what Australian birds are found up in Cape York?
And how different are they
from the birds in the rest of Australia?
There are three kinds of them.
The first are the birds
that are only
found in Cape York peninsula, and
they are often birds that we share with Papua New Guinea instead of the
rest of Australia. Some examples are palm
cockatoos and eclectus
The second are the birds
found in north Queensland but not
in the rest of Australia. They are tropical birds, and some of them,
too, are found in Papau New Guinea. Some examples are cassowaries and
The third kind are the
birds that are also found in the southern,
cooler parts of Australia. They are not tropical birds, and they
include emus and laughing kookaburras.
First, there are the large, flightless birds called ratites and the
most famous one in Australia is emu, that is also found in Cape
But the one
that north Queensland is famous for is cassowary,
also found in Cape York, and Papua New Guinea.
The second group is the birds related to roosters and chickens, and
they include bush
scrubfowls, pheasants, peacocks, guineafowls, and feral roosters and
chickens - they look like the domesticated ones but they live in the
wild and are called red junglefowls.
While Australia's most famous ocean birds such as penguins and
albatrosses live in the southern parts of the country, as do gannets,
fulmars and prions, up here we have
boobies, frigatebirds, tropicbirds and some petrels.
Marine Birds Pelicans
the most famous marine birds up here - live in fact just as happily in
and can be seen in freshwater lakes and billabongs in Cape York and
are tied to the coastal marine waters, while
darters can be seen inland in the fresh water.
Then there are a lot of other smaller coastal birds such as oyster
catchers, sand pipers, jaegers, gulls, terns, curlews, tattlers,
snipes, noddies, knots, jacanas, ruffs, plovers, lapwings, needletails,
swifts, swiftlets and sanderlings to name a few.
Our northern wetland birds are magpie geese, different species of
ducks, purple swamphens, dusky moorhens, Eurasian coots, a few species
of herons, egrets, bitterns, ibis and spoonbills, and most famously -
jabiru - the largest of them all, and Australia's only stork.
Our largest grassland birds are brolgas (also found elsewhere
in the northern and eastern half of Australia), and sarus cranes (found
only up here). Australian bustards are smaller, up to 120cm tall, and
also found in Cape York as well as elsewhere in Australia.
Birds of Prey
The largest of Australian birds of prey are wedge tailed eagle and
bellied sea eagle, and both are found in Cape York.
Other we have are
kites, ospreys, bazas, buzzards, goshawks, sparrow hawks, hobbies,
kestrels, harriers and falcons.
Nightjars and Frogmouths
Of the nocturnal birds of prey we have southern boobook, barking owl,
rufous owl, grass, barn, masked and lesser sooty owl (south eastern
Cape), Australian owlet nightjar, large tailed and white throated
nightjar; and tawny
marbled frogmouth and Papuan
We don't have the crested and spinifex pigeons, but we have squatter
pigeons, white headed and topknot pigeons (both south-east Cape York),
and the famous imperial pigeons.
And we have emerald, diamond, bar
shouldered and peaceful dove as well as some tropical rainforest doves
like wompoo fruit dove.
Our parrots include red winged parrot, king parrot (south eastern
Cape), golden shouldered parrot, double eyed fig parrot, red cheeked
eastern rosella (we have the pale headed subspecies), and little,
varied, scaly breasted and and rainbow lorikeet.
Australian cockatoos come in three colours: white, black and pink. Of
the white ones we have sulphur crested cockatoo and little corella.
the pink ones we have galahs,
and of the
black ones we have the red
tailed black cockatoo and palm
- the largest of all.
Like the rest of coastal and northern Queensland we have both species
of Australian kookaburras - the laughing kookaburra and the blue
have azure kingfisher, little kingfisher, as well as red backed,
forest, collared, sacred, yellow billed and buff breasted paradise
We have rainbow bee eaters, dollarbirds, noisy and red bellied pitta,
lovely and red backed fairy wren, red browed and striated pardalote,
large billed scrubwren, weebill, and fairy, white throated, large
billed and mangrove gerygone.
