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SPECIES FILES -
Information on the habits and distribution of a selection of Victorian birds
EMU (Dromaius novauhollandiae)
Emus remain fairly common through the west of the state and in Gippsland but are now absent from much of central Victoria. They are not a specialist, inhabiting a wide range of habitats and often seen grazing in farmland adjacent to natural areas. Some good areas to see wild Emu include the Grampians National Park in western Victoria where they are common and regularly feed in surrounding farmland. They are also widespread throughout the mallee. The Mournpall track through Hattah NP is quite reliable as is the northern Pine plains section of Wyperfeld NP. A re-established population occurs at the Puckapunyal army training base near Heathcote where they may be observed from the Seymour-Tooborac road. They are also relatively common in the mountains and foothills of central and east Gippsland. A population at Serendip sanctuary near Lara is not considered self-sustaining and is restricted to the sanctuary.
MALLEEFOWL (Leipoa ocellata)
The Malleefowl is the world’s only megapode to live in an arid zone. They incubate their eggs in a large nest mound full of compost, but also use the sun’s heat as the compost dries later in summer. They are a scarce and cryptic bird of the mallee in the north west of Victoria. They reach their highest concentrations in areas long unburnt, where there is a mature shrub layer and plenty of leaf litter.They occur in all the larger mallee parks as well as isolated populations at Wychitella Flora and Fauna reserve near Wedderburn and in the Mt Arapiles/Tooan State Park. Finding a Malleefowl whilst walking through its habitat is not an easy task, especially as they tend to melt away before you get near them. Many sightings are from roadsides through bushland, and they do use adjacent crops at certain times. The southern section of Wyperfeld NP, Bronzewing Flora and Fauna reserve near Ouyen and Wandown reserve east of Annuello all have relatively high populations. They also occur throughout the mallee vegetation of Hattah NP and Murray-Sunset NP albeit in lower numbers. Stumbling across an active nest mound will certainly increase your chance of a sighting, but waiting near one is not recommended as it tends to keep the birds away. Slow driving along tracks in the early morning and later in the day is as good as any way to spot this bird.
FRECKLED DUCK (Stictonetta naevosa)
Australia’s rarest endemic duck, the Freckled Duck numbers just a few thousand birds across the continent. The population in Victoria varies greatly from year to year. They are present in most years, particularly in summer. They prefer freshwater wetlands to brackish ones, and like to feed in shallow water. Many of their favoured wetlands are ephemeral, drying up for varying time frames so conditions can change quickly. Keeping an eye on the Birdline Victoria website is probably the best way to track these birds down. The WTP at Werribee has some in most summers, but it is a vast area, and there are a lot of ducks to look through! Lake Drysdale and Lake Lorne on the Bellarine peninsula are fairly reliable too, and depending on conditions any number of lakes in northern and western Victoria can hold these birds. Lake Guyatt near Sale is a regular site in Gippsland. Without many obvious distinguishing plumage features, they are best picked out by their distinctive head and bill shape.
CAPE BARREN GOOSE (Cereopsis novaehollandiae)
The Cape Barren Goose mainly breeds on offshore islands, with some birds forming feeding flocks and visiting the mainland. They were hunted extensively during early settlement but their numbers are now recovering although they still remain quite rare, and fox predation keeps their numbers down on the mainland. They have been successfully re-introduced to Tower Hill game reserve near Warrnambool and to Serendip Sanctuary near Lara and have spread from these locations to surrounding areas. These include some of the western district lakes around Warrnambool, Lake Bolac and Colac, Lakelands park in Lara, Werribee river and mansion area, and the WTP at Werribee. Phillip island and French island are also excellent places to see Cape Barren Geese.
LITTLE PENGUIN (Eudyptula minor ssp novaehollandiae)
Little Penguins are relatively common along the Victorian coast and may be seen offshore during the day, or attending their breeding colonies at dusk or dawn. The famous Penguin parade at Phillip island is a sure way to connect with this species as well as with large numbers of homo sapiens. There are also colonies in the rocks at the base of the Twelve Apostles lookout on the Great Ocean Road and on the St Kilda breakwater close to Melbourne’s CBD, as well as on various offshore islands.
SHY ALBATROSS (WHITE-CAPPED ALBATROSS) (Thalassarche cauta ssp cauta)
The Shy Albatross breeds off Tasmania and New Zealand, and is present both on inshore and offshore waters all year, with less around in summer. Along with the Black-browed Albatross, they are far and away the two commonest to be seen in coastal waters. They are best found from around Wilsons Promontory, west to the South Australian border, particularly from headlands and sea cliffs. Some very reliable sites include Cape Schanck on the Mornington peninsula, Point Lonsdale on the Bellarine peninsula, Pt Addis, Aireys Inlet and other lookouts along the Great Ocean road, and down in the far south west at Cape Nelson, which also happens to be one of the best seabird watching spots on the coast.
Compared with a Black-browed they are slightly paler in the upperparts (dark grey rather than blackish) and the underwing only has a very narrow black margin. Closer views reveal a greyish bill, unlike the yellow of an adult Black-browed or blackish of a juvenile.
BLACK-FACED CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax fuscescens)
The endemic Black-faced Cormorant is fairly scarce but widespread along the coast, preferring offshore islands, rocky reefs and artificial structures to breed or loaf on. They do not occur away from the ocean. Regular hangouts include the Point Lonsdale lighthouse, the Twelve Apostles, Wilsons Prom, Phillip island and the Portland district in the far south west. Their numbers have declined since settlement, and have remained low since. Mainland roosting birds are often immatures.
AUSTRALASIAN BITTERN (Botaurus poiciloptilus)
The Australasian Bittern has seriously declined in Australia in recent times which has led to them being listed as endangered with a population estimate of less than 1000 birds. They prefer ephemeral wetlands particularly those with cane grass, cumbungi and reeds. They mostly breed in the Murray-Darling basin in the spring/summer,often in rice growing areas, and in winter become a more coastal species. Given the seasonality of their habitat and their very low numbers there are no guaranteed sites for this species however in summer along the Murray at the reedbeds hide, Mathoura (NSW), or at Hirds or Johnsons swamps near Cohuna if they have water are a good chance. In winter wetlands near Melbourne and Geelong usually turn up some individuals, such as WTP, Reedy lake, Braeside Park and the Edithvale wetlands etc. The far south-west is also a traditional region for this bird. Fawthrop lagoon in Portland, or Deen Maar near Lake Yambuk are both a chance. Birdline Victoria may list recent sightings, however trying to flush this species is not recommended, either for the bird or the birder. They are more active dawn/dusk and possibly at night so timing a search is the way to go.
WEDGE-TAILED EAGLE (Aquila audax ssp audax)
The Wedgie is without doubt an iconic Aussie bird, king of the skies across most of Victoria. With up to a 2.8 metre wingspan it stacks up as a decent sized raptor on the world scene. They nest in large trees, and are most common in woodlands and wooded farmlands. Naturally wary of man, close views can be hard to come by, but they regularly come to ground or perch on fence posts or low trees. In certain areas, particularly where rabbits are common, they can occur in considerable numbers. With your eyes on the skies this is a bird you should not miss.
BLACK FALCON (Falco subniger)
The Black Falcon is rare throughout its range. It is mainly a bird of open plains, where it is a specialist hunter of grassland birds, particularly quail, but it will take a wide range of other birds. With their sleek dark plumage and menacing aura, they are an exciting bird to see, and always seem to attract the attention of other raptors in the vicinity.
Present throughout the year they are however commoner in summer with their distinctive flight pattern being the best way to identify them from similar dark phase Brown Falcons. Gliding with slightly bowed wings and rapid shallow wing beats are diagnostic features.
