Kimberley Birdlife

The opportunity for studying, photographing and watching Kimberley Birdlife whilst driving the Gibb River Road, and exploring the great north west region is phenomenal.

Along the Gibb River Road, around the various gorges, waterholes, campsites and homestead gardens, you will encounter many rare species of birds unique to the Kimberley region. These birds often come quite close to you, as they do not live in fear of people, and are relatively curious, which makes for excellent photographic opportunities.

Below is a detailed list of Kimberley Birdlife that can be found along the Gibb River Road.

Birds of Prey - Kimberley Birdlife

Wedge Tailed Eagle Wedge Tailed Eagle - Length 88cm-105cm. A magnificent, powerful dark brown eagle with a long tail shaped to a wedge like point. Long fingered wings and completely feathered legs. Can be seen along the Gibb River Road circling in the thermals above the tops of ranges (often in pairs), and regally perched in dead trees near the roadside. These Eagles can soar to great heights, and prey on small marsupials and birds. They are found only in the untouched wilderness frontiers of Australia (including the Kimberley, Central Australia, Cape York, Tasmania and Arnhem Land) as well as Southern New Guinea. They have adapted to live in desert, mountain and woodland environments.

Black Kite
Black Kite - Length 48-54cm. A slender hawk with a forked tail and narrow pointy wings. Predominently dark brown in colouration, with yellow legs. Only found in habitats of Northern Australia. You will often see black kites in the towns of the Kimberley and Northern Territory - scavenging for food. But along the Gibb River Road you will see them soaring in thermals, and flying near the roadside.

barking owl Barking Owl-Length 35-40cm. Reddish Brown and white speckled chest, with dark brown colouration of the back and wings, thin patches of white/grey feathers around eyes and beak. Bright yellow eyes. Produces a 'woof woof' noise like the distant barking of a dog. Preys on bush rats and mice, as well as other smaller marsupials such as bats

brown falcon
Brown Falcon- Length 38cm-50cm. Moderately large falcon with predominently light brown to dark blackish brown colouration. Can often be seen perched in trees at dusk, surveying the long grass for small marsupials and lizards. When we go for a walk with our pet dingoes up here in the late afternoon we are often accompanied by a brown falcon who follows us trying to catch any quail or small doves we happen to frighten out of the grass. They prefer relatively open woodland areas with high trees or rock outcrops. Breasted Buzzard Black Breasted Buzzard: (also known as "Black Breasted Kite") Length: 55-60cm. Powerful moderately large hawk with long fingered wings. Can be seen soaring in thermals along the Gibb River Road. Prefers open plains with sparse vegetation - habitat stretches throughout Northern and Central Australia. They prey on lizards, smaller birds, and marsupials.

White Barn Owl
Barn Owl: Length:31-35cm. Large white heart shaped facial disc, light brown/red/grey speckelled highlights throughout white plumeage on body. Black eyes. Moderately long legs. Can be found throughout Australia in woodland habitats.

Other types of Kimberley Birdlife that prey on marsupials, lizards, or other birds include: Black Shouldered Kite, Whistling Kite, Collared Sparrowhawk, Brown Goshawk, Osprey, Little Eagle, Spotted Harrier, Black Falcon, Nankeen Kestrel,Peregrine Falcon, Australian Hobby, Grey Falcon, Rufous Owl

Finches, Wrens & Honeyeaters - Kimberley Birdlife

Banded Honey Eaters - Length 11-13 cm. White chin, cheeks, chest and belly. Male: Thick Black band extending across eyes and top of head, down the back of the neck,across the shoulders, wings & extending down the spine to the tail. Thin Black collar circling around top of chest. Long thin black beak. Female: Same banded colour distribution, but in golden brown. Can be seen extracting nectare from clusters of native flowers on trees such as the double leafed bloodwood. Confined to the Kimberley Region in Western Australia, and found in open woodland forests of Northern Australia.