We have the blue faced honeyeater, yellow honeyeater, as well as brown,
banded, varied, graceful, white streaked, yellow spotted, white gaped, tawny breasted, black chinned,
throated, green backed and a few other honeyeaters. And we have the
helmeted, little, noisy and silver crowned friarbird.
We have the chestnut
breasted mannikin, double
barred finch, masked
throated finch, crimson finch, star finch and red browed finch,
gouldian finch, grey
crowned babbler, eastern
robin, mangrove robin, northern scrub robin and white
Whistlers, Fantails and Wagtails
We have yellow legged flycatchers, lemon
bellied flycatchers, broad billed flycatchers, leaden flycatchers,
mangrove golden whistlers, grey whistlers, rufous whistlers, northern
fantails, rufous fantails and willie wagtails.
We have sunbirds, mistletoebirds, silvereyes, yellow orioles, Australasian
trumpet manucodes, great bowerbirds, and a few species of cuckoo
shrikes, woodswallows, swallows, martins and pipits.
Magpies, Crows We have
metallic starlings, yellow
black winged, spectacled, frill necked and white eared monarchs, magpie
larks, spangled drongos, Australian magpies, pied
black backed and black butcherbirds, torresian crows and pied currawongs.
is one bird you will see in Cape York, it is bush turkey.
see a lot of other wildlife
unless you go out at dusk or dawn for bird watching, or during
night time for spotlighting.
But this bird it is
literally everywhere, on almost every camping ground, on
track you do ...
They are brave too - they come quite close to you, obviously hoping to
get some food. They are
found in eastern
Australia between Sydney in
and the tip of Cape York
Anywhere south of Cape York they all have yellow 'collars'
around their neck,
and this is how most Australians are used to seeing them:
yellow-collared bush turkeys, Cairns.
But there is a separate sub-species in
Cape York, that has a purple collar instead. So all the
bush turkeys you
see in central and northern Cape York,
have purple collars,
sometimes white-ish purple - not yellow.
'Cape York' Bush
Turkey, near the tip of Cape York.
What Kind of Bird is a
Well it is not really a turkey.
belongs to the family of
it is related to scrub
fowls and mallee fowls.
It is more properly called Australian
It can grow quite large, up to about 70cm in length and it can have a
wingspan of 80cm.
Where Is It Found?
already mentioned, its
is along the
subcoastal eastern Australia, from about
Sydney in the south and the tip of Cape York in the north.
varies a bit
between the southern and the northern
populations, up here it tends to prefer highland areas to the lowland.
It likes moisture and is much
likely to be seen in rainforest areas than dry open
female 'Cape York' bush turkey, Wenlock River.
What Does It Eat?
turkeys are both meat
and plant eaters. The meat diet mostly consists of insects, and the
plant material consists of fruits that they find on the ground.
Nests and Breeding
other Megapodes, they
make large mound nests
on the forest floor where they incubate their eggs under a layer of
soil and half rotten leaf matter. The nests are not too hard to
have a look around.
The breeding and egg laying
during the hotter part of the year,
about September to March. Many different females may lay their eggs
into the same mound. The eggs hatch inside the mound, and the newly
hatched young dig themselves out of the mound.
winged kookaburra is only found in northern Australia.
two species of
kookaburras in Australia. The more famous, Laughing Kookaburra that is
so well known for its laughing 'koo-koo-ka-ka-kook'
call, is found in the whole eastern Australia and has also been
introduced to the south west.
The less famous blue winged kookaburra is found in the whole northern
Australia and has been also introduced to the Pilbara region in the
The two overlap in the north east, and both species are found in Cape
York. However, the more common
one on the
peninsula is the
blue winged species, even though it's often mistaken for
laughing kookaburra that is more common in the south.
for the mistake is - both
species have some blue on the wings, so the wing colour is not a good
The photo below is of laughing kookaburra, and there is no blue on
wings visible. They do have some, even though
less than the blue winged species.
Laughing kookaburra baby.
The best indicators
* a very distinctive dark
on the laughing kookaburra's face. The blue winged one does not have
the eye stripe.
* the laughing kookaburra has dark
eyes, the blue winged one has light (except their
young that have brown eyes).