Open grassland and farmland in the riverina district is their stronghold in Victoria. Particularly good is the area between Pyramid Hill and Echuca, called the Patho plains and also the Kerang / Swan Hill districts. They are also widespread through the mallee and Wimmera regions of western Victoria. In the south another good area is the plains and grasslands west of Melbourne, including Werribee’s WTP. They often occur appear near wetlands, and are particularly attracted to smoke, either from bushfires or from farmers burning off in the autumn.
BROLGA (Grus rubicunda)
The Brolga, one of two Crane species occurring in Australia, is still found across western and northern Victoria, frequenting open grassy plains and wetlands. They are of spiritual significance to many aboriginal people. The largest numbers now occur across the western plains of Victoria. In the country between Ballarat, Colac, Hamilton and Horsham there are many pairs and many wetlands. They feed in the shallow ephemeral wetlands of the plains but also out in dry farmland and grassland, and may be sighted whilst driving almost anywhere through this region. Much smaller numbers remain in the riverina between Kerang and Yarrawonga. A pair or two breed each year near the WTP at Werribee with wetlands and grasslands adjoining the Point Wilson road being the best places to look.
Pairs occupy territories for much of the year and breed between September and December.
In autumn (March to May) Brolgas form flocks at traditional sites, depending on the season, making them harder to find unless you stumble upon a flocking site.
LEWIN’S RAIL (Lewinia pectoralis ssp pectoralis)
Lewin’s Rails are one of the most secretive of Victoria’s rails and crakes, possibly even more so than the elusive Spotless Crake. Often gaining a sighting is more a matter of luck than good planning, with the old trick of playback being of limited use for this species. It is almost entirely a bird of southern and coastal regions, occurring in a range of damp habitats where dense low woody vegetation occurs, such as saltmarsh, swampy grassland, and swampy heathland, and occasionally reedbeds. They are also recorded away from water in damp coastal heaths and scrub. Best chances occur where bare mud is exposed next to their habitat, either due to tides or drying up of wetlands. At Werribee’s WTP the saltmarshes around the bird hide and the Little river, plus along the road at The Spit are all a chance. Truganina swamp near Altona, plus the adjacent Mt St Joseph’s pond which is situated behind Mt St Joseph’s school are also regular sites, with the best chance in summer as water levels recede. Fawthrop lagoon and Deen Maar in south-west Victoria are also well known sites. The range of calls of this species are interesting, and include a “galloping horse”!
PLAINS WANDERER (Pedionomus torquatus)
The Plains Wanderer is high on many a birder’s wish list, and has even been named amongst the top ten most sought after birds on the planet. It is an endemic species to Australia and the only member of its family Pedionominae. Looking like a cross between a Button-quail and a wader, it is almost impossible to observe in the daytime. Its habitat is sparse, open treeless native grassland and locating one requires walking or driving around its preferred habitat with spotlights at night. Due to clearance of its habitat, it is now extremely rare. They occur on the northern plains of VIctoria as well as the grasslands of the New South Wales riverina. Many occur on private land, with some also to be found on public reserves in northern Victoria. Contact me if you would like to see this bird.
PAINTED BUTTON-QUAIL (Turnix varius ssp varia)
The Painted Button-quail is an intricately marked, cryptic bird of grassy woodlands, both in the north and south of the state. They prefer sites where the ground cover is quite open with scattered grasses and plenty of leaf litter, such as drier ridges in woodland and forest, but can also occur in denser habitat. Their numbers fluctuate, and they are probably semi-nomadic. Once sighted on the ground, they may be observed quite well, particularly from a vehicle, but it is usual to flush them before seeing them. If a bird is flushed, it is best to look for others nearby rather than chase after the flushed bird. A good sign of their presence are the “platelets” that they form whilst foraging. These are near circular depressions in leaf litter, and there are usually many in a small area. The female is more brightly coloured than the male.
Chiltern Mt Pilot National Park, Barmah NP, Gunbower island NP, Heathcote-Graytown NP, and the Terrick Terrick National Park are all open grassy woodlands in the north of the state where PBQ’s are regularly seen, however they are very widespread in Victoria wherever there is forest with a sparse ground cover of grasses and plenty of leaf litter.
LITTLE BUTTON-QUAIL (Turnix velos)
Little Button-quails are a nomadic inland species, which is a scarce summer migrant to Victoria, but can occur any time from July through to April depending on the conditions. In Victoria they prefer native grasslands especially those with Stipa sp. (Speargrass). They also occur in open grassy mallee woodlands with Stipa, as well as sometimes crops and other grasslands or grassy woodlands. The grasslands of the Patho plains between Pyramid Hill and Echuca including sections of the Terrick Terrick NP have birds each year in varying numbers, and the small grassy mallee woodland remnant at Goschen near Swan Hill is also quite reliable in spring/summer. They can also occur in spinifex mallee associations of the north-west when the spinifex has seeded. As with most quail/button-quail, during the daytime normally only flushed views are to be had. Spotlighting at night gives an increased chance of views on the ground. In flight they are tiny, sandy or rufous brown, with diagnostic white undertail coverts / flanks.
LATHAM’S SNIPE (Gallinago hardwickii)
The Latham’s Snipe is the only gallinago sp.likely in the eastern states of Australia. The entire population breeds in Japan, and they occur in Victoria from August through to March. They are very widespread except the far north-west, occurring in freshwater wetlands particularly inundated grasslands. They can be hard to view on the ground, hiding in dense vegetation, and give their distinctive rasping call when flushed. Here a just some of the more reliable sites to try for this species. Wetlands around Port Fairy, Edithvale Seaford wetlands, Loddon river at Kerang, Yan Yean reservoir near Whittlesea, Banyule Flats reserve in Heidleberg, Belmont Common near Geelong, Karkarook park in Melbourne’s se suburbs, Mill Park lakes in Melbourne’s northern suburbs, wetlands around.Phillip island, Lake Colac bird sanctuary, Coolart wetlands on the Mornington peninsula.
AUSTRALIAN PAINTED SNIPE (Rostratula australis)
The Australian Painted Snipe is a recent split from the Painted Snipe found in Asia and Africa. It is a highly nomadic, nocturnal species occurring mostly in ephemeral wetlands. Most records in Victoria are during the spring and summer. They can appear anywhere but are most regular in the lowlands and plains of northern Victoria when flooding occurs. There are no sites where they are reliably found, and so up to date news through Birdline Victoria is the best way to locate this species if there are any known about. Individuals appear most years closer to Melbourne where there are more observers, and dawn or dusk are definitely the best times to go looking.
BANDED STILT (Cladorhynchus leucocephalus)
The Banded Stilt is an endemic wader which until relatively recently had never been recorded breeding. It turned out that this species waits for flooding rains to fill the giant salt lakes of inland South and West Australia when it occurs in vast colonies. The rest of the time it spends nomadically seeking out suitable saline wetlands. In Victoria they are almost entirely found in the west of the state. Numbers and locations vary depending on the time of year and rainfall patterns. As winter rains fill inland salt lakes Banded Stilts may appear and remain until these pans dry up in spring and summer ( especially from Sept to Nov). Some regular traditional flocking sites include Lake Tutchewop near Kerang, Lake Ranfurley near Mildura, Lakes Wyn Wyn, Heard, Oliver and Mitre (all near Natimuk) and White lake, Centre lake and North lake all near Douglas. On occasion flocks may exceed 10,000 birds.
They are also regular at more coastal sites including the Moolap/Pt Henry saltworks near Geelong, Werribee’s WTP, Lake Victoria near Pt Lonsdale, Truganina swamp near Altona, and the Cheetham wetlands near Avalon.
At a distance the best way to pick out Banded Stilts which are often in mixed flocks with other Stilts and Avocets, is by their all white head and neck.