Crimson Finch - Length 12-14cm. Male: Has a bright crimson red sheen to it's entire body. Blackish grey tinge on forehead and crown. Brownish grey tinge on wings, and the middle of the back. Female: Same as male but paler. Can be seen exploring the Pandanus, reeds and long native grasses around water courses. Confined to the Kimberley Region in Western Australia. Bee Eater
Rainbow Bee Eater:Length:19-24cm. Beautiful, brightly coloured little bird found throughout Northern Australia & The Kimberley as well as on the Northern Islands (including the Solomons). You can catch glimpses of these birds usually in trees near rivers or creeks when they come in for a drink, or perched in tree branches on open plains with lots of low lying vegetation. They regularly raid 'sugar bags' or native honey hives in the Kimberley,(these hives are usually built in dead branches of large trees). They catch and extract the small native bees from the hive and devour them. Fairy Wren Red-Backed Fairy Wren: Length:10-13cm. Male is black with a red band across the shoulders. Female is brown in colouration. Found throughout Northern and Eastern Australia. Confined to the Kimberley in Western Australia. Males can often be seen with up to 2 or 3 females exploring low lying forest undergrowth with long grass and shrubs throughout the Kimberley. Fairy Wren Variegated Fairy Wren: Length:12-14cm, lives predominantly throughout the southern Kimberley, Northern Wheatbelt and Eastern Goldfields of Western Australia. This species is replaced by the 'Lavender-Flanked Fairy Wren' in the North Kimberley. Prefers scrub thickets. Finch
Double-Barred Finch: Length:10-11cm. Vivid white chest, speckled brown plumage extending along the back to the top of the head. Striking black band around eye and upper breast, with thin Black Tail. Found throughout Northern and Eastern Australia. Confined to the Kimberley regions in Western Australia. Can often be seen travelling in small groups through low lying scrub and eating seeds at the base of short native grasses. Striated Pardolot Striated Pardalote:Length:10-11cm. Is found mostly in open eucalypt forests and woodlands throughout Australia and The Kimberley region. Male: Colouration as in photo, Female: Paler yellow throat, with spots on head.

Other species belonging to these types of Kimberley Birdlife include: Purple-crowned Fairy Wren, Red-browed Pardalote, Star Finch, Zebra Finch, Gouldian Finch,Long-tailed Finch, Brown Honeyeater, Yellow-tinted Honeyeater, White-gaped Honeyeater,Singing Honeyeater, Grey-fronted Honeyeater, Black-chinned Honeyeater, White-throated Honeyeater, Bar-breasted Honeyeater, Rufous-throated Honeyeater, Banded Honeyeater.

Parrots & Lorikeets - Kimberley Birdlife

Northern Rosella Northern Rosella - Length 28-31cm. Bright splashes of flourescent blue, yellow, white and black markings. Habitat ranges from the Kimberleys to North Western QLD in woodland areas.

Red Winged Parrot Red Winged Parrot - Length 30-33 cm. Often seen flying through open woodland areas, close to the Gibb River Road, in small groups. The male has a wing with a brillant red splash of colour through it, bright green plumage tinged with yellow on the breast and a bright orange beak. The female is similar in colouration but a lot paler, and has less red visible on the wing. Exclusive to the extreme North West and North East of Australia.

Corella Little Corella - Length 39-45cm. Predominantly white in coloration. Pale Pink concealed feathers under neck and head. Pale yellow concealed feathers under wings and tail. Commonly seen around rivers and creeks in big trees with thick canopies during the heat of the day. Live in flocks of up to 100. Pairs and smaller flocks can be seen flying across the horizon on dusk to roost. Eat nuts, and seeds off native trees and grasses. crested cockatoo Sulphur Crested Cockatoo:Length:44-49cm. Long bright yellow crest on top of head. White body, with dark brown eyes. Can be found throughout the North to South Kimberley, as well as the arid inland areas and tropical forest regions throughout Eastern & Western Australia. In the Kimberley they eat seeds from native fruits such as wild passionfruits, "cockie apples", & wattle seeds. They also like the seeds of tropical fruits in gardens such as gauvas, and cum-quats.

Other species belonging to this type of Kimberley Birdlife include:Varied Lorikeet, Red Tailed Black Cockatoo, Pink Galah, Budgerigah, Cockatiel.

