990s, there were few records in Victoria and NSW, and in SA the species was considered nearly extinct. However, following sightings of hybrid miners in the Bookmark - Gluepot area, surveys conducted in 1996 resulted in over 80 sightings of miners. Over 200 colonies are now known from this area. Although many contain hybrids, over a third of colonies contain mainly phenotypically pure Black- eared Miners. The Black-eared Miner resembles its close relative the Yellow-throated Miner. [A comprehensive Identification Sheet has been developed by Rohan Clarke and the Black-eared Miner Recovery Team]. Gluepot Reserve is accessible as follows: take the Sturt Highway to Waikerie (2 hrs from Adelaide). Pick up a key and map from the Shell station in the township ($10 refundable deposit). Follow the information on the map. It's about 50 km or 1.5 hrs drive north of Waikerie on well-maintained dirt roads, suitable to conventional vehicles. For more detailed information see the Gluepot Reserve website
Saltpans and other wetlands around Adelaide
In the direct vicinity of Adelaide are some interesting wetlands. The Penrice Saltfields are excellent for migratory waders, between October - April. Rarities often turn up here. Access is limited and is easiest through regular Birds SA outings, or get in touch with Adelaide birders who have a key through the national bird email newsgroup Birding-Aus. Nearby, the newly developed Greenfields Wetlands often have a surprise waiting for the persistent birder in the form of Australasian Bittern, Baillon's Crake, Long-toed Stint, Pectoral Sandpiper, Australian Pratincole and many others. Tolderol Game Reserve, on the shores of Lake Alexandrina, is an excellent little reserve containing a number of ponds with different water levels and vegetation cover. The ponds have resident populations of terns, ducks, crakes, rails, and the occasional Bittern, while migratory waders can be observed at close quarters and the odd vagrant turns up every so often.
The outback from the Flinders Ranges northwards
The two species endemic to SA occur here. At a number of sites (for example Willow Springs, 15 km N of Wilpena Pound in the Flinders Ranges) Short-tailed Grasswren can be found, a recent split from the Striated Grasswren. A bit further north, the southern stretch of the Strzelecki Track is where Banded Whiteface, Letter-winged Kite, Gibber Chat and Cinnamon Quail-thrush are regularly found. In the Lyndhurst-Marree area there are reliable sites for Chestnut-breasted Whiteface and Thick-billed Grasswren. Along the Birdsville Track from Marree to Birdsville and West to Kooncherie Waterhole and Pandie Burra bore, bird for Eyrean- and Grey Grasswren, Gibber-, Orange- and Yellow Chat, Flock Bronzewing, Grey Falcon, Letter-winged Kite, and Cinnamon Quail-thrush. When vast Lake Eyre irregularly fills, only a few times per century, it becomes an oasis in the desert with enormous numbers of breeding Banded Stilts and Australian Pelicans. From SA, access to Lake Eyre is through Marree. For the remote outback areas, where conditions can become unbearable for the ill-prepared birdwatcher, up-to-date information on both where to find key species as well as on the condition of tracks is of vital importance.
Number of Species
Number of bird species: 456
State Bird - Australian Magpie nowadays known as the Piping Shrike Gymnorhina tibicen (telonocua)
Number of endemics: 1
Chestnut-breasted Whiteface Aphelocephala pectoralis
Birds, Birders & Birdwatching 1899-1999: A Celebration of one hundred years of the South Australian Ornithological Association
Edited by Roger Collier, John Hatch, Bill Matheson and Tony Russell. SAOA, Adelaide, 2000. 239pp. $25 + $6.50 p&h. Trading Table SAOA c/- South Australian Museum, North Tce, Adelaide South Australia 5000.
Fieldguides, CDs etc.
For general guides to Australia as a whole please see the Fatbirder Australia page
Guides & Tour Operators
Australian Ornithological Services
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…
Bird guiding services in South Australia and beyond. With twelve years local experience and flexible options to suit your needs. Southern Australia is home to almost 500 species of birds. Habitats range from the dry red interior to lush, green eucalypt forests, and also include riverine wetlands and floodplains; mangroves and estuaries; the Murray River; vast expanses of the semi-arid mallee scrubland; and outback deserts with spectacular mountain ranges…
Bird Tours SA
Born and raised in South Australia, Steve always had a passion for the outdoors and took a keen interest in its wildlife. His first introduction to birding however, was during a three year stint as a teenager, while his parents worked in Malawi, Central Africa. He started guiding with small groups around the Zomba Plateau, and then expanded to the soon-to-be-opened Liwonde National Park. Since his return he has travelled extensively around Australia adding over 570 species from the mainland…
Birding South Australia
Trips are typically one or two-day trips targeting Gluepot Reserve or a number of good birding sites around Adelaide. I pick up from Adelaide or Waikerie (gateway to Gluepot Reserve)…
Jolly Goodfellows Birding
See endemic Mallee birds in their natural habitat, including some rare and endangered species. Come on one of our waterbird safaris where you'll see a huge range of waterfowl and many species of waders, some from their winter habitats in the Northern Hemisphere…
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.