HOODED DOTTEREL (HOODED PLOVER) (Thinornis rubricollis)
The Hooded Plover is a bird of ocean beaches, and has declined due to disturbance from people and dogs at its nesting grounds, however efforts by volunteers are starting to see them breed more successfully again at some of the busier sites. They are scarce but may be found along much of the Victorian coastline, with particularly good areas being the far south-west around Portland and Port Fairy, south Gippsland (eg Phillip island, Wilsons Promontory) and far east Gippsland ( Croajingolong NP). Closer to Melbourne small numbers still occur on the Bellarine peninsula, the Mornington peninsula and the start of the Great Ocean road (Anglesea, Airey’s inlet). The quieter ocean beaches are usually the most rewarding, and signage plus fenced enclosures are clues to the presence of breeding pairs. These enclosures should be observed from a distance during the spring and summer breeding season. They also occur inland at Lake Victoria on the Bellarine peninsula. They are an unmistakable bird when seen.
BANDED LAPWING (Vanellus tricolor)
Another stunning endemic wader, the Banded Lapwing is a scarce bird of treeless plains where very short grass or bare ground occurs. Heavily grazed native grassland is a favoured habitat, but they also occur on ploughed land, airfields, saline herbfields and cleared parts of the mallee. In hot weather they will rarely be far from water. They form pairs at breeding territories in winter and spring, then later in summer flock together, occasionally up to one hundred have been seen. They are commonest in the Victorian riverina, and are also regular throughout western Victoria and the plains west of Melbourne. Close to Melbourne a regular area to look are the roads around the Avalon airfield and Beach road as it approaches the WTP. Also the plains east of the You Yangs and north of Little river, such as along Bulbans road. All across the northern plains they consistently occur far from trees and where grassland is grazed very short. A particularly good area is the Patho plains between Echuca and Mitiamo. This is a bird mostly seen whilst travelling to or from a birding site rather than at a targeted destination !
PACIFIC GULL (Larus pacificus ssp pacificus)
This large endemic gull has an extraordinary puffin like bill and is quite common along parts of the coast such as Port Phillip bay, Westernport and the Gippsland lakes. They prefer to feed in intertidal areas, also using nearby rubbish tips. Close to Melbourne they are readily seen on beaches around St Kilda, Brighton and Beaumaris (eg Ricketts point). They are scarce along the Great Ocean road where there is a lack of feeding habitat. They breed during spring on islands in Bass straight, when adults may become scarce, but immature birds remain along the Victorian coast
FAIRY TERN (Sternula nereis ssp nereis)
The Fairy Tern is present year round in Victoria with a few breeding colonies mainly in Port Phillip bay and Westernport. They frequent sheltered coastal bays and also feed over coastal saltworks. They are most regularly reported from the coastline at Werribee’s WTP, where they may be observed from the end of Beach road which is a public road, and also along the track to the Spit. Other sites to look include Edwards point wildlife reserve and Lake Victoria both on the Bellarine peninsula, Corner inlet and Lake Tyers in Gippsland, plus French island and Reef island both in Westernport.
Identification form Little Terns is usually fairly straightforward, but the variety of plumages depending on age and time of year is confusing, so some care is required. This photo depicts an adult Fairy Tern transitioning from breeding to non breeding plumage
BRUSH BRONZEWING (Phaps elegans ssp elegans)
This pigeon, endemic to southern Australia, is one of many birds that field guides don’t seem to be able to do justice to. The adult male is a stunning bird, but obtaining good views can be tricky. They are reasonably common, occurring in a variety of habitats throughout central and southern Victoria, always where there is a dense shrub layer. Favoured areas include the Grampians NP, the mallee scrubs around Bendigo, Wedderburn and the Little Desert, coastal heathlands in the far south-west, along the Great Ocean road, and throughout Gippsland in a wide range of localities especially closer to the coast. Their presence is often indicated by their “oom oom” call which is higher pitched and more rapid than the Common Bronzewing. In flight they appear smaller and darker brown or rufous. They come to drink at dawn and dusk which is one way to observe them on the ground. They also like to come out of the dense scrub onto quieter roads in the early morning and late evening, so a drive at that time is a good bet.
(Calyptorhynchus funereus ssp funereus eVic, ssp xanthonotus wVic)
A south-east Australian speciality the Yellow-tailed Black is a magnificent bird, especially when seen as a flock in flight. They are widespread and common throughout higher rainfall southern Victoria in wet forests and heaths. They also come out into farmland to feed, sometimes in large numbers, and have benefitted from introduced pines, as they love nothing better than ripping apart pine cones. Their distinctive call is often the first sign of their presence.
GANG-GANG COCKATOO (Callocephalon fimbriatum)
The Gang Gang also only occurs in south-east Australia, but its range is a little more limited than its larger cousin, and it rarely forms large flocks. They are however also a bird of the higher rainfall regions, particularly the far south-west, the Grampians NP, the Otways and much of eastern Victoria except for the northern plains. They largely leave the high country in winter, when birds may wander a little further north and also into suburban Melbourne. Both sexes have an unusual curly crest , and a distinctive “squeaky door” call. Close to Melbourne the best areas to try are the Anglesea/Airey’s Inlet area on the Ocean road, and to the east the Yarra ranges NP and Bunyip state park.
MAJOR MITCHELLS COCKATOO (PINK COCKATOO) (Lophochroa leadbeateri)
Australia is certainly the land of the parrot, and one of the most extraordinarily beautiful is the Major Mitchell, or Pink Cockatoo. They are a bird of the dry inland parts of southern Australia, and have been the target of nest thieves for the cage bird trade. In Victoria they only occur in small numbers in the far north-west, with Wyperfeld NP, Hattah NP and Murray-Sunset NP being their strongholds. Rather than the monotonous mallee eucalypt scrub that covers vast areas in the north-west, they prefer more open country where Callitris pine and Casuarina grows. Areas to look include around the Hattah lakes, the Pine Plains section of Wyperfeld NP, and Pink lakes or the Raak plain in Murray-Sunset NP. Early morning is particularly good as they are more vocal and tend to be flying here and there. The soft pink plumage and amazing crest of this bird make it a major highlight for many visiting Victoria, and it is often possible to approach these birds to a very close range. Should anyone suspicious be seen in their remote habitat, particularly vehicles with ladders, these should be reported to the police.
SUPERB PARROT (Polytelis swainsonii)
Yet another south-east Australian endemic, the Superb Parrot is localised in Victoria, with is core range being in NSW. In late winter and spring to early summer (July to December) they may be found near to their nesting grounds in the Barmah forest along the Murray river. They tend to feed in the drier box woodlands adjacent to the Red Gum forests where they breed, so any roadsides in the Barmah to Cobram region are worth checking particularly close to the edge of the Barmah NP. Access into the Barmah forest may be restricted due to flooding so checking the park web page is worthwhile. Just across the border, the Gulpa state forest south of Deniliquin is another area that these birds frequent in the breeding season. By mid-summer they leave their nesting areas and roam further inland in NSW across the plains and Myall woodlands such as those to the north of Deniliquin. These are an elegant, long tailed, fast flying parrot, and should not be confused with any others where the occur.
REGENT PARROT (Polytelis anthopeplus ssp monarchoides)
In Victoria the Regent Parrot occurs only in the far north-west, where they breed in River Red Gums along the Murray river and the lake systems of Wyperfeld NP. They require these breeding areas to be adjacent to uncleared mallee country where they feed, and as such their main numbers now occur from Boundary bend downstream through Robinvale, Wemen and Hattah NP to Nangiloc/Colignan. The smaller Wyperfeld NP breeding population is mostly in the south of the park. Outside of the breeding season they occur further afield in the Murray-Sunset NP for example where they roam widely in search of food. They also feed from cereal crops and orchards where they can come into conflict with humans. Key sites to look for this species are around Hattah lakes and the full length of the nearby Murray-Kulkyne regional park, Boundary Bend, as well as the southern section of Wyperfeld NP.