Swamp & River Birds - Kimberley Birdlife

Brolgas in the Kimberley Brolga- Very graceful creatures that are beautiful to watch. They can often be seen pairs or in small groups walking through the long grass and swamp lands beside the Gibb River Road, looking for grubs in the mud with their long beaks. When brolgas walk they follow each other in a line, stepping almost exactly where the brolga before them went. As they move through the undergrowth and the sunlight dances off of their feathers their colour appears to change from grey to silver, to white, to a light blue hue. As brolgas walk they constantly communicate with each other in what I can best describe as a deep resonating ‘trumpet-like’ sound. This noise reverberates in different frequencies. If they need to communicate over long distances they point their heads up to the sky and stretch their necks straight, wings outstretched, then produce very loud ‘trumpet-like’ sounds. Sometimes they gather in large groups at certain locations to 'dance' on dusk. As they dance they leap into the air and move around eachother, whilst outstretching their wings and trumpeting. Great Egret Great Egret: Length:83-96cm. Beautiful, graceful bird with bright white plumage, yellow bill, and black legs. Can be seen around sandy shallow freshwater creeks, rivers and dams throughout the Kimberley and along the Gibb River Road exploring the reed beds for insects and small fish to eat. Azure Kingfisher Azure Kingfisher:Length:16-18cm. Very beautiful bird - vivid blue colouration of body with black beak, bright yellow chest, white belly and bright orange legs. Makes a shrill single whistle. Often seen flying low across the surface of the water at rivers and creeks throughout the Kimberley, or perched in a tree close to a watercourse. Confined to the Kimberley's in Western Australia. Also found in Eastern Australia, Tasmania and New Guinea.

Other types of Kimberley Birdlife that prefer the Swamp lands and Rivers include: The Pacific Black Duck,Grey Teal, Australian Darter, Little Pied Cormorant, Black Necked Stork, Australian Pelican,White Necked Heron, Little Egret, Cattle Egret, Nankeen Night Heron, Straw Necked Ibis, Royal Spoonbill, Blue Winged Kookaburra, Red Backed Kingfisher, Sacred Kingfisher, Jabiru.

Woodland Birds - Kimberley Birdlife

Juvenile Channeled Bill Cuckoo Channeled Billed Cuckoo- Length 60-67 cm. Head and neck are grey in colouration. Back, wings and tail are a dark brown-grey. Back and wing feathers are tipped with Black, and tail feathers are tipped with white and banded with black. Pale grey throat and upper chest, white lower breast. This type of cuckoo lays it's eggs in crows nests. It kicks all the crows eggs out of the nest and replaces them with it's own. The male and female crows raise the Channel Billed Cuckoo and feed it. It is the only creature I have ever seen get one over a crow! As a result if a crow sees a mature Channel Billed Cuckoo near it's nest it will agressively chase it away. This photo is of a young Channel Billed Cuckoo just after it has learnt to fly. At the time the photo was taken the cuckoo was crying out very loudly all day for it's mother and father crow to feed it - chasing them all over the place. Once the Channel Bill reaches maturity it leaves it's 'crow' parents, and flies off on migratory routes. These birds breed in Northern and Eastern Australia and on some islands to the North, but they are confined to the Kimberley region of Western Australia - sightings of them are very rare.