2006 [08 August] - Mike Catsis
…We were a bit early for this species , which usually turns up around september for the flowering Eremophila bushes , however we did turn up Chirruping Wedgebill , White-fronted Chat and White-winged Fairy Wren of which we were treated to a simply stunning adult male…
2009 [10 October] - Peter Waanders
Spring 2009 was an excellent season in Southern Australia due to high winter rainfalls resulting in widespread flowering of native vegetation. As a result many resident birds had a good breeding season and many nomadic species turned up in good numbers in areas where they had been sparse over previous years…
2009 [11 November] - Don Roberson
This was a fast-paced, hardcore birding tour offered by Peter Waanders [Southern Birding Services] to seek out five grasswrens in five days in South Australia…
2010 [06 June] - Peter Waanders
The June 2010 Southern Birding Services private Five Grasswren tour was, according to the participants, ‘the stuff of legends’. Day after day, rarity after rarity, in stunning scenery following excellent conditions not seen in over 20 years, it was hard to choose a single highlight of the trip –there were just too many…
2012 [10 October] - Dominic Couzens - Gluepot
…Within a couple of hours we had located a dishy species known as a Chestnut Quailthrush, a singing Red-lored Whistler and even a fly-over Scarlet-chested Parrot. Also, by making an excursion into the spinifex grass – which grows in thick clumps and could be fairly described as razor-sharp straw (my trainers bore the brunt) – we managed to unearth a pair of Striated Grasswrens….
2012 [11 November] - Simon Mustoe
…Good sightings included Australian Spotted and Spotless Crakes. A little way from here, at Pt Gawler, we observed Slender-billed Thornbills in the low mangroves…
2012 [12 December] - Peter Waanders - SA, Victoria and Tasmania
…Birds were abundant throughout and the total tally was just short of 300 species. Highlights included Painted Snipe, Inland Dotterel, Plains-wanderer, Scarlet-chested Parrot, Swift Parrot, Gibberbird, Mallee Emu-wren and all 12 Tasmanian endemics…
2014 [11 November] - Peter Waanders - Great Southern Tour
Our annual ‘Great Southern Tour’ was yet again a resounding success with 288 bird species recorded. Unlike previous years, there was no Tasmania extension in 2014, but this will be offered again on our next tour. We started in Adelaide (SA) and finished in Melbourne (Vic)...
2014 [11 November] - Peter Waanders - SA Highlights
Bellbird Birding Tours 2014 ‘SA Highlights tour’ started in and returned to Adelaide (SA). We experienced near-perfect weather conditions, with abundant sunshine and no real heat. The first day started off well with an abundance of waterbirds at Greenfields wetlands, including Glossy Ibis and Baillon’s Crake. Further along the road north, we had no trouble locating a pair of Slender-billed Thornbills, while around Port Augusta, the Banded Stilts were present as usual...
Places to Stay
Blue Wren Lodge
The Blue Wren Lodge is located on 20 acres of native gardens adjacent to a Wildlife Sanctuary at Mylor in the Adelaide Hills – only 23 kms to Adelaide. Close by there are numerous conservation and national parks, Warrawong Wildlife Sanctuary…
We are pleased to offer an extensive range of accommodation to suit all tastes and budgets. The range includes hotel, motel, farm stay, quality bed & breakfast, self contained houses, backpacker hostels, caravan parks and camping grounds with a range of facilities and standards, you are advised to contact the establishment operator to ensure that facilities meet your requirements…
South Australian Ornithological Association
The South Australian Ornithological Association has been in existence since 1899, and is a non-profit organisation dedicated to the conservation and study of Australian native birds. Membership is open to both serious and casual bird watchers, and any age is welcome.
Adelaide International Bird Sanctuary National Park
The Adelaide International Bird Sanctuary has been created to help protect resident and migratory shorebirds that gather along the coast of Gulf St Vincent in the north-west of Adelaide and covers a 60 kilometre stretch of coast, from the Barker Inlet to the township of Port Parham. See also their Facebook Page
Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary
The region abounds with towering granite peaks; razorback quartzite ridges, slashed by precipitous gorges; creeks with cool, deep waterholes framed by stately Australian gum trees that are centuries old; more than 160 species of colourful native birds; the rare Yellow Footed Rock Wallaby and other Australian marsupials…
Welcome to Gluepot! Welcome to Gluepot Reserve, Birds Australia's first publicly funded Reserve. Located in the semi-arid South Australian mallee it is considered by many to be one of the crown jewels in the nation's reserve system. This 50,000 ha large area of virgin mallee scrub contains no less than 6 nationally endangered bird species and a unique flora and fauna adapted to the harsh conditions. Purchased in 1997, Gluepot is rapidly becoming a centre for scientific research. Its accessibility means it is one of the few areas in Australia where birdwatchers can relatively easily observe otherwise hard-to-find species.
Hart Lagoon - Waikerie
While being a haven for waterfowl and other birdlife, from an ecological perspective Hart Lagoon near Waikerie in the South Australian Riverland has long been a rather degraded, permanently inundated River Murray wetland. During 1996-99, the Riverland West Local Action Planning Association received three Natural Heritage Trust grants to rehabilitate the natural environment of this important wetland/floodplain area…
Warrawong Earth Sanctuary offers a true Australian Wildlife Experience in the Adelaide Hills, only 25 minutes from the centre of Adelaide, South Australia. Watch the bush come alive on a tour with our experienced guides - there's no better way to see rare and endangered Australian animals in the wild…
Birding South Australia
This site contains an ever-growing description of the best birding sites in SA and an up-to-date list of recent sightings as well as the current SA checklist. Recent tripreports specific to SA continue to be added. The Black-eared Miner and other SA specialities are covered in the specialties section.
Photographers & Artists
Photographer - Craig Ingram
Nature Photography mostly in South Australia by Craig Ingram specializing in bird and insect imagery…