Birds

We expect birds to start breeding and singing earlier in the year as a result of global heating. They may also start appearing in new areas as warmer temperatures enable them to live in environments that were previously too cold for them.

Click on the images below to learn more about the species, their phenophase behaviours, and how to identify them, so you can contribute your ClimateWatch observations.

Black and white, with the pattern varying across its range. The back of its neck, upper tail and shoulders (on its wings) are white in males and grey in females, and (across most of Australia) the rest of its body is black. In south-eastern, central and south-western Australia, including Tasmania, its back and rump are entirely white. Its eye is red-brown. Young birds are usually grey rather than black and have dark eyes. Distinctive feature One toe faces backwards and three face forwards. It has a square-tipped tail.
A medium shorebird with long skinny legs and a long beak. The Oystercatcher has a black head and black with a white belly, orange-red eyes, and very distinctive orange legs and beak. Size 50 cm long (from head to tail)
Adults have a black body and neck with white wing tips, black legs and a red bill with white bar near tip. Male carries head higher than female in mated pair and has darker bill and iris. Juveniles are lighter in colour and cygnets have grey-brown plumage. Size body length 110 - 140 cm; wingspan 160 - 200 cm
Brahminy kites are medium sized birds of prey common in coastal areas. Adults have an unmistakable white head and chest with a chestnut brown coloured body. They have dark coloured eyes and a strongly hooked, yellow beak. The tail is relatively short and can have white tips. Size male 45 cm, female 51 cm with an average wing span of 120 cm
The Bush Stone-curlew has large yellow eyes and long thin legs. Its colouring is mostly grey-brown above, with bold black and rufous streaks. It has buff and white underparts with black streaks. Young birds are similar in colour, but are generally paler. Distinctive feature A prominent white eyebrow Size 54 – 59 cm; wingspan is 82 – 105 cm
Large, pale ash-grey goose with a square black tail. Its triangular bill is almost completely covered by a greenish-yellow cere (skin above the bill). Rows of large dark spots in lines across its shoulders and wing coverts. Legs are pink with black feet. In flight it shows dark wingtips. Size Between 75-100 cm. Males are larger than females weighing between 3.5-5.5 kg while females weigh on average 3.5 kg. Their wingspan measures between 150-190 cm.
Dull black cockatoo with pale feather margins; white patch on ear coverts and white panels in long tail, often exposed in flight. The male has a black bill, reddish eye-ring, dull white ear patch, and lesdistinct feather margins. The female has a whitish bill, grey eye-ring, clear-white ear patch, and broader pale margins to breast-feathers. Nest Decayed wood debris in large hollow in eucalypt, from near ground to over 20 m.
The Channel-billed Cuckoo is grey all over, with dark scalloping on its back and wing-coverts, a whitish belly and abdomen, and fine dark barring on the lower underbody. Its long tail is pale-grey on top with two central feathers tipped with white, with a black band near the tip; the undertail has black-and-white barring. In flight, its tail and wings give it a cross-shaped silhouette. Its eyes are bright red and there is a bare patch of red skin around the eye and near the base of the bill. Its legs and feet are dark grey. Young birds are mottled buff, brown and grey, have an olive to brown eye and lack the red-colouring around its eye. Distinctive feature Its large, downward-curved beak which is greyish with a paler tip.
The adult male is black with a deep-orange to yellow beak, a narrow orange to yellow ring around its eye, and dark legs. The female is grey-brown, with some streaks or mottling, and its back is darker than its belly. The female also has a paler chin than the male, a dull yellow-brown beak, dark legs, and the ring around her eye is less bright. Young birds are also brown but with lighter underparts and a dark grey or black beak. Size 25 to 28 cm (from head to tail)
Black and white, with the pattern varying across its range. The back of its neck, upper tail and shoulders (on its wings) are white in males and grey in females, and (across most of Australia) the rest of its body is black. In south-eastern, central and south-western Australia, including Tasmania, its back and rump are entirely white. Its eye is red-brown. Young birds are usually grey rather than black and have dark eyes. Distinctive feature One toe faces backwards and three face forwards. It has a square-tipped tail.