Bustard Australian Bustard- This bird is commonly mistaken as a 'baby emu'. It is not. It is actually a type of wild turkey. Length: Males (105cm-120cm) Females (75cm-85cm). Neck, Face, chest and belly are white with a black band on the top of the head. Long neck with mostly dark brown body. Lower section of Wings is speckled with white and Black patterned colouration. You will mostly see these birds in areas were they have not been hunted, such as along gorge access roads and homestead/station-stay access roads. The often walk along the roadside hunting grasshoppers and insects. They prefer open or lightly wooded country and can be found throughout Northern Australia and Southern New Guinea. Brown Quail Brown Quail: Length:17/21cm. Reddish brown body with fine streaks of white/yellow colouration throughout plumage. Can be found living in Kimberley habitats with long native grasses - you will regularly encounter them when you are walking in the bush out here. When disturbed they rise into the air very quickly whilst making a loud "chu-chu-wit" call & frantically flapping their wings until they get enough height to soar out of range, and then land camoflagued in another clump of grass some distance away. They build their nests in the long grasses of the Kimberley towards the end of the dry season around November/December. Unfortunately, over the past few years late season bushfires up here appear to have contributed to a vast reduction in their numbers. Bronze-Wing Common Bronze-Wing: Length:32-36cm. White forehead. The male has a purplish crown on the head and bright purplish grey underparts. Their wing colour is speckled with yellow, bronze, red and green tones that change with the light's reflection. They live in open forests and scrubland throughout Australia. They can be seen eating grass seeds around the late afternoon or early morning in Kimberley habitats with more shorter and sparser native grasses, near low lying shrubs or trees. Pheasantcoucal Pheasant Coucal: The comedians of the Kimberley Bush these birds are a terrific site to see. Length:60-68cm. A 'clumsy' bird often seen running along the roadside before diving head first into the long grass, and then trying to launch itself onto a tree branch (with it's long heavy tail always lagging behind and apparently making life difficult for the bird). Dark chesnut in colouration with black and yellowish brown highlights. Found throughout Northern ad Eastern Australia, and New Guinea. Bird Dollar Bird:Length:25-29cm. Predominantly Darkish grey/dull greyish blue in colouration. Large pale blue spot on the underside of their wings which looks like a 'dollar' or a coin (hence the name). The have bright orange beaks and legs. Normally Confined to the Kimberleys and the Pilbara regions, but breed in Northern and Eastern Australia. Also found in southern and eastern Asia. Bird Figbird:Length:27-28cm. A pretty, shy bird that has earned it's name from living mostly in damp tropical forests close to water where there are native Fig Trees. Found throughout Northern and Eastern Australia, but confined to the Kimberley region of Western Australia. Also seen in Southeast New Guinea, and Timor. Noisy Friar Bird Noisy Friar Bird:Length:24-29cm. Predominently grey in colouration with black head and beak, and dark brown wings. When the native trees are in flower these birds can be seen using their long beak and flexible thin neck to extract nectar from the base of flowers. They are very agile, and fast moving. Confined to the Kimberley region in Western Australia. Also seen in the thicker woodland regions of Northern and Eastern Australia and New Guinea. Bush Stone Curlew Bush Stone Curlew:Length:50-57cm. A very shy bird with a Large thick beak, white chest and predominently dark brown body interlaced with red, white and bronze tones. Very long thin legs. This is a nocturnal bird that hunts insects, and moths at night. Curlews rests during the day usually standing up whilst balancing on one leg under low lying shrubs. At night time or on dusk they make an eerie repetitive cry that erupts into a crescendo as more and more curlews join in(this 'cry' occurs more frequently during the early dry season months in the Kimberley, during the curlews mating season). Used to be found in grassy woodlands throughout Australia but populations of curlews are now relatively scarse everywhere except for the Northern Regions.

Other types of Kimberley Birdlife that live in the woodland regions include: Crested Pigeon, Torres Straight Pigeon, Little Button Quail, Common Sandpiper, Black Fronted Dotterel,Diamond Dove, Bar Shouldered Dove,Peaceful Dove, Brush Cuckoo, Horsfield’s Bronze Cuckoo,Common Koel, Southern Boobook, Tawney Frogmouth, Australian Owlet-Nightjar, Spotted Nightjar, White-throated Gerygone, Weebill, Little Friarbird, Silver-crowned Friarbird, Yellow-throated Miner, Jacky Winter, Grey-crowned Babbler, Varied Sittela, Rufous Whistler,Grey Shrike-thrush, Sanstons Shrike-thrush,Leaden Flycatcher, Restless Flycatcher, Willie Wagtail, Grey Fantail, Northern Fantail, White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike, White-winged Triller,Olive Backed Oriole, White-breasted Woodswallow,Masked Woodswallow, Black-faced Woodswallow, Little Woodswallow,Grey Butcherbird, Pied Butcherbird, Magpie-Lark, Australian Magpie, Torresian Crow, Great Bowerbird, Richard’s Pipit, Mistletoebird, Tree Martin, Fairy Martin, Rufous Songlark,Golden-headed Cisticola, Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike.