Monday, 29 July 2013


Townsville and the surrounding area are renowned for birding. A guide to bird watching produced by the Townsville City Council in conjunction with BirdLife Townsville lists 320 species of birds recorded in the area and provides details for ten separate birding locations. The guide, titled “Experience Townsville’s bird watching – life on the tropics”, is available from Tourist Information Centres and other locations such as caravan parks.
We have spent seven days in the area, including two on Magnetic Island (see previous post) and during that time have visited six of the ten locations listed in the guide: the town common, magnetic island, oak valley reserve, alligator creek – bowling green national park, lake ross and ross river.
It is the dry season now and the vegetation is generally dry and much of the grass dead. There is still water in many of the wetlands and creeks however most of the migratory shore birds are away in the northern hemisphere breeding. Also many terrestrial birds migrate north to New Guinea during the dry season. So I would say the best birding time would be over the summer wet season period. That said we have still found plenty of birds to keep us interested.
Here is a selection of bird photos from the area together with comments and observation included in the photo captions.
One of about 40 Nutmeg Mannikins in a flock at the Town Common. An introduced species which is increasing its range. In amongst the flock was one native Australian Finch, a Chestnut-breasted Mannikin - see next photo.

It is rather sad that this native Chestnut-breasted Mannikin was outnumbered 40 to 1 by the above introduced finch.

The common and widespread Double-barred Finch - so far we have only found these a few times and in small numbers.
At first I thought this was a Black Falcon however later determined it was a dark morph Brown Falcon. This bird was at Lake Ross. It is focused on a prey item in the long grass below the pole.

The Falcon dives into the long grass where it disappeared  from view.

The bird emerges from the long grass. It was there long enough to have eaten something, perhaps a grass hopper or other large insect.

Rainbow Bee-eaters are very common here. They like to perch on a high clear perch, such as power lines or this guy wire, from where they can spot insects which they are masters at catching.

The bird in photo above has dived to gain speed before effortlessly catching an insect in flight.
There are many thousands of Magpie Geese in the wetlands around Townsville, especially at The Town Common. The field guides don't mention discoloured white feathers like this bird has. Most of the birds were stained this colour.
A Lemon-bellied Flycatcher at Alligator Creek picnic area Bowling Green National Park - south of Townsville. They look like a yellow tinged version of a Jacky Winter.
A White-browed Robin on a post at Alligator Creek picnic area. They cock their tails often. A typical robin - quite confiding and of course extra friendly as the ones here are no doubt used to lots of people
The Black-necked Stork, aka Jabiru, Australia's only stork. These are very imposing birds and common in and around wetlands up north.
Olive-backed Sunbirds are common here. This one was systematically visiting spider webs to pick insects - stealing really.
The Forest Kingfisher and once again a common species here along with the similar Sacred Kingfisher.
The Blue-winged Kookaburra, a large kingfisher, is similar to the Laughing Kookaburra which is also found here. The calls of these two species are very different - both are amazing to hear.

The Varied Triller is hard to see as it forages in the tree canopies however once you learn its distinctive call you can easily detect their presence. The White-winged Triller is a summer migrant to the south. The Varied does not visit Victoria.
This is the northern form of the Masked Lapwing, aka Spur-winged Plover. The northern form has much larger yellow wattles and more yellow skin over the eye.

The Spectacled Monarch - a very active bird and hard to pin down for a photo.
We have been finding lots of Leaden Flycatchers in a wide range of habitats.

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