During this exciting Australia birding tour we will cover an incredible range of habitats travelling across the eastern portion of the country, including lush expanses of dense tropical rainforest to the dry endless stretches of the desolate outback. As a consequence of these varied biomes, our combined birding and wildlife Australian safari adventure will see us encounter a fantastic collection of endemic birds and incredible mammals, most of which occur nowhere else on our planet!
We will commence our Australia birding tour in northern Queensland in search of Victoria’s Riflebird from the bird-of-paradise family, Tooth-billed Bowerbird, rare Golden Bowerbird, Beach Stone-curlew, and the outrageous Southern Cassowary! Later on our Australia birding tour, we continue to the world-famous Lamington NP in search of Superb Lyrebird, Australian King Parrots and the strikingly plumaged Regent Bowerbird, amongst numerous other potential highlights. Flying south we then stop in at Sydney for a pelagic trip, before birding into the interior for several dry-country species, including the strange Plains-wanderer, endangered Regent Honeyeater, and a plethora of colourful parrots that include Galah, Red-tailed Black Cockatoo and Long-billed Corella – and much besides! (For those wishing to maximize their time and birding opportunities in this remarkable land, we strongly recommend also joining our Australia – Southwest Extension tour.)
Please note that a Rockjumper leader may not accompany this tour unless a minimum of 9 participants are signed up. In the case of insufficient sign-ups, a professional and very experienced local guide will lead the tour instead.
Emu, Southern Cassowary, Black-necked Stork, Great-billed Heron, Wedge-tailed Eagle, Spotted Harrier, Black Falcon, Brolga, Sarus Crane, Radja Shelduck, Pink-eared & Musk Duck, Plainswanderer, Australian Bustard, Beach Stone-curlew, Hooded Plover, Red-necked Avocet, Banded Stilt, Inland Dotterel, Australian Pratincole, Victoria’s & Paradise Riflebird, Noisy Pitta, Superb & Alberts Lyrebird, Rose-crowned, Wompoo & Superb Fruit Dove, Bar-shouldered Dove, Topknot & Squatter Pigeon, Torresian Imperial Pigeon, King Parrot, Eastern Ground Parrot, Powerful & Rufous Owl, Australian Owlet-nightjar, Yellow-tailed & Red-tailed Black Cockatoo, Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo, Golden, Regent, Satin & Great Bowerbird, Regents, Mangrove & Macleay’s Honeyeater, Ground Cuckooshrike, Lovely, Superb & Splendid Fairywren, Diamond Firetail
Koala, Duck-billed Platypus, Short-beaked Echidna, Spotted-tailed Quoll, Long-nosed Bandicoot, Common Wombat, Common Ringtail Possum, Greater, Yellow-bellied & Sugar Glider, Striped & Brush-tailed Possum, Rufous Bettong, Lumholtz’s Tree Kangaroo, Swamp Wallaby, Eastern Grey & Red Kangaroo, Musky Rat Kangaroo, Spectacled Flying Fox, Dingo
woodland, tropical and temperate forest, swamps, riverine woodland, grasslands, coastal bush, estuaries and ocean
hot and humid in north, cooler in the interior mountains of the central areas
easy going, short trails with some hills
Day 1: Arrival in Cairns
Today is essentially an arrival day and those who are not doing the pre-tour are free to arrive, sight-see and bird this wonderful city at leisure. Those coming in from the South West Extension will most likely only arrive in the evening, well after dark. For those with time on their hands in Cairns, some of the possible birding areas include the mangroves, boardwalks, tidal mudflats and adjacent gardens of The Esplanade. Here you can enjoy a good number of more widespread Australian birds, with probable species including White-faced and Pacific Reef Herons, Little Egret, Straw-necked Ibis, Brahminy Kite, the huge White-bellied Sea Eagle, Silver Gull and Great Crested Tern, aptly named Rainbow Bee-eater, Magpie-lark, Australasian Figbird, Black-faced and White-bellied Cuckooshrikes, Helmeted Friarbird, Welcome Swallow and a whole host of waders if the tides are high, such as Far Eastern Curlew, Sharp-tailed and Curlew Sandpipers, Red-necked Stint, Great Knot, Pacific Golden and Red-capped Plover, Greater and Lesser Sand Plovers, Ruddy Turnstone, Sanderling, Grey-tailed and Wandering Tattlers, Terek Sandpiper and, if you are fortunate, maybe even a Beach Stone-curlew.