MULGA PARROT (Psephotus varius)
Another parrot species only found in the north west of Victoria, the beautiful Mulga Parrot lives in the dry woodlands of the region, both in mallee eucalypt woodlands and more open cypress pine/casuarina woodlands. Unlike some of the other parrot species they’re rarely recorded along roadsides except where these are adjacent to larger bushland areas. They are similar in size to the Red-rumped Parrot, but have a longer tail, and the male has more splashes of colour in his plumage. All the larger continuous mallee reserves have good populations of Mulga Parrots, but they don’t occur south of Wyperfeld NP or in cleared areas. They usually flush when disturbed, but with patience will continue to feed and allow for reasonably close approach.
SWIFT PARROT (Lathamus discolour)
The Swift Parrot has the longest migration of any parrot in the world, with some reaching southern Queensland from their Tasmanian breeding grounds. Victoria is their most important wintering area, with birds arriving from early April and most leaving by late September. They certainly have their favoured sites, however as their food resources of nectar and lerps are inconsistent each year, their range in Victoria varies. Searching for Swifties is best done in the morning or late afternoon when they are noisier and on the move more. During the middle of the day they can easily be missed as they quietly rest in the canopy where they blend in to the point of being virtually invisible. Look for larger flowering trees, and the presence of other nectar feeders, especially the smaller honeyeaters and lorikeets which are good indicator species. Their distinctive calls are also key to locating them. Key areas include the box-ironbark woodlands around Maryborough, Castlemaine, Newstead, Dunolly, Moliagul, Bealiba, Rheola and Kingower in north-central Victoria. Equally as good are the north-eastern woodlands around Chiltern and Killawarra. On migration more southern areas attract birds passing though such as the You Yangs, Serendip sanctuary and parklands around Greater Melbourne, and in some years birds may remain in these areas for some months. At times they appear at a range of other sites, and Birdline Victoria often has reports in season.
TURQUOISE PARROT (Neophema pulchella)
Turquoise Parrots occur in two main areas of Victoria, the north-eastern box-ironbark woodlands, and east Gippsland. Chiltern NP and the Warby Ranges near Wangaratta are the two most reliable areas, with pairs spread through these areas in the breeding season and some flocking occurring in autumn. In the heat of summer they use waterholes and farm dams in the bush to drink. They are often observed around the edges of these parks, and in the autumn may occur further afield such as the Killawarra forest, and in farmland.
In east Gippsland they are regularly reported in Cape Conran coastal park (along the Old Coast Road), and at Canni creek racecourse at Buchan south.
The male Turq is a most stunning Parrot but they are diminutive and without a loud distinctive call, plus they are generally quite shy, and don’t like to settle in one place too long so gaining great views can be a challenge.
BLUE-WINGED PARROT (Neophema chrysostoma)
Blue-wings are the most regular of all the neophema parrots in Victoria and may be seen across southern Victoria except for east Gippsland, as well as through north central and north west Victoria on migration, however they are generally scarce and always noteworthy.
Some birds leave Victoria for more northern inland areas of NSW and South Australia, and it is on northward migration in April and again in October that they may appear at sites in the north-west. Particularly in October, Goschen bushland reserve, and the saltmarsh around Lake Tutchewop near Kerang are quite reliable. Tasmanian birds arrive in winter and boost the local numbers, with flocks occurring at saltmarshes and wet grasslands and around open wetlands in the south. Highest numbers and most reliable sites are coastal from south Gippsland to the Otways, the southern Grampians, the Little Desert, and south west Victoria. Anywhere in western Victoria Blue-wings should be looked at carefully as the Elegant Parrot is sometimes present, alone or in mixed groups. Closer to Melbourne some key sites include the grasslands and saltmarshes at Werribee’s WTP (mainly in winter), and the coastal heaths and grasslands around Anglesea and Airey’s inlet.
ORANGE-BELLIED PARROT (Neophema chrysogaster)
Sadly the Orange-bellied Parrot is on the verge of extinction in the wild. Currently the only way to realistically see this bird is to travel to Melaleuca in south west Tasmania in the summer breeding season. In winter the 30 or so remaining birds are spread out from South Australia to NSW along the coast, and few are found during the regular winter counts. Werribee’s WTP still plays host to some birds in most winters, but these sightings are kept quiet so that the birds are not disturbed. It is well worth however keeping an eye out between April and September, and reporting any potential sightings to the OBP recovery group. Historically they frequented south-west Victoria, the Gippsland lakes as well as sites on the Bellarine peninsula.
BLACK-EARED CUCKOO (Chrysococcyx osculans)
Black-eared Cuckoos are very scarce throughout Australia, mostly being recorded in Victoria from August until the end of the year when they cease calling. Some remain and may be seen through until March or April. Nearly all records are from northern parts of the state especially from mallee woodlands and box-ironbark forests. Numbers fluctuate somewhat, from very scarce to extremely scarce! The most regular sites include Wyperfeld National Park, Greater Bendigo NP ( the northern mallee sections), Inglewood flora reserve (north of Inglewood), Heathcote-Graytown National Park (including Mt Ida, Forest drive and Bailieston), Warby Ranges NP, and closer to Melbourne in the Brisbane Ranges ( Anakie gorge). Best located by their call, Black-eared Cuckoos parasitise a range of species including Speckled Warbler and Redthroat.
POWERFUL OWL (Ninox Strenua)
Australia’s largest Owl occurs only in south-eastern Australia, in a range of habitats from tall wet forest to drier woodlands in central Victoria. They breed in winter, at which time the male roosts close to the nest tree. Once the young has fledged they move as a family to other roost sites nearby. Knowing a roost site is the key to finding them as during the night they hunt over a large territory. Roost sites are not reliable with these birds having a number which they use as the whim takes them. Their prey includes possums, birds and flying foxes, but mostly possums, and as such they need areas with plenty of tree hollows, including one big enough for them to nest in. There are a few pairs along the Yarra river which flows through the Melbourne suburbs, with areas to try including Wilson reserve, Banyule Flats, Blue Tongue Bend, and Jumping Creek reserve. Often, but not always they will roost in introduced trees, either deciduous trees in summer, or introduced pines. Birdline Victoria often publishes roosting birds as they appear.
GREATER SOOTY OWL (Tyto tenebricosa)
This charismatic hunter of wet gullies and rainforests through the eastern part of Victoria is a real prize for the patient and dedicated observer. They only occur in large areas of continuous forest, preferring sites with a healthy understory and plenty of large old trees. Sites closer to Melbourne include the Yarra Ranges NP ( Badgers weir, Donelleys weir), Bunyip State Park and Tarago state forest. Further east the best areas are in East Gippsland, such as Fairy Dell near Bruthen, the Cape Conran area including the Cabbage tree palms reserve, and the Bemm river area, Errinundra NP.
Many birders look for this species in the Bunyip state park where good bush tracks allow for miles of night driving. Link road, Ash landing road, Black Snake creek road and various sites along Tonimbuk road which roughly follows the Diamond creek. Tarago road following the Tarago river is also a chance. Frequent stops in the denser gullies and listening for calls is the way to go, and these Owls have large territories so success is far from guaranteed! Breeding season varies with autumn/winter a good time to search for these Owls. As with many nightbirds, once located they are not particularly afraid of humans.
