The abundance of gorges, watering holes, plains, mudflats, mangroves, forests and rainforests in the Kimberley region means that it is a haven for birdlife.
As many of the birds are curious rather than scared of humans, you can often get up close. However, to increase your chances of spotting something fascinating like a Yellow Chat or a Common Redshank your best bet is to head to the Broome Bird Observatory. Home to over 325 species of birds – roughly 1/3 of all the bird species found in Australia, it is famed for being the migratory home to ¼ of the world’s species of shorebirds.
Used as a research and education facility, the Broome Bird Observatory offers tours taking birdwatchers out to important habitats within 70km of its Roebuck Bay base. The tour guides are experts at identifying and spotting birds. Trips are made at high tide so that birds are naturally forced to stop feeding and rest along the shoreline. They also conduct mangrove, bush & plains and lakes tours. Bird watchers flock (excuse the pun) to see the rare Yellow Chat and the Common Redshank (which, despite its name is not common in the rest of Australia)! You can camp here too.
Other recommend locations for twitchers are Lake Argyle, Lake Kununurra, Parry Creek Nature Reserve, Point Spring Nature Reserve and the Mitchell Plateau.
Now you know where to go to see the birds but what birds are you likely to see? If you’re lucky, you will spot birds of prey soaring up in the thermals over the tops of ranges, in open woodlands or around carrion. Birds of Prey in the Kimberley include Wedge-Tailed Eagle, Black Kite, Barking Owl (it makes a ‘woof woof’ noise like a dog), Brown Falcon, Black Breasted Buzzard, White Barn Owl, Goshawk, Osprey, Little Eagle, Harrier Falcon, Peregrine Falcon and the Hobby.
Most of these birds prey on small marsupials, bats, lizards, bush rats and mice. Some birds such as the Black Kite can be seen scavenging in towns.
From the Asian Dowitcher to the Variegated Fairy Wren, there is an enormous variety in the types and sizes of birds you are likely to see in the Kimberley. The Jabiru, for example, is Australia’s only stork and can be seen at the water’s edge. The Brolga is also a noteworthy ‘spot’ as it can reach heights of up to 1.3m. At the other end of the scale, the Red-backed Fairy Wren is a mere 9cm.
Many visitors to Australia enjoy seeing colourful birds such as parrots, corellas, northern rosellas, galah, budgerigar, cockatiel and lorikeet. However, colour is also found in the vivid blue wings and yellow chest of the beautiful kingfisher, the blue-winged Kookaburra and in the yellow of the Masked Lapwing. This bird is identifiable by novice bird watchers thanks to the yellow markings around its bill and wattles that are shaped like a mask.
Small but industrious birds such as finches, honeyeaters and rainbow bee-eaters will be found busily scurrying around. Honeyeaters can be found enjoying nectar from colourful plants and shrubs, but, like the bee-eaters, they also eat insects.
Other noteworthy birds to spot are: striated pardalote, cockatoo, egret, cuckoo, bustard, quail, bronze wing, pheasant, dollar bird, figbird, Noisy Friar Bird and bush stone curlew.
Jenny Flower is an expert in small ship cruising in the Kimberley and has completed four cruises on different vessels along this spectacular coastline. To book in a no obligation ‘discovery call’ about Kimberley cruising click here. If you are confused about all the different ships and itineraries in the Kimberley and just need some general information to start your research then download Jenny’s free guide to Kimberley cruising here.