Day 2: Cairns area
Early this morning we will drive to Etty Bay, an area of coastal forests just over an hour from Cairns. Our main target here is the incredible Southern Cassowary, which still occurs in small numbers in this area. We will spend a good deal of time searching for this enigmatic species, especially on the beach alongside the campsite for fresh tracks and scat, as the birds are known to feed on fallen fruit from the surrounding trees.
After Lunch, we will bird around the Botanical Gardens to look for Australian Brushturkey, Orange-footed Scrubfowl, Bush Stone-curlew, Grey and Brown Goshawks, Rose-crowned Fruit Dove, Green Oriole, Common Cicadabird, Black-backed Butcherbird, Helmeted Friarbird, Magpie-lark and Varied Honeyeater. Wetlands here hold Australian Pelican, Magpie Goose, Hardhead, Maned Duck, Common Moorhen and Striated Heron.
Day 3: Cairns to Atherton Tablelands via Etty Bay
This morning on our Australia birding tour, we have an early departure from Cairns as we make our way to the Atherton Tablelands. We will have another opportunity to stop at Etty Bay and search for Southern Cassowary if not seen the previous day. Later in the morning we will traverse the Kuranda Range, birding en route in a diversity of habitats including upland rainforest, dry sclerophyll woodland, arable/pasture lands and extensive freshwater (billabong) wetlands. Areas that we will visit today (depending on time) should include Emerald Creek and Lake Eacham. The tropical forests here are home to a host of gems, including the terrestrial Orange-footed Scrubfowl, Grey Goshawk, boldly-patterned Pacific Baza, Brown Cuckoo-Dove, Common Emerald Dove, Double-eyed Fig Parrot, Little Lorikeet, noisy Laughing Kookaburras, Topknot Pigeon, Superb Fruit Doves, Black Butcherbird, Barred Cuckooshrike, Eastern Whipbird, Graceful and Yellow-spotted Honeyeaters, Pied, Spectacled and White-eared Monarchs, Red-backed and Superb Fairywrens and, with some luck, Noisy Pitta! In the late afternoon, we will reach our lodge situated on the very edge of Crater Lakes National Park, where we will be based for 4 nights. In the lodge gardens, there is a night-lit viewing platform, where several nocturnal mammals visit, including Musky Rat Kangaroo, Red-legged Pademelons, Sugar Glider, Striped Possums and Long-nosed Bandicoots.
Days 4 to 6: Atherton Tablelands
We will spend the next three days of our Australia birding tour birding through a diverse range of habitats. We will begin by exploring the highland rainforest and eucalypt woodland of the Atherton Tablelands where targets include Brown Goshawk, Pale-headed Rosella, Tooth-billed and stunning Golden Bowerbirds, delightful White-throated Treecreeper, the localised Chowchilla, unique Yellow-breasted Boatbill, Macleay’s Honeyeater, Grey-headed Robin and Victoria’s Riflebird, the latter being one of the few members of the exquisite birds-of-paradise family represented in Australia.
Even the well-forested grounds of our lodge support some good birds, including Spotted Catbird, Wompoo Fruit Dove and Spectacled and White-eared Monarchs. At the Crater Lake National Park we will scan the few trees surrounding the edges for Lumholtz’s Tree Kangaroo – a reliable site for this species. While birding the more open country and grasslands, we will search for Spotted Harrier, stately Brolga and Sarus Cranes (often gathering in large numbers), Bar-shouldered Dove, and Little and Dusky Woodswallows. A visit to a well-known creek in the area will give us an excellent chance of seeing the amazing Duck-billed Platypus. We will also do a night excursion to Warrigal Forest Reserve to look for nocturnal birds and mammals. Species we may encounter include the localised and rarely-seen Sooty Owl, Southern Boobook, Australian Owlet-nightjar and various possums, including Lemuroid Ringtail and Herbert River Ringtail.
