Birdwatchers in WA can spot more than half of the 800 or so species of birds in Australia, including several species that are endangered or threatened. Overall, the state is blessed with rarely explored landscapes in which twitchers can admire the birds close-range: here is a selection of the best birding sites in WA.
WHERE TO GO
Up North | If you’re keen to see a huge number of species, the Broome Observatory (about 2000km north of Perth) is a prime location – you can see more than 300 of Australia’s 800 species. The ultimate drawcard is that the top birding spots are easily accessible, and there’s accommodation at the observatory. The mudflat shores of Roebuck Bay provide some of the best birding in Australia. March and April are the prime periods to visit, when you’ll find thousands of birds searching the mud for food before their annual migration. Species that are easier to spot in Broome include raptors and yellow-chats, and species such as white-breasted whistler and red-headed honeyeaters can also be seen. Further east, Lake Argyle and surrounds are home to over 270 species of birds, about one third of all species found in Australia. A walk close by the lake during the dry season is often rewarded with sightings of the endangered gouldian finch. If you head out to the lake in your own boat, commonly sighted species are sandstone shrike thrush, white quilled rock pigeons and ospreys; join a tour and there’s a chance you’ll spot a purple crowned fairy wren. While you’re concentrating, make sure you’ve got
an eye on any shiny valuables – the local bowerbirds are sneaky thieves.
Down South | The national parks in the southwest and Great Southern are spectacular for birdwatching – try Fitzgerald River, Leeuwin-Naturaliste (for red-tailed tropic birds, although rarely spotted nowadays), and Torndirrup and Porongurup national parks. Two People’s Bay Nature Reserve is one of the best (and most popular) birding locations – a feature of this nature reserve, the noisy scrub-bird was believed to be extinct until it was rediscovered in 1961. It’s best to contact a local birdwatcher for locations where they can be found. At Little Beach, you can spot the western whipbird, a threatened species – shortly after sunrise is the best time to see one. If you’re headed to the coast, you can observe species on the rocks such as the sooty oystercatcher and eastern reef egret, along with white-bellied sea eagle and wedge-tailed eagle. The Eyre Bird Observatory (formerly the Eyre Telegraph Station) is run by BirdLife Australia, who also run the Broome Bird Observatory. It’s a remote site surrounded by Nuytsland Nature Reserve in the south-east corner of the state, and home to some 240 species of bird. The observatory is situated on isolated coastline and visiting twitchers can pre-book accommodation to make the most of the locale. You can also take part in bird banding, with lessons on how to correctly band, weigh, measure and collect data from each bird you catch.
Islands | WA’s offshore islands are a paradise for birdwatchers – many of the birds aren’t exposed to most of the predators found on mainland. Christmas Island (2600km northwest of Perth) is home to an extensive range of birds that inhabit the rainforest and limestone cliffs. At the beginning of the wet season (October/November) millions of red crabs migrate from the forest to the coast, attracting huge numbers of birds – it’s an ideal visiting time for avid twitchers. The birds aren’t as timid as most species you’ll find on the mainland. You can take
a charter to the Houtman Abrolhos Islands (offshore from Geraldton) where you can birdwatch at one of the most important seabird nesting habitats in the country – you’ll see everything from noddies and shearwaters to terns and sea eagles. At Dirk Hartog Island, surrounded by the Shark Bay World Heritage Area, birdwatchers can spot 81 bird species, as well as the unique fauna of the National Park. Woody Island (15km from Esperance) is also a top pick for birdwatching, and is heavily wooded, providing shade and habitat for its abundant bird and wildlife. The birds are great for photography. The trees are home to many woodland bird species including golden whistlers, spotted pardaloutes, sacred kingfishers, red-eared firetail finches, singing honeyeaters and rock parrots. One of the closest options to Perth (less than one hour’s drive south) is the Shoalwater Islands. These islands are designated bird sanctuaries and nesting sites for colonies of Australian Pelicans. Only Penguin Island is accessible – daily from mid-September through to June – and you can visit the discovery centre to watch the rare little penguins interact as they would in the wild.