Birding Down Under

So we recently returned from a family trip to Sydney, Australia! This was my second time visiting the Eastern Hemisphere — the first time being to Japan during a study abroad program in high school, years and years ago.

Most of our time was spent with family. Most birding was incidental, looking out for them during our morning walks or visit to the park by the pond.

Still, knowing how much there was to see, my husband and I made sure to talk at least one bird walk outside of the neighborhood. We connected with the local birding club and arranged to go on their next outing, in downtown Sydney’s beautiful green and spacious Centennial Park.

The park features many different types of habitats, including ponds, forest patches, grasslands, swampland, and more. Great for seeing a wide variety of birds; it definitely delivered. We saw currowongs, ibises, spoonbills, cormorants, a Toulouse goose… well, a whole lot of birds — the list is down below, along with some photos.

The walk we took was guided by Trevor Waller who not only found and identified birds we saw, but shared lots of interesting natural history information about each one. (The striking blue-and-black Superb Fairywrens, for example, are nicknamed “the least faithful birds in the world” as up to 76% of chicks are sired by fathers outside of the pair-bonds. It shouldn’t be surprising, then, to learn that fairywren parents feed one another’s chicks. Superb fairywrens are also said to be Australia’s favorite bird.)

Centennial Park was beautiful and the weather was perfect, given you like lots of sunshine. There weren’t many cars, but lots of walkers and even more cyclists. The 189-hectare area park features amenities like sandwich shops and restrooms. I definitely recommend visiting this very large park if you like green spaces and walking trails. If you go, be sure to bring sun protection (there will probably be lots of bright sunshine and not as much ozone to protect you from it).

Here are some of the birds we saw while in and around Sydney:

Our Centennial Park list (with some notes):

Pacific Black Duck
Dusky Moorhen – Red faceplate with yellow tip
Purple Swamphen – Very tame birds
Eurasian Coot – White faceplate
Australasian Grebe
Australian Figbird – two preening at the tippy-top of the weeping willow
Black Swan
Pied Cormorant – On the island with all of the ibises
Great (Black) Cormorant – Also there, panting in the sun, moving the cool air over its tongue
Little Pied Cormorant
Little Black Cormorant
Australasian Darter – “Snakebird” with very sharp, spear-like bill
Australian White Ibis
Royal Spoonbill – Black legs and black bill. Foraging with ibises.
Channel-billed Cuckoo – Two flying between trees around the pond; the largest cuckoo and nest parasite in the world.
White-faced Heron – By the second pond, further in. The same pond with all the nesting birds.
Crested Pigeon – Foraging on the ground in the sun.
Sulphur-crested Cockatoo – Several, all around the park.
Rainbow Lorikeet – Flyover, by large fig tree.
Magpie Lark – Serenading us from a low branch on the fig tree.  Black eyestripe.
Reed Warbler – Quietly moving about in the reeds. Spotted briefly as it reacted to pishing.
Fairy Martin – The “white ping pong ball” flying to and fro above the big pond at the intersection of Musgrave & the Circle road.
Welcome Swallow – Flying with the martins.
Noisy Miner
Common Myna
Powerful Owl – Sitting still in the tree, way up high
Spotted Dove – by the Reed Warbler

This was my first time birding in a place where I knew almost none of the birds. It was thrilling to discover and observe so many new species.

I’d like to one day sit down and read more about what we saw, and maybe prepare a little bit more for next time — since we will probably be going again at least once every few years since we now have family there.


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