AUSTRALIAN OWLET-NIGHTJAR (Aegotheles cristatus ssp cristatus)
Most of the members of this small family totalling 8 species occur in New Guinea. Only one species occurs in Australia where it is widespread occupying a range of habitats. They are commonest in drier woodlands, such as mature open mallee woodlands, black box woodlands and box-ironbark forests especially adjacent to open areas. They roost in tree hollows during the day. Their body temperature fluctuates, with them becoming torpid during low temperatures. They often appear at the entrances to their hollows to soak up the morning sun, and particularly where hollows are low down in trees, just walking past them in the daytime can be enough to flush them out. They generally don’t fly far and perch before relocating to another hollow nearby. Look for small to medium sized hollows, often horizontal branches which have broken off and rotted out
At night they are tricky to find, do not show any eye shine, and are not particularly responsive to playback. They also tend to shy away from bright light, so a low level of light and a lot of patience is required. They tend to perch low in trees and may come to ground to feed. They call reliably at dawn and dusk, and may also call during the daytime from their roosting sites.
TAWNY FROGMOUTH (Podargus strigoides ssp strigoides coastal, ssp brachypterus inland)
Frogmouths as a family are more widespread than Owlet-Nightjars, occurring as far as SEAsia. The endemic Tawny Frogmouth is just as widespread as the Owlet-Nightjar, but is seen much more frequently as it is a larger bird which normally roosts on a tree branch where they sit motionless pretending to be a piece of wood. They occur in a range of woodlands usually where there are clearings and open ground to hunt in. In the drier north-west they are mostly found in River Red Gum forests along the river systems. They build a flimsy stick nest in the fork of a tree, and so from September to November are readily viewed if a nesting site is known. Once the young have fledged they move away, but the parents will likely return to the same tree to nest the following year. They are quite common throughout the eastern suburbs of Melbourne including along the Yarra river. Look for larger eucalyptus trees with bark which mirrors their plumage where they will often perch on larger branches to blend in. Spotlighting drives in farmland and along the edges of forests where there are large gum trees are often successful in finding this species which must be Victoria’s commonest night bird. Not much phases them during the daytime, but if threatened they extend their body out to appear more like a tree branch.
SUPERB LYREBIRD (Menura novaehollandiae ssp victoriae)
One of Australia’s most spectacular birds, the Superb Lyrebird is a most extraordinary mimic, and uses its flamboyant tail in a spectacular display. Endemic to south-eastern Australia, Superb Lyrebirds inhabit wet forests in eastern Victoria especially where an open ground layer of damp leaf-litter is shaded by dense tree ferns, shrubs and trees. They sing at any time of year, but most vigorously in the winter breeding season. Their calls carry far through the forests, indicating their presence, but getting a sighting is a little harder. They are fond of feeding along roadsides and in clearings or picnic grounds early morning and later in the day with some birds being relatively fearless of humans. The Dandenong ranges close to Melbourne are famous for their Lyrebirds, with the Sherbrooke forest and Ferntree Gully sections the best to look, but get out early as many walkers visit these areas. A little further out of Melbourne the following are all good sites. Badgers Weir in the Yarra ranges NP, Wirrawalla rainforest walk near Toolangi, Link road in Bunyip state park, and almost anywhere along the Donna Buang road which goes through the mountains between Healesville and Warburton. This species remains quite common throughout the Victorian highlands and East Gippsland. It is relatively easy to hear their incredible song, but to see their full display is another matter as they are often in dense habitat.
RED-BROWED TREECREEPER (Climacteris erythrops)
This south-east Australian endemic is easily overlooked, with its indistinct call and small size as it forages on the trunks of giant forest trees. They are widespread throughout the higher rainfall eucalypt forests of eastern Victoria, and do make it to the west of Melbourne in the Wombat state forest. In most of their range they are outnumbered by the more noticeable White-throated Treecreeper, but when seen their smaller size and darker overall plumage is quite noticeable. They are reasonably common in the Dandenong Ranges. Other good sites include Donelleys weir in Yarra ranges NP and Bunyip state park along Tonimbuk road
WHITE-BROWED TREECREEPER (Climacteris affinis ssp affinis)
This inland treecreeper is very localised in north-west Victoria, only occurring in the few remaining high quality cypress pine/casuarina woodlands that retain a healthy understory of shrubs. The superficially similar Brown Treecreeper occurs in the same region, but tends to stick to the mallee and black box eucalypt woodlands. Yarrara flora and fauna reserve to the north of Murray-Sunset NP is a well-known and reliable site for this species. More accessible areas further south include Timberoo flora and fauna reserve, Wyperfeld NP (the northern section along Meridian track) and smaller remnant pine woodlands near Walpeup and Patchewollock, though they only occur at relatively low densities. Their distinctive ringing call is the usual give away, though it can be hard to pinpoint it’s direction. With good views the bolder black and white streaking on the underparts and ear coverts are clear, and the upperparts are a darker slate brown.
STRIATED GRASSWREN (Amytornis striatus ssp striatus)
The Striated is the only species of Grasswren found in Victoria and occurs in mallee vegetation with abundant porcupine grass. They feed from the ground where they hop around at quite a speed. They are excellent at staying out of sight when they want to, with patient observation the best way to get views of this bird. Typically they give themselves away with their high pitched insect like alarm calls. Once they have settled they will likely just carry on feeding. The most accessible areas to look for this cracking bird in Hattah-Kulkyne NP and Murray-Sunset NP. At Hattah they may be found in the mallee spinifex associations on the western side of the park, closest to the Calder highway. Nowingi track and Konardin track are good places to start, but 4WD is required to safely drive here. Parking at the western end of Nowingi track where it meets the Old Calder highway and walking in is a good option, or walk onto Konardin track from near Lake Mournpall. They also occur further south in the park in suitable habitat south of the Robinvale road and adjacent to the Calder highway. In Murray Sunset NP the best place to try is along Pioneer drive in the Pink lakes section of the park, accessible by 2WD.
SPLENDID FAIRY-WREN (Malurus splendens ssp melanotus)
One of Australia’s most beautiful birds, the Splendid Fairy-wren is quite common in Victoria’s far north-west where it largely replaces the Superb Fairy-wren. They occur in mallee, pine and riverine vegetation but always where there is a good shrub layer and plenty of bare ground from which to feed. In the mallee they are often in areas of tea tree scrub on dunes. They are plentiful in shrubby pine and casuarina woodlands, and also occur under Black Box and River red Gum woodlands along the rivers where they use Tangled Lignum to hide in. From late summer (March/April) through to late winter (August/Sept) nearly all male birds lose their stunning blue plumage and go into eclipse which is similar to the brown female plumage. They are generally a little shyer than the Superb, but are less used to people in the dry habitats they frequent. They are quite common throughout Wyperfeld NP, and in the nearby pine and mallee remnants. They are also readily found around the Hattah lakes system in the revegetating dunes. In Murray-Sunset they are a little scarcer, preferring the areas with densest shrub layers. They do not require surface water to survive.
WHITE-WINGED FAIRY-WREN (Malurus leucopterus ssp leuconotus)
This species occurs in north-west and north-central Victoria in treeless areas with dense low shrubs and open areas to feed. This most often occur in saline areas along the lower and mid Murray valley especially around salt lakes where samphire, bluebush and saltbush grows. They are also found in treeless native grasslands and wetlands on the northern plains where they live in lignum and nitrebush. Many males lose their colour and enter an eclipse plumage but for a much shorter time than the Splendid Fairy-wren, typically in early to mid-winter. Also a higher proportion of males stay blue all year. However it is typical to see six brown birds for every blue male, with the fullplumage males being generally less cooperative in showing themselves, except to their own I guess !
The most southerly birds in treeless grasslands and lignum wetlands on the Patho plains west of Echuca and the plains country between Pyramid Hill and Kerang (eg around Gladfield and Macorna where they are quite common). They may be seen around many of the Kerang lakes including Lake Murphy, Fosters swamp, Hirds swamp, Lake Kelly and Lake Tutchewop. They are also common around the large salt lakes of the mallee near Sea lake such as Lake Tyrell and Lake Tiboram, and north of Hattah at Boonoonar.
