Birds are some of the most fascinating animals to watch, they can indicate how healthy a forest is and bring much joy through their calls. Look and listen out for some of our locals as you make your way through the varied habitats in Tasmania.
Where can I see them?
Tasmania has rich and varied birdlife with species to be discovered and enjoyed all across this island state. Some of the best locations to go bird watching include:
In the forests alive with noise during the day, you may hear the undulating 'pre-pree' of the endemic
dusky robin (Melanodrys vittata), found in eucalypt forest, woodland and coastal heath throughout Tasmania. A low pitched 'where...where...where...where' may denote the endemic forty-spotted pardalote (Pardalotus quadragintus), one of the smallest birds in Australia. These live in dry white gum forests feasting on the little insects and manna, sugary lumps on Eucalyptus viminalis leaves called lerps.
When you hear 'zit zit zit whooorl' you have come across the
Tasmanian thornbill (Acanthiza ewingii), only found in Tasmania and the Bass Strait Islands. Common in wet forests, this small (10cm), brown bird is similar to the
brown thornbill (Acanthiza pusilla) . It feeds on small insects, often fairly close to the ground.
A quiet, double chirp or warble is the call of the endemic
scrubtit (Acanthornis magnus), found in rainforest and wet eucalypt forest. Although common, they are very secretive and hard to see. Easily confused with the Tasmanian thornbill or Tasmanian scrubwren (Sericornis humilis). The scrubtit feeds on insects and other invertebrates among bark, litter and foliage. Laying three white, lightly-spotted eggs in a woven, domed nest.
Honeyeaters are a diverse group of Australian birds with one of their special features the use of a 'brush-tipped' tongue, which they stretch out and take up nectar from flowers.
Many honeyeaters are highly mobile, searching out seasonal nectar sources. Mass-flowering eucalypts are particularly popular with these nomadic honeyeaters. Other species are sedentary (e.g.
little wattlebird (Anthochaera chrysoptera),
eastern spinebill (Acanthoryhnchus tenuirostris)) and some species are strongly territorial (e.g.
New Holland honeyeater (Phylidonyris novaehollandiae), noisy miner (Manorina melanocephala)).
black-headed honeyeater (Melithreptus affinus), one of Tasmania's endemic species, is common in wet and dry sclerophyll forests. It can be distinguished from the
strong-billed honeyeater (Melithreptus validirostris) by its completely black head. The species feeds on insects within the canopy, often hanging upside down from branches.
yellow-throated honeyeater (Anthochaera paradoxa) is a common resident throughout Tasmania. Its preferred habitat is eucalypt forest, where it feeds on seasonally available nectar and insects. Its call is a loud 'chur-ock-churock'.
yellow wattlebird (Lichenostomus flavicollis) is Australia's largest honeyeater at 38 to 48 cm. It is only found in Tasmania. The species has a grey-brown plumage streaked with white. The belly is yellow. It has distinctive yellow 'wattles' (long, pendulous lobes) hanging from behind each ear.
black currawong (Strepera fuliginosa) is common throughout the highlands of Tasmania in subalpine forest and woodland, often moving to lower lands during the winter. As an opportunistic feeder in areas frequented by people, their bold and inquisitive nature may lead it to snatch food from a person's hand or unzip backpacks in search of food. To keep them wild with a natural and healthy diet, and to prevent them becoming a nuisance, it is important not to feed currawongs and secure your bag zips.
Almost hunted to extinction in the 1950s, the handsome Cape Barren goose (Cereopsis novaehollandiae) is about the same size as a domestic goose and is still one of the world’s rarest geese. Commonly seen on
Maria Island National Park and
Flinders Island. Their incredible ability to drink salt or brackish water allows numbers of geese to remain on offshore islands all year round. You can hear a distinctive loud, deep 'grunt or honk' when the geese are around.
Like the thylacine and the Tasmanian devil,
native hens (Gallinula mortierii) became extinct on the mainland around the time the dingo arrived in Australia. Although they cannot fly, native hens are good swimmers and can run at speeds up to 50 km per hour. They are affectionately known as the turbo chook.
Freycinet Peninsula and
Maria Island are typical habitats for one of Tasmania's most spectacular birds - the white-bellied sea eagle (Haliaeetus leucogaster) - a bird of prey with a wing span exceeding 2 m and a weight of up to 4.5 kg. Old nests may be enormous, up to 4.5 m deep and 2.5 m wide! Courtship never really stops but peaks in early spring when pairs may lock talons and tumble through the air.
Tasmanian wedge-tailed eagles (Aquila audax fleayi) have been isolated for 10,000 years from their mainland counterparts and have become a separate subspecies. With only about 130 pairs successfully breeding each year in Tasmania, they are listed as endangered. The wedgie is a massive bird and can weigh up to 5 kg, with a wing span of up to 2.2 m.
In the quiet of the night near a forest, listen for ‘mo-poke’, the sound of a
boobook owl (Ninox novaehollandiae). A nocturnal hunter of small mammals, birds and invertebrates. Like all owls, it is superbly adapted for night-time hunting. With soft feathers for silent flight, it can swoop upon unsuspecting prey. It nests in the hollows of trees - it should always be remembered that dead trees are as important as live ones, as they are the home for a wide range of mammals and birds.