A dark grey to black bird with a yellow-tipped red bill, red frontal shield, red legs, and white undertails. Hatchlings are also black with red frontal shield, juveniles have green legs, green horn or black coloured bill, generally paler. Size 35-40 cm (from head to tail)
The adult male is a distinctive glossy black tinged with iridescent blue and green all over, including its long tail, and it has a striking red eye. The female is glossy brown with white spots on top, and buff-cream underneath with many fine black bars running across its belly. The top of its head is black or brown with pale streaks, and its tail is brown with white bars running across it. A young bird looks like an adult female but has buff barring on its wings and generally much more buff colouring.
The top of the adult male's head is grey-black, extending in a line down either side of its white breast. Its throat is also white, with a rufous patch in the centre. Its wings and lower back are dark metallic grey and its upper back and underneath are buff. In flight, its white outer tail feathers are visible. The female has similar but duller colouring. A young bird has less distinct markings with dark olive on top of its head, a white chin and throat and a cinnamon chest and belly. Distinctive feature It has a very long, fine beak that curves downward.
It has a grey back and head, and bright-yellow underparts. Southern birds have an olive-yellow rump, while birds in northern Australia have a brighter yellow rump. Its throat is off-white and when seen in flight, it has a pale bar on its wings. Its bill is black. Young birds are rufous-brown with paler streaks. Size 13 – 17 cm long, the males are slightly larger
Dark slate-grey on its head, back and wings, and pale orange-brown below; its undertail is boldly barred black and white. Its legs and feet are dull yellow and its bill is black. Young birds are duller and browner, with mottled markings, especially on their breast and underparts. Distinctive feature A yellow eye-ring which is tinged green in young birds.
An adult male has a bright orange breast and throat, with white on its lower belly and under its tail. The upperparts are dark slate grey and there is a clear white stripe on its folded wing. It has a black beak and dark brown legs. A female is mostly grey-brown with a pale buff strip on its wing. Its outermost tail feather is mostly white. A young bird looks like an adult female, but its back has buff streaks and its belly is pale with brown streaks. Size 12  - 14 cm
The adult male has a bright-yellow underbody, olive-green back and wings, and a black head with a bright-yellow collar. Its throat is white, with a broad black band which separates it from the yellow breast. Its beak and legs are black. The adult female has grey upperparts with a pale olive tinge, and is pale grey below with a pale yellowish tinge. Its beak is dark brown and its legs are grey-brown. Both sexes have a red-brown eye. Juvenile birds are rufous above and below, and as they mature, gradually resemble a female, though they retain some rufous feathers in their wings.
Medium sized shorebird with a straight, slender bill and a heavily streaked head and neck. Non breeding plumage in Australia; pale to chestnut head, neck and upper breast. White underparts. In breeding plumage they have a black band across the chest, and black, white and reddish speckles on the upperparts (Great Knots breed in Siberia). Size A medium-sized shorebird
Its head and upperparts are mostly dark grey, with a white eyebrow and throat, a narrow grey band across the upper breast and a creamy-buff belly. The feathers of its long tail have white edges and tips, and the tail is often fanned out. Size 14 – 16 cm long
A black and white bird, the pattern varies slightly between sexes. The male has a white eyebrow above a black horizontal eye-stripe, a black face and throat, while the female has a white face and throat, with a broad vertical stripe through the eye, and no white eyebrow. Both sexes have a thin white bill and black legs and feet. Juvenile Magpie-larks have a black forehead, white eyebrow and a white throat.
The top of its head and its hindneck are black. Its forehead is covered with bright-yellow skin, which hangs down to form wattles. The rest of the head is white. Its back and wings are pale grey-brown. Below, black plumage extends from the hindneck onto the sides of its breast, and the rest of the underparts are white. Its long legs and feet are reddish and its bill is yellow. It has a prominent spur on each wing. Juveniles are similar to adults, but have dark ‘scallop’ markings on the back and wings, and the wing spur and wattles are either smaller or absent. Distinctive feature A yellow wattle that extends from its forehead to behind its eye and hangs down beside its chin.