MALLEE EMU-WREN (Stipiturus mallee)
The Mallee Emu-wren is the closest thing Victoria has to an endemic bird. Most of the tiny world population of this tiny bird occurs in Victoria, and recent fires may have eliminated the small South Australian population. They occur in similar habitat and locations to the Striated Grasswren (see above), however they behave quite differently. Similar insect like calls are usually the first sign of their presence, even fainter and weaker than the Grasswren call. However their modus operandi is to hide within large clumps of porcupine grass, and weakly fly from tussock to tussock. Like the Grasswren, they are adept at getting away without being seen.
In very cold, very hot or very windy weather they tend to lay low and may be impossible to observe. Best conditions are warm and with no wind when they are most likely to be out feeding both within and around the outsides of their prickly homes.
Across the extensive mallee spinifex woodlands of Hattah NP and Murray-Sunset NP, they are still scarce and localised, seeming to prefer patches where the spinifex clumps are largest and the cover of mallee eucalypts the densest.
SOUTHERN EMU-WREN (Stipiturus malachurus)
This Emu-wren is much more abundant and more brightly coloured than its desert cousins, however it can still be frustratingly hard to see in adverse weather conditions. In body size these birds are tiny balls, towing an extraordinarily long wispy tail behind them.
They occur in a variety of vegetation associations in coastal and near coastal Victoria, but always where there is a continuous cover of dense vegetation typically around waist to shoulder height and with or without emergent trees. Wet heaths and open heathy woodlands are their favoured habitats, being most common in East Gippsland, around the Wilsons Prom area, the Anglesea heath and in the far south west. They also occur further inland in the Grampians NP (especially the southern parts) and in Bunyip State Park (such as Camp road and the Buttongrass walk). Listen for their faint insect like calls and have lots of patience !
(Dasyornis broadbenti ssp caryochrous Otways, ssp broadbenti SWVic)
This endemic Australian family has three species, all of which are localised in their occurrence. The Rufous Bristlebird is only found along the coastal region from the mouth of the Murray river in South Australia eastwards to Torquay south-west of Melbourne. They remain fairly common within their range, however sightings are not always easy. They prefer tall shrublands of wattle, melaleuca and she-oak, and in the Otways and near Portland occur some way inland. They have a very loud and distinctive call, but prefer to stay hidden within their dense environment. The best way to catch a decent sighting once their presence is confirmed is to sit and wait at a gap in the undergrowth where a view of the bare ground underneath can be had. These birds are territorial, do regular rounds of their home range, and will no doubt pass by eventually. Many of the good places to look for this bird are in busy touristy locations, so getting out early is the way to go. Well known sites to try include Point Addis, Split Point Lighthouse near Airey’s Inlet, the car park at Loch Ard Gorge, and Cape Nelson, however they can be found at many places in between
PILOTBIRD (Pycnoptilus floccosus ssp sandlandii)
Yet another south-east Australian endemic, the Pilotbird is not uncommon but hard to observe. It occurs throughout the high rainfall parts of eastern Victoria, from the treeline in the alps right down to some coastal sites in East Gippsland. They feed from the ground, and prefer damp sites where there is a dense ground cover of ferns or shrubs, and will move into dense forest regrowth after fire. Like the Bristlebird they have a loud far carrying call, and the fine art of “pishing” can work to bring them into view.
Some accessible areas to try include Toolangi state forest and Mt St Leonard, Mt Donna Buang near Warburton, the denser gullies in Bunyip state park including in the eastern section recovering from fire, Tarra Bulga NP, Cabbage tree palms reserve, and the East and West Capes at Cape Conran. They behave like an oversized Scrubwren and the rusty coloured face and breast is diagnostic within their range.
(Calamanthus pyrrhopygius ssp pyrrhopygius)
Yet another skulking south-eastern Australian endemic, this species has a sweet and varied song which incorporates much mimicry, and is best heard in late winter to spring. It is a bird of heathy woodland, both along the coast and inland to central Victoria. They are scarce and hard to observe throughout their range, with “pishing” being a useful tool.
Areas to try include the southern parts of the Greater Bendigo NP ( around Sedgewick/Mandurang/Spring gully/Crusoe reservoir), Grampians NP (Mt Zero, Mt Stapylton), Heathcote-Graytown NP ( Mt Ida/Bailleston historic reserve), Anglesea heath, Brisbane Ranges NP (Orchid track/Switch road/Nelson track), and Chiltern Mt Pilot NP (Skeleton track and Mt Pilot section).
SHY HEATHWREN (Calamanthus cautus ssp cauta)
The inland cousin of the Chestnut-rumped Heathwren, this species is restricted to mallee country with dense heathy areas. It is more brightly coloured, much commoner within its range and thus a little easier to observe despite it’s name. It also boasts a sweet and varied song, but lacks mimicry. These two Heathwren’s ranges overlap near Bendigo and at Mt Arapiles, but they utilise different habitats. They respond to “pishing” but only for a quicklook before flitting off back to cover. They are active on the ground, cock their tail in the air, and are fast moving. The bold eyebrow, bold streaking on the breast, rufous rump, black and white notch at the fold in the wing and large bill are all good id pointers. Good sites to try include the mallee sections of the Greater Bendigo NP ( northern Whipstick and Kamarooka), Inglewood flora reserve north of Inglewood, Wychitella flora reserve, heathlands in the Little Desert NP, and Wyperfeld NP (eg Discovery walk).
(Calamanthus fuliginosus ssp boumeorum wVic, ssp albiloris eVic)
One of two Fieldwrens found in Victoria, the Striated is restricted to the far south-east of Australia. In Victoria it may be found along much of the coastline an adjacent country in mostly treeless wet sedgelands, grasslands and heaths including dunes. When in song they always perch up on the top of a bush, often with tail cocked, this being the easiest way to locate them. The rest of the time they tend to spend skulking! They are relatively common where they occur, with good sites including the western coastline of Port Phillip Bay (Altona, Point Cook/ Werribee WTP), The Great Ocean road (treeless low heaths and grasslands), and the Gippsland coast (Wilsons Prom, Gippsland lakes etc).
BLACK-EARED MINER (Manorina melanotis)
The Black-eared Miner is a highly endangered species due to the fact that much of its preferred habitat has either suffered wildfire, or become fragmented through land clearance allowing Yellow-throated Miners to penetrate their territories and interbreed. Most if not all remaining colonies of Black-eared Miners contain a mixture of various hybrids. They occur in large areas of unbroken habitat, rather than the edges and roadsides preferred by their Yellow-throated cousins. They also behave rather differently, being a much shyer bird, with extensive territories in remote country. The Murray-Sunset NP is the only real chance in Victoria however colonies are scarce, numbers very low and confirming a bird is not a hybrid requires close examination.
REGENT HONEYEATER (Anthocaera phrygia)
Regent Honeyeaters were still relatively common in Victoria in the 1950’s, but have now become virtually extinct in this state. A recovery effort is underway, releasing captive bred birds into Chiltern Mt Pilot NP, north-east Victoria, to boost the remaining wild population. They usually arrive in the Chiltern area in autumn to take advantage of winter nectar supplies, and to breed in late winter/spring. It is unclear where they go in summer. This beautifully marked black and gold Honeyeater does rarely still appear outside of Chiltern, but only sporadically. Some areas to try between April and October include Greenhill dam next to Greenhill road, Honeyeater picnic area and Klotz track. They particularly like flowering Ironbarks and flowering WhiteBox. If seen they should be reported. Look for any leg bands.