Day 7: Atherton Tablelands to Daintree
After some final morning birding, we will head further north towards the Daintree River. Wetland habitats en route could yield Magpie Goose, striking Black-necked Stork, Latham’s Snipe, Raja Shelduck and, in surrounding grasslands, huge Emus, Diamond Dove, Squatter Pigeon, Apostlebird and stately Australian Bustard. We will arrive in Daintree in the late afternoon.
Day 8: Daintree River cruise, and on to Cairns
This morning on our Australia birding tour, we will embark on an exciting riverboat trip through winding mangroves, allowing us access to some unique habitat. Here we will be looking for the huge Great-billed Heron a scarce resident, Black Bittern, flocks of Scaly-breasted and Rainbow Lorikeets, Torresian Imperial Pigeons, the incredible, Papuan Frogmouth, the huge Channel-billed Cuckoo, Pacific Koel, Pheasant Coucal, Shining Bronze, Little Bronze and Horsfield’s Bronze Cuckoos, Rose-crowned and Superb Fruit Doves, Little, Forest and Azure Kingfishers, Large-billed Gerygone and Metallic Starling. We might also be fortunate to see Spectacled Flying-Fox as well as large Estuarine Crocodiles. After our boat trip, we will return to Cairns where we will settle into our now familiar hotel. If time allows, we will again check the esplanade near the hotel for waders.
Day 9: Fly from Cairns to Brisbane & on to Lamington National Park
This morning we will take a flight south to Brisbane in the south-east of Queensland. We will then immediately begin our transfer to discover the riches of Lamington National Park, where we will be staying at the world famous O’Reilly’s Guesthouse. In the late afternoon, we are likely to find good numbers of brightly coloured Australian King Parrots, dozens of stunning Crimson Rosellas and immaculate male Regent Bowerbirds, among a whole host of other specialities as we begin our explorations of the region.
Day 10: Lamington National Park
O’Reilly’s Guesthouse combines a unique mixture of subtropical rainforest and wet Eucalypt woodland, creating a natural haven for wildlife. The area protects vast tracts of forested mountains and offers charming waterfalls, spectacular views of the rugged escarpment, and a birding experience second to none! We will especially target the specialities of the area, which include the very localised Albert’s Lyrebird, Glossy Black Cockatoo, Paradise Riflebird, Eastern Rosella, the distinctive Australian Logrunner, Blue-faced Honeyeater and sleek Satin Bowerbird. Other species in the area include the awesome Green Catbird, Rufous Fantail, Black-faced Monarch, Topknot Pigeon and the secretive Russet-tailed Thrush. In the evening we have a chance to look for Marbled Frogmouth and the enigmatic Australian Owlet-nightjar.
Day 11: Lamington National Park to Brisbane, fly to Sydney and on to Jamberoo
This morning we return to Brisbane where we will catch a flight to Sydney, the capital of New South Wales and arguably the most beautiful city in the world! This afternoon we will drive over the Harbour Bridge, viewing the picturesque Sydney Harbour and the world-renowned Sydney Opera House before making our way south to the village of Jamberoo, near Kiama.
Day 12: Kiama Pelagic
A pelagic off the south-eastern Australian coast can only be described as a birder’s dream! Aboard our boat, we will be heading as far as conditions allow, hopefully over twenty nautical miles offshore where upwelling nutrients attract a plethora of seabirds. Wandering, Shy, Indian Yellow-nosed and Black-browed Albatrosses, Great-winged and Providence Petrels, Flesh-footed, Wedge-tailed and Short-tailed Shearwaters, Australasian Gannet, Greater Crested Tern and a variety of jaegers are all likely. Other possible species here on our Australia birding tour include Fluttering, Hutton’s and Sooty Shearwaters, Wilson’s Storm Petrel, Fairy Prion, Little Penguin and Common Tern. This will undoubtedly be a day to remember!
Day 13: Kiama to Lithgow via Katoomba
This morning we will visit the unique scrubby heathland in the vicinity of Barren Grounds Nature Reserve, which provides a specialised habitat for some interesting bird species. Target species will include Diamond Firetail, Southern Emu-wren, scarce Pilotbird (which might give away its location with a distinctive piercing song), amusing Eastern Spinebill, and perhaps the rare Eastern Bristlebird and Eastern Ground Parrot. In the afternoon we will drive north through the forested gullies of the vast Blue Mountains and then up to the mountain’s more open habitat in the upper regions near the town of Katoomba. En route we will search for a wide range of additional birds found in these habitats, including Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo, Eastern Rosella, Fan-tailed Cuckoo, Lewin’s, Crescent and New Holland Honeyeaters and perhaps even the iconic Superb Lyrebird, a shy and retiring species.
Day 14: Capertee Valley
Getting an early start today on our Australia birding tour, we will be able to visit one or more of the nearby lookouts to sample the incredible scenery that brings so many people to the Blue Mountains area. We will be hoping for a chance encounter with a Superb Lyrebird, walking through the woodland, or the localised Rockwarbler on the sandstone cliffs.
Thereafter we will head north into the dry sandstone hillsides and mixed Eucalypt woodland pockets of the Capertee Valley. This region on the western edge of the Great Dividing Range supports a wide variety of bird life, including Wedge-tailed and Little Eagles, Swamp Harrier, Brown Falcon, Glossy Black Cockatoo, Red-rumped and Turquoise Parrots, Musk and Little Lorikeets, Fuscous, White-plumed and Black-chinned Honeyeaters, White-browed Babbler, Scarlet and Hooded Robins, Speckled Warbler, Red-browed and Brown Treecreepers, Striated and Spotted Pardalotes, Restless Flycatcher, Rufous Whistler, White-winged Triller, Brown and Rufous Songlarks, Varied Sittella, the simply stunning Superb Fairywren, Dusky Woodswallows, Plum-headed Finch, Diamond Firetail and potentially the endangered Regent Honeyeater. The latter species is nomadic in response to the flowering of its favourite tree species, with the Capertee area being one of its last national strongholds.
Day 15: Lithgow to Temora
Wetlands in the Lithgow area hold a wide selection of waterbirds, including Grey Teal, Pink-eared, Musk, and Blue-billed Ducks, Australian Shoveler and Great Crested Grebe, while Little Grassbirds occur in the reedbeds. Later in the morning we will begin our journey into the drier and more remote inland regions of New South Wales by driving westward to the outback town of Temora. The rare Superb Parrot is sometimes sighted along the roadsides and many woodland species are present, such as Diamond Firetail, Speckled Warbler, Weebill (Australia’s smallest bird) and Grey-crowned Babbler.
Day 16: Temora to Hay (night excursion for Plains-wanderer)
We leave Temora to continue our drive further west into the outback, the mix of habitats, including pine and mallee vegetation may produce several exciting new species for the trip. Possibilities include Bluebonnet, Australian Ringneck and Mulga Parrot, the strange Apostlebird, Striped Honeyeater and the beautiful Major Mitchell’s (Pink) Cockatoo, a highly nomadic species that will take a great deal of luck to find! This ecosystem also holds Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Eastern Rosella, Striped, White-eared, Brown-headed and Spiny-cheeked Honeyeaters, Yellow-rumped, Yellow, Inland and Chestnut-rumped Thornbills, the immaculate Double-barred Finch, Olive-backed Oriole, White-browed Babbler, Grey Shrikethrush, White-winged Chough, Pied Butcherbird, Australian Magpie, Willie Wagtail, Australian Raven and the huge Wedge-tailed Eagle, to name just a few. There will be time to visit the Binya State forest, a hotspot for the rare Painted Honeyeater (very nomadic and by no means guaranteed!), and potential other inland gems such as Splendid Fairywren, White-browed Treecreeper and the stunning Red-capped Robin
After our evening meal, we will be heading out for a spotlighting excursion on the open plains country near Hay, where the endemic Plains-wanderer occurs. This species is the world’s only member of the bird family Pedionomidae, and the stubble grasslands of New South Wales and Victoria are their stronghold. A night on the plains also gives us the chance to locate other grassland species, such as Stubble Quail, Little Buttonquail, Banded Lapwing, Australian Pratincole and Inland Dotterel.