A medium sized bird with Orange legs and feet. Brown upper wing, head and neck. May have a blue tinted neck. It has a small downwards pointed tail with an orange/yellow beak. It builds a mound for a nest made of a large heap of mostly decomposing organic matter (leaves, earth, sticks, debris, sand etc) that are circular or elongated. Distinctive feature A black crest on the top of the head.
Black and white, with the pattern varying across its range. The back of its neck, upper tail and shoulders (on its wings) are white in males and grey in females, and (across most of Australia) the rest of its body is black. In south-eastern, central and south-western Australia, including Tasmania, its back and rump are entirely white. Its eye is red-brown. Young birds are usually grey rather than black and have dark eyes. Distinctive feature One toe faces backwards and three face forwards. It has a square-tipped tail.
A colourful bird, the upper part of its back is bright green, merging to light blue on the lower part to its rump. Its tail is black, tinged with blue, and has two long central feathers (called streamers) that extend beyond the tip of the tail. Its forehead is blue-green and the top of its head is golden. A bold black eye-stripe runs from the base of its beak and is bordered below by a narrow blue line. Its chin is yellow, changing to chestnut on its throat, below which is a broad black band. It has a green breast, becoming paler on the belly and changing to light blue from the lower belly to the vent. It has a long, slim, curved black beak and its legs and feet are grey-black. Young birds are generally duller and greener. They lack the black band across the lower throat and the long tail streamers. Distinctive feature The sexes differ in the length of their tail streamers: the male has longer, more slender streamers.
A small native bird with a black head and breast, electric blue shoulder patches and white wing spots. Upperparts are bright olive-green, sometimes a silvery green-blue. The only pitta in the Darwin region, and Australia’s only pitta with a black head and breast. Its nest is loose, interwoven sticks and dead vines, usually dome-shaped but can be a cup, with entrance at side or near top. It can be in a fork, on a branch, against butress root on the ground, from ground level to 8 metres above.
A fleshy reddish wattle (skin flap) is on the side of the neck. Plumage is grey-brown on body, with prominent white streaks and yellow on belly. Face is pale and tail is long with a white-tip. Young Red Wattlebirds are duller than the adult and have a brown, rather than reddish, eye. The wattle is also very small and pale. Its nest is an untidy saucer of sticks, leaves, and grass lined with bark-strips, fur, and hair; 2 - 16 m high in the fork of a tree or on a branch against trunk. Size 33 - 37 cm long
Tiny, plain grey-brown and whitish wader with black legs and straight, gently tapering black bill, slightly swollen at tip. Shadowy dark line from bill through eye separates small white area over bill and subtle whitish eyebrow from whitish throat. Upperparts are grey-brown. Underparts are whitish with grey-brown zone on sides of upperbreast. Size 13 – 16 cm
Stocky, medium-sized migratory shorebird with a short black bill and short orange legs. Back, head and upper chest is marked with black-brown and pale areas (tortoise shell-like) with a white breast. The bill is wedge-shaped and slightly up-tilted. In flight, there is a distinctive black and white pattern. Distinctive features The distinctive marking and dark and white pattern in flight make the Ruddy Turnstone unmistakeable, along with their habitat of turning over stones.
Commonly known as the muttonbird in Australia.It is one of the most abundant seabirds in Australian waters. They migrate to Australia in enormous flocks and often a number of birds are washed up on beaches and die as a result of exhaustion, sickness and bad weather. Dark smoky brown body with a paler coloured throat, slender bill, light brown feet, narrow wings pointed at the tip, brown to grey-brown underwing colouration (some have whitish underwings), short rounded tail, body up to 43cm long, when flying black toes extend just past tail tip. Nests on grass and leaves, and in burrows underground. Size 40 – 45 cm long
The male is unmistakable in full breeding varying from cobalt-blue in the east of its range to violet-blue in the west with a pale blue head. Wings and long tail are brown with a blue wash. In non-breeding plumage, called eclipse, he is very similar to the female, being pale brown above and white underneath although he retains the blue wash on wings and tail. The young look like the females. Distinctive feature The magnificent blue colour of the male. Size 14 cm
Males have a rich blue and black plumage above and on the throat. The belly is grey-white and the beak is black. In non-breeding plumage, called eclipse, he is very similar to the female. Females and young birds are mostly brown above with a dull red-orange area around the eye and brown beak. Females have a pale green gloss, absent in young birds, on the otherwise brown tail. Both sexes possess brown legs. The nest is dome-shaped consisting of grass, moss, rootlets, twigs, spiders webs and other bramble. Found low in tussock, shrub or bracken.