* The blue winged one may be a bit smaller bird, but has a larger beak.
* obviously, the laugh.
winged kookaburra does not laugh.
Both kookaburras are meat
eaters. They eat large insects and small animals such as
frogs, lizards, rodents, even fish and crayfish.
They breed in the end of
between September and December (very common amongst the birds in
Australia). The young are known to be aggressive and often kill their
There is a difference to
remember between the male and the female: only the male
has a blue tail - the female has a rufous brown one.
frogmouth is a nocturnal predator distantly related to owls.
It is the
most common of
Australian frogmouths, found almost everywhere in the country,
including Cape York Peninsula, as well as southern Papua New Guinea.
Like other frogmouths, it is perfectly camouflaged,
looking like a tree trunk particularly when holding its head upward.
Like in other frogmouths, the male
grey and the female
The tawny is the heaviest
them all, and unlike some others, has a yellow eye. The
individuals are larger than the northern ones.
Like others in the family (and unlike owls) they perch (instead of
and they catch their prey with their beak (instead of feet).
Unlike Papuan Frogmouths
Tawnies hardly eat anything larger than insects and spiders.
They hunt in darkness, mostly the hours after dusk and before dawn.
During the day they roost in trees, often invisible thanks to their
perfect camouflage. When threatened they freeze but can also make a
Frogmouth on its nest in Mt Molloy.
They live in life-long pairs, and breed between August and December
(except in arid areas where they wait for the rains).
They use the same nest year after year, which is in a tree branch, often a forked one.
Both male and female incubate the eggs, but day time it's most likely
the male you see up there.
Frogmouth on its nest in Mt Carbine
The southern individuals are larger than the northern ones.
They live in eucalypt forests, open woodlands and many other habitats
except treeless deserts and rainforests too dense.
They also inhabit rural and urban areas, and get hit by cars when
catching insects on the roads.
frogmouth is a bird you can see on the Cape York peninsula.
similar to the more
common tawny frogmouth, and both are
nocturnal predators distantly related to owls.
opposed to tawny
frogmouth that is found in most of Australia, the Papuan species is
only found in Cape York and Torres
Strait in Australia (it is also
found in Papua New Guinea and Indonesia).
Frogmouth is the largest
Australian frogmouths (the Tawny is the heaviest), and it has red eyes (the Tawny
has yellow). It also
has a longer tail, and
a darker pattern on wings. Like in
tawnies, the male is grey
the female is reddish
Frogmouth on its nest in Iron
And like other frogmouths they have a very good camouflage,
resembling tree trunks
amongst which they live.
Like other frogmouths they wait for their prey in a perch, but unlike
tawnies they eat
insects as well as small
such as frogs, lizards, birds and rodents.
between August and January, and they can be seen sitting on the nest similar to
placed in the fork of a tree branch.
Frogmouths live in subtropical
or tropical moist
forests and riparian and mangrove
habitat where they often hunt at the forest edge.
Like tawny frogmouth
they are in danger to get
hit by cars when foraging on the roads where insects and small animals are attracted by light.
Get this 50 pages guide totally for FREE. It
contains information that helps you getting started with planning of your trip.
You get to make early-stages desicions such as when to go, how long time you
should take, how to get
there and get
to stay (general info), what
will it cost..
and a short insight to what is there to see and do in Cape York.
This complete 300 pages
travel guide is all you need before and during your trip. Besides the
background chapters on the peninsula's history and wildlife; and the comprehensive detail about all the places (down to prices, opening hours and full contact detail), it has invaluable information on at least 10 four wheel drive tracks, at least 30 guaranteed FREE camping spots on the Cape (and at least 150 on your way to the Cape), at least 40 best swimming holes, all mapped; as well as practical things - from fuel, roads, wireless internet and mobile phone reception, how to deal with the national parks booking rules; and Aboriginal land entrance and camping permits and alcohol restrictions - to vehicle preparation and accessories and necessary recovery gear by my partner Mark who is the recovery guy on northern Cape York and the Old Telegraph Track). Not to mention locals' tips on how to spot that croc and palm cockatoo ;-)
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