Day 17: Hay to Kerang
After last night’s late finish, we can start with a relaxed pace this morning, spending the day birding the area known as the Hay Plain. Here we will experience the vast landscape and wide open skies of this fascinating outback region. A variety of habitats, including inland woodlands, wetlands and plains country, have the potential to turn up some rare and interesting birds. Depending on the water levels, wetland species may include Australasian Shoveler and Pink-eared Duck, Australian Shelduck, Australasian and Hoary-headed Grebes, Red-kneed and Black-fronted Dotterels and potentially large numbers of the nomadic Black-tailed Nativehen. Open woodlands in the region hold Bluebonnet, Superb Parrot, Grey-crowned Babbler and the rare and nomadic Black and Painted Honeyeaters. The flightless Emu and the enormous Red Kangaroo roam the open plains, and other possibilities include Black Falcon, Peaceful and Diamond Doves, Long-billed Corella, Galah, Cockatiel, Musk Lorikeet, Common Bronzewing, Gilbert’s Whistler, the brilliant White-winged Fairywren, White-fronted Chat, plus a variety of thornbills and gerygones, White-winged Chough, Australian Pipit, Zebra and Red-browed Finches and Mistletoebird are all present.
Day 18: Kerang to Castlemaine/Bendigo area
This morning on our Australia birding tour, we have the chance to visit more wetlands in the Kerang area before travelling south to the central Victorian region of Bendigo with its mallee and box-ironbark country. Bendigo grew as a major centre during the gold rush of the 1850’s and features many grand colonial buildings. Evidence of gold digging is still there in the bush, as is the harvesting of Blue mallee trees for eucalyptus oil production. These areas of harvested blue mallee are extremely bird-rich, with specialities including Purple-gaped, Tawny-crowned and White-fronted Honeyeaters, Shy Heathwren, Variegated Fairywren, Brush Bronzewing, Southern Scrub Robin, Crested Bellbird and Inland Thornbill of particular interest.
Day 19: Bendigo to Lorne
This morning we will be out early as we explore the box-ironbark forests near Bendigo in search of a variety of lorikeets and honeyeaters. Wetland sites in this area also give the chance of rails and crakes depending on water levels at the time. We then travel down towards the coast with a stop near Lara for Cape Barren and Magpie Geese. We will also make additional stops along the start of the Great Ocean Road for species such as Hooded Plover and Rufous Bristlebird, before reaching Lorne, our destination for the night.
Day 20: Lorne to Geelong
This morning we will explore the coast road and surrounding forest for Koala. There are few places in Australia where Koala can be seen this regularly and we stand an excellent chance of memorable encounters with these endearing mammals here. While in the area, we also have a chance to see Australian King Parrot, Gang-gang Cockatoo, Satin Bowerbird, Southern Emu-wren, Rufous Bristlebird, Crescent Honeyeater and Olive Whistler. We also stand reasonable chances of seeing Shy and Black-browed Albatross offshore while the range restricted Pacific Gull and Black-faced Cormorant will also be looked for. We will then head across to Geelong where we should arrive by late afternoon
Day 21: Geelong to Melbourne for departure (or flight to Launceston for those doing the Tasmania Extension)
After an early breakfast, we leave Geelong and head towards Melbourne, birding en route where it is possible for a range of water birds. Those doing the Tasmania Extension will fly on to Launceston, Tasmania, for the next leg of this epic Australian birding adventure while those not continuing on to Tasmania will take their international flights home.