A native pheasant up to 1 m, including tail. Plain rich brown above, coppery on wings, deep grey below; legs and feet dark grey, powerful. Tail of male long and train-like, of two clubbed ‘lyrates’ about 60 cm long usually horizontal; glossy black and rufous above, silvery below, with notched ‘windows’; two slender, curved, ribbon-like guard-plumes’ and 12 lacy filamentaries, black above, silvery below. Moults annually. Full tail acquired at 6-8 years. Tail of female (and immature male) is simpler, drooping and pointed, lyrates smaller, often hidden; typically looks twisted. The nest is a bulky mound of sticks, bark, fern fronds and moss; on ground, bank, rock shelf, in stump or head of tree fern or to 25 m in a tree fork.
Mostly bright green, with a blue crown, cheeks and colouring on its wings. It has red around its bill, throat and forehead, and bright red patches under each wing. The red on its throat is edged with yellow and its long, pointed tail is purple-red. The female is slightly duller, with a creamy bar under its wings. Size About 25 cm; ; Wingspan 32 – 36 cm
Metallic blue-black on top and light to dark grey on its breast and belly. Its forehead, throat and upper breast are rust in colour. It has grey legs and feet, and its eyes and bill are black. A young Welcome Swallow has shorter tail feathers than an adult and its forehead and throat are a creamy beige (instead of rust). Distinctive feature A deeply forked tail with a white band or row of spots on the long tail feathers.
A large bird of prey with a dark grey back and a white head, white chest and white belly. Their legs are also white and have long black talons. They have dark eyes and a light-coloured, hooked beak. When viewed in flight, the undersides of the wings are a distinctive half white and half grey-brown. First-year juveniles have a buffish and ‘spiky’ head, contrasting with patchy cream and dark brown body and wings; underwing pattern also patchy, but note half-moon at base of tail feathers. Older juveniles have a pale buff-grey tail. Their nests are massive, made of sticks and branches, usually found in a tall living tree near water or on a remote coastal cliff (on ground if on an island). Distinctive feature A wedge-shaped tail, distinctive when seen in flight.
The White-browed Scrubwren is a small, drab bird which inhabits the dense undergrowth in many different habitats. The male has a blackish mask; cream eye; white eyebrow and bold curving silver-white whisker-mark; rufous rump; and a variable dark tail band. The female is duller and her whisker-mark is browner. Distinctive feature White-brow and curving silvery whisker-mark.
A medium-sized black and white honeyeater. It has large bright yellow tail and wing panels, with a large conspicuous white cheek patch on a mainly black head. Young birds are duller with brownish plumage. Size 16-18 cm
Mostly light blue-grey in colour. The forehead, crown, chin and upper throat are white. It has a long, slim neck and a pointed grey-black bill. The legs are long and dull yellow in colour. Easily identifiable when seen from below with the dark flight feathers of the wing contrasting with the paler grey plumage. Males and females are similar. When breeding, the birds have long feathers (nuptial plumes) on the head, neck and back. Young are similar in appearance to non-breeding adults, with little to no white on the face; underparts often have a reddish colour. Distinctive feature Its characteristic white face.
One of Australia's most widespread birds on mainland.Mostly black with a white belly and eyebrow.  A young bird has paler, slightly rusty edges to its wing feathers. Size 18 - 22 cm long (from head to tail)
Dark grey-brown above with some brown streaking. It is paler below with lighter streaks and has a slightly down-curved bill. Young birds are paler. Distinctive feature A broad yellow facial stripe across its eye which is bordered with black.
The male is grey with a red bill, orange-tan cheeks and flanks. The flanks also have white spots. Its rump is white, and its tail is black with white bars. The female has a red bill, a black/white face and tail markings, and is otherwise grey. Size 10 cm