BELL MINER (Manorina melanophrys)
Once in the vicinity of a Bell Miner colony it is impossible to not know they are there! as they make their bell like pinging contact call all day to keep their colony together. Despite the incessant noise it can take some time to sight the birds which blend into their environment beautifully. They are strongly colonial, defending their territory from other insectivorous birds. They prefer lowland gully forests, and tall riparian forests with a dense understory. The population to the north and east of Melbourne extends into the suburbs along the Yarra river and Dandenong creek (Koomba park). Other sites include the Yea wetlands, the Little Yarra crossing at Yarra junction, the Cannibal creek south of Bunyip state park, and the Royal Botanical gardens. Their other major stronghold in Victoria is the East Gippsland region particularly around Lakes Entrance, Buchan and Orbost, again usually in tall riparian forests.
(Lichenostomus cratitius ssp occidentalis)
This localised honeyeater reaches the eastern limit of its Australian range in central Victoria. It inhabits rather dense mallee heaths, especially those with stands of Broombush (a dense multi-stemmed shrub). Due to its active nature and dense habitat this bird can be hard to get a good look at, however it does comes out into the open to feed from eucalypt blossom and to drink in warmer weather. Key sites for this bird in Victoria are the Little Desert NP, and the Greater Bendigo NP. The Kiata area of Little Desert is a regular haunt in mallee broombush associations. They may be seen from the Kiata south road, along the road to the campground and also along the northern end of Salt lake track. Near Bendigo they are found all year in the northern Whipstick forest and Kamarooka sections of the Greater Bendigo NP. Good sites to try are mallee areas north of Skylark road, along Campbells road and in the heaths along Burnside road. There are waterholes along Campbells road which attract birds to drink in hotter weather. They are commonest in the remote Big Desert, with sightings further east in the adjacent Wyperfeld NP from time to time.
Plumage-wise they do not stand out from the crowd, but the combination of size (a little larger than the average honeyeater) grey crown, blackish mask, yellow throat and ear tuft are enough to clinch id. The purple gape is hard to see unless in good light and at close range.
PAINTED HONEYEATER (Grantiella picta)
Despite a widespread range through eastern Australia, the Painted Honeyeater is a much sought after species due to its scarcity and nomadic nature. It is well and truly a mistletoe specialist, relying on the fruits of various mistletoes for food, particularly when breeding. They are mostly a summer migrant to Victoria, with just a few wintering records, often in areas of flowering White Box. Typically arriving in late September and October, they set up territories through the drier woodlands on the inland side of the dividing range, where abundant mistletoe is flowering and fruiting. They call frequently and loudly from arrival until nesting is well under way later in spring and summer. There are a few sites that play host to Painted Honeyeaters in most years. These include Dunach NCR 5 kms NW of Clunes, Mt Korong near Wedderburn, Killawarra forest “the camp”, and Chiltern-MtPilot NP eg Bartley’s block. They may however turn up anywhere there is abundant mistletoe especially through the box-ironbark country of central and north-east Victoria. Birdline Victoria carries recent reports of this species.
(Phylidonyris pyrrhopterus ssp pyrrhoptera)
Endemic to south-eastern Australia the Crescent Honeyeater occurs in the high rainfall parts of Victoria from the coast to the tree-line in the alps. They inhabit a variety of habitats but especially wet heaths and gully forests. Local movements occur in winter with birds tending to leave the colder wetter areas in the mountains. They are commonest through the southern and eastern uplands throughout Gippsland, in the Otway ranges, the Grampians NP, and in the far south-west near Portland. The loud and distinctive contact call “eejik” or “egypt” gives away their presence however they are often hard to locate in the mid to upper canopy of the tall eucalypts they often frequent. When flowering shrubs attract them down lower sightings become easier, but they still have a knack of staying well out of sight.
This is a small and very active honeyeater and unmistakable once the combination of the yellow wing flash and crescent marking is seen, though care is needed to identify immature birds.
BLACK HONEYEATER (Sugomel nigrum)
The tiny Black Honeyeater is a highly nomadic desert species which visits north-western Victoria every spring and summer, but in varying numbers. In good years they may be more widespread reaching central Victoria and sometimes even southern Vic, though this is a rare occurrence. The vast majority of sightings are in the north-west in flowering patches of Long-leaved Emubush, a plant which is often found along roadsides, railway lines and smaller bushland reserves. This plant flowers from late September/October through to December/January, long enough for Black Honeyeaters to breed. They also commonly feed from flowering mistletoe. Later in summer they either disappear, or roam around taking advantage of any other nectar sources they find. Being such a small honeyeater, they are bottom of the pecking order, so are often excluded from the richest nectar sources. It’s not uncommon to find the Blacks ousted to the periphery of an area of flowering shrubs where they can survive on minimal nectar, whilst the larger honeyeaters feast on the easiest pickings. Virtually any patch of flowering emubush is worth checking. Some known regular sites include Goschen bushland reserve near Swan Hill, roadside vegetation at Gama and emubush stands north-west of Ouyen, north of Walpeup and near Patchewollock.
ORANGE CHAT (Epthianura aurifrons)
The brilliant Orange Chat is a true desert specialist, occurring in typically treeless saltbush plains especially in the low growing samphire/glasswort shrublands fringing saline wetlands.
The saline lakes in the Kerang Swan Hill district (eg Lake Tutchewop and Lake Kelly) and at Lake Tyrell near Sea Lake are the most reliable sites, with peak numbers occurring in spring and early summer. They may also be found in sparse native grasslands of the north-west such as occur in the Copi and Raak plains, and the Avoca plains west of Kerang. Orange Chats are only rarely observed in winter in Victoria. The feed from bare ground in between the low shrubs, and often occur in loose groups. Individuals in a group will regularly perch up to check for danger before resuming feeding, so repeated scanning of suitable habitat is often the best way to locate them. After DNA analysis, the 4 species of Australian Chat are now included in the Honeyeater family
FLAME ROBIN (Petroica Phoenicia)
In Victoria the Flame Robin has very distinct seasonal movements, spending the summer in open areas of the wet uplands. especially at high altitudes. They are also fond of recently burnt or logged areas which they may inhabit for up to 3 years or so.
In autumn they descend to lowlands and may be seen in open woodlands, pastures and grasslands, where they can become quite conspicuous and noticed by non-birders as “Robin Redbreasts”. Wintering birds include some that migrate from Tasmania.
Some accessible summer sites include any of the skiing centres in the alps, Mt Donna Buang near Warburton, The Tanglefoot trails in Toolangi State Forest and Mt William in the Grampians. Between April and August they are easier to find through much of central, eastern and south-western Victoria where they favour very short-grazed grasslands or ploughed land, and often perch on fencelines.
PINK ROBIN (Petroica rodinogaster ssp inexpectata)
The Pink Robin is not a common species in Victoria (it is only in Tasmania where they could be regarded as relatively common). In summer they are restricted to high rainfall upland rainforests and some gully forests. They particularly favour forests containing Myrtle Beech and Southern Sassafras. In autumn and winter some of the population, mostly the “brown” birds, disperse to coastal scrubs and foothill forests where they frequent dense thickets in drier areas. It is not known whether Tasmanian birds reach Victoria in winter, but it is quite likely. Sites to look in summer include Mt Donna Buang section of Yarra Ranges NP, the Ada tree ( Yarra Ranges NP), Wirrawalla rainforest walk (Toolangi state forest), Tarra Bulga NP, Errinundra plateau (East Gippsland) and the higher parts of the Otways NP ( Triplet falls, Beauchamps falls, Erskine falls). Wintering brown birds are regularly seen around Point Addis, Ocean Grove nature reserve, the You Yangs, coastal scrubs on the Mornington peninsula, Macedon regional park, and the foothills of north-eastern Victoria. Birdline Victoria reports wintering birds. Pink Robins tend to stay within cover, either low down or flitting around the canopy, so usually require some patience to see well. The male’s breast truly is pink, rather than the slightly pinky rose red of the Rose Robin. The only Robin to lack any white in the tail, and females have tan coloured wing markings, not white.
SOUTHERN SCRUB-ROBIN (Drymodes brunneopygia)
This species occupies a similar range to the Purple-gaped Honeyeater, preferring mallee country with a dense shrub layer, particularly of broombush. A large ground-dwelling Robin which has a slow tail wag, and a curious nature. Pishing is attractive to Scrub-robins, and can often draw them in quite close to investigate what is going on. Once enticed they may hang around for some minutes. They are quite localised in Victoria, through the north-western mallee country, with an isolated population around Kingower and Wedderburn, however they do not occur in suitable habitat close to Bendigo. They reach their highest concentrations in the Little Desert, the Big desert, southern parts of Wyperfeld NP and Wychitella Flora and Fauna reserve near Wedderburn. They do occur widely through the more northern Victorian mallee regions of Hattah and Murray-Sunset, but at lower densities due to the generally more open nature of the habitat there.
They are fairly vocal, but patience is usually required to get a sighting of this bird. The closely related Northern Scrub-robin is found in different habitat and at the other end of the continent !
Sites to try include the Wychitella and Korong Vale blocks of Wychitella Flora and Fauna Reserve, The Discovery Walk in Wyperfeld NP, the Kiata section of the Little Desert.
SPOTTED QUAIL-THRUSH (Cinclosoma punctatum ssp punctatum)
The beautifully marked Spotted Quail-thrush is not an easy bird to find, and is wary of humans, with approach in a vehicle often tolerated more than on foot. They prefer drier forests with little or no shrub layer and an open ground cover of grasses and rocks. In Victoria they are commonest in parts of Gippsland, such as the remote sub-alpine areas and closer to the coast near Bruthen and Lakes Entrance in Ironbark and Stringybark forests. There are some sites closer to Melbourne with regular sightings. They feed on the ground amongst the leaf litter, are sedentary and only seem to occur in pairs or small family groups. A good strategy is to drive along bush tracks early in the morning as they seem to come out into the open at these times. Sites to try include Thompsons Road, Reids Road and Aeroplane road in the Brisbane Ranges NP, Mt Samaria just north of Mansfield, Fryers ranges near Castlemaine, Mt Pilot (eg Old Coach road).
CHESTNUT-BACKED QUAIL-THRUSH (CHESTNUT QUAIL-THRUSH)
(Cinclosoma castanotum ssp castanotus)
This Quail-thrush only occurs in the driest north-western corner of Victoria in mallee woodlandson dunes with plenty of bare ground to feed from, small shrubs and often porcupine grass. Like the Spotted QT, they are usually wary of humans, but allow closer approach in a vehicle. Quiet patient observation is often required for these birds to settle down once disturbed and to continue feeding. They mostly call at dawn or dusk, a little more in the breeding season. Some better sites to try include Bronzewing flora and fauna reserve ( although much of this area has been recently affected by wildfire), southern Wyperfeld NP ( Dattuck track), Murray-Sunset NP ( try Honeymoon Hut track), Hattah NP ( Nowingi track)
(Pachycephala olivacea ssp olivacea eVic,
ssp bathychroa Otways, ssp Hesperus ssVic)
Olive Whistlers occur in the coolest and wettest parts of Victoria, where they occupy the understory of shrubs and ferns in alpine areas, rainforests, mountain ash and gully forests and coastal watercourses in paperbark and tea tree scrubs. They are unobtrusive, generally quiet birds who spend a lot of time pondering where their next meal will come from, in classic Whistler style. They have a range of unique and interesting calls. Their distribution map mirrors the high rainfall parts of Victoria, including the far south-west, the Otways, and the mountains of Eastern Victoria. There is some local dispersion in winter, but others remain in the high country. Closer to Melbourne some good areas to look include Toolangi state forest including Mt Tanglefoot and the Wirrawalla rainforest walkl, Mt Donna Buang, the Greater Otways NP eg Moonlight Head, Blanket Bay, Sheoak picnic ground ), and further to the east Cape Liptrap and Wilsons Promontory NP.
RED-LORED WHISTLER (Pachycephala rufogularis)
In Victoria this enigmatic bird only occurs in the largest tracts of remote mallee country in the Murray-Sunset NP and the Big Desert, where their population density is extremely low, making them a real challenge to find. Spring is the best time to go looking, on a calm day, when their song may be heard, helping to track them down. To make it even harder they are quite wary of humans despite living in an environment where they would rarely encounter any!
They prefer mallee heaths, but not usually very dense areas as they like sites with ample bare ground for feeding. They are also often in stunted habitats on dunes, and nest on or close to the ground. No sites are easy for this bird, but the wilderness areas of Murray-Sunset NP are the best chance such as Honeymoon Hut track (between 4 and 6 kms west of Meridian track), Last Hope track and Pheenys track. This country requires 4WD and careful planning to ensure safety.
GILBERTS WHISTLER (Pachycephala inornata)
Although a bird of limited distribution, the Gilberts Whistler occurs in a wide range of dry habitats through the north and north-west of Victoria. Common factors are the presence of medium to mid height shrubs and small trees, such as wattles, cherry ballart, broombush or cypress pines. Outside the breeding season they are generally quiet and easily escape detection however when the become territorial suddenly they can seem to be calling from everywhere. The male is easy to identify, whilst the female requires careful observation as it is similar to the female Golden Whistler which is a little smaller and browner, and without an obvious pale eye-ring.
Good sites for this species include the Terrick Terrick NP ( cypress pine woodland), broombush mallee in the northern parts of the Greater Bendigo NP, Mt Egbert and Mt Korong in the Wedderburn area. They are widely but thinly spread throughout the north-western mallee country, perhaps commonest in shrubby dunes and Cypress pine/Casuarina woodlands such as in the northern part of Wyperfeld (Meridian track), Timberoo reserve, and also in Black Box/Red Gum woodlands along the Murray river where there are plenty of tall shrubs such as wattle and cherry ballart.
SATIN BOWERBIRD (Ptilonorhynchus violaceus ssp violaceus)
Occurring in the high rainfall parts of Victoria, the Satin is the only Bowerbird to make it this far south in Australia to a temperate climate. The sleek male with his beautiful violet coloured eye, makes a display bower to attract females, decorated with blue items (often of man-made origin!). They are fairly common through the eastern uplands to 1200 metres altitude, and also occur west of Melbourne in the Otway ranges. No regular movements, but there is some flocking in winter, and they are very partial to many types of fruit and berry, and often visit gardens to take advantage of whatever is on offer. Sites to look for this bird include Wye River, Kennett river and Allenvale Mill in the Otways, Dyers picnic ground in Bunyip State Park and the main campsite in Cathedral Range State Park. They are also relatively common through central and eastern Gippsland in gully forests, rainforests and wet scrubs
(Stagonopleura bella ssp bella, ssp interposita far swVic)
Like the Pink Robin, the Beautiful Firetail is more easily found in Tasmania, however it does occur in a fragmented distribution, along much of Victoria’s coast and near coastal areas. They like well vegetated watercourses with dense tall shrubs, where there are plenty of seeding grasses, including coastal dunes as well as heathy woodlands and wet gullies away from the coast. At a distance they are an average looking bird, but at close range their “beautiful” tag is realised. They are locally nomadic depending on availability of seeding grasses, there one week, gone the next. Hotspots in Victoria would be the far south-west near Portland and Nelson, Bunyip state park (buttongrass walk, Bunyip river road), Wilson’s Promontory, and East Gippsland (eg Yeerung river crossing in Cape Conran, and Mallacoota airfield). They can respond to “pishing”