Birds of Victoria, Australia

We saw all kinds of cool critters in Australia, but from the moment we stepped out of the airport, the birding was epic! We didn’t even make it into town before I got my first new bird. As we rode out of the parking lot in the city bus, we passed a green field spattered with what looked like discarded grocery bags. But on closer inspection, I saw that the bags were actually birds; specifically, a scattered crackle of wild Cockatoos. From that point on, every bird we passed was new and interesting.

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Photo by Ray Aucott on Unsplash

After two months in Victoria, Australia, I was able to add 24 new birds to my life list,  wrapping up June with a total of 136.

See more of our birding adventures. 

Birds of Victoria – Group One

Australian Wood Duck - grey body, brown head, dark underwing. Black Swan - large, black body, white spot on wing. Purple Swamphen - dark back, blue purple stomach belly, orange nose, large orange beak. Australian Coot - black duck, white beak. Dusky Moorhen - dark body, orange legs, orange beak, white under wing. Pacific Black Duck - brown and white body, black beak, dark eyes, light face with dark lines.

These were some of the more common birds I came across during the fall months near Melbourne, Australia. I particularly enjoyed the Dusky Moorhens and the Purple Swamphens. I often spotted them together, so it took me a while to really convince myself that they were, in fact, two separate species of birds.

The Australian Coot, also known as the Common Coot or Eurasian Coot, is my second coot (I spotted an American Coot in Oregon in 2015). The other eight coot species live in either Hawaii, Africa, or South America, so it may be a while before I see any others.

Learn how we lived in Australia for FREE without working on a farm. 

Kookaburra

I don’t know about you, but I listened to this song a lot as a kid. And, like most things from my childhood, I didn’t really understand it at the time. “Laugh, kookaburra, laugh. Kookaburra, gay your life must be.” To my surprise, this line actually means something; click on the video below to see what I mean.

Not knowing this in advance lead to yet another:

Jen and Josh’s Close Encounters of the Critter Kind

“Hey, Hun…. Josh?!… JOSH???!!!!”

“I’m on the phone!”

“Well get off! There’s something outside.”

“It’s probably just a kangaroo.”

“It’s not a kangaroo! … Are there monkeys in Australia?”

“No, there are no monkeys in –“

“Well, I don’t know what it is then, but it’s loud and it’s big and I think it’s trying to eat me!”

“It’s not going to –“

“Oh my God. There it is again. Do you hear it?! That. is. a. f*cking. herd of monkeys!”

“It isn’t called a ‘herd’ of –“

“We’re going to die!”

Kookaburra spotted in Mornington Peninsula, Victoria, Australia. Large head and large beak. Similar body shape to king fishers. White stomach, dark body, dark beak, light face with dark stripe over eyes.

It took me three days of being constantly afraid and on edge before I realized that the loud thump I heard was simply a pigeon dropping to the roof after being chased away by a screaming/laughing/monkey-calling kookaburra. Yet again, I was fooled by the adorable creatures of nature into thinking I was under attack.

Read Close Encounters of the Critter Kind: Thailand ♥

Birds of Victoria – Group Two

Birds spotted throughout Victoria, Australia. Splendid Fairywren - small, plump, fluffy, light stomach, brown back and head. Magie-lark - white stomach, black back, black neck, white cheeks, white beak. Crested Pigeon - colors similar to mourning dove, brown and white coloring, crested head. Australia Raven - large, all black, light beak, laughing call. Australian Magpie - large, black and white, call sounds like a robot. Masked Lapwing - brown back, white stomach, black cap, yellow flaps on face.

I did not see the top three birds very often, but the bottom three birds were daily sightings. The Masked Lapwings were really interesting. They have yellow claws at the hinge of their wings and weird yellow flaps down the sides of their face. They reminded me a lot of dinosaurs.

The other two bottom birds had very interesting calls. The Australian Magpie sounds a little bit like a robot. We laughed almost every time we heard an Australian Raven because it sounded like he was mocking us with an Australian accent.

Land of the Upside-Down: Jen and Josh are Americans in Australia. ♥

Rainbow Lorikeet

View from deck overlooking a tree. Tree is spotted with seven Rainbow Lorikeets.

They may be a bit hard to see, but that tree has over a half dozen, beautiful Rainbow Lorikeets. I squealed with excitement when I woke up to this out my window on my second day in Australia. I sat and watched them eat for nearly an hour. After that, I saw them pretty regularly and was even able to get fairly close to a couple to get a better view of those colorful feathers.

Check out our home in Melbourne, Australia. ♥

Birds of Victoria – Group Three

Parrots spotted throughout Victoria, Australia. Eastern Rosella - Small, colorful, parrot, red head, white cheeks, yellow stomach, green blue yellow body. Crimson Rosella - large, red parrot, red body, blue wings and tail. Galah - large parrot, light grey body, red neck, dark under wing. Cockatoo - large parrot, white with some yellow, crested head. Musk Lorikeet - green body parrot. Rainbow Lorikeet - small parrot, orange beak, blue head, orange stomach, green body

I have never seen so many beautiful, colorful birds in one place before. It was truly amazing to be hiking through the bush, or walking out to check the mail, or even parking the car at the grocery store and see a splash of color on a nearby branch.

Lorikeets or Loris are parrots with a brush-tip tongue used for eating nectar. I saw them most often jumping from branch to branch in flowering bushes. They would hop to the very tip of a branch, then swing upside-down to the nearest flower to eat.

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There are six species of Rosella, all of which live in Australia or Tasmania. There are only two species that live in Victoria, the Eastern and Crimson Rosellas, and I found both of those. I was usually able to spot two or three each morning in the front yard tree. They enjoyed whatever seeds were growing there.

Little Penguin

Rocky coast line in St Kilda with one Little Penguin or Fairy Penguin. Small penguin, grey body, white stomach, black beak, orange nose, and orange feet

That’s right, my birding friends, be jealous. I have officially collected a wild penguin!!!

The Little Penguin is the smallest species of penguin and is found on the Southern coasts of Australia. I spotted this little cutey while I was visiting St. Kilda Beach. Most evenings, it is possible to see at least a couple of these “fairy penguins” marching home after a long day of swimming and eating. We ran over to the pier around 7:00PM and saw our first penguin within 15 minutes of waiting.

I got some great pictures in St. Kilda. Check them out on Instagram! ♥

Birds of Victoria – Group Four

Birds spotted throughout Victoria, Australia. White-faced Heron - large, long legs, grey body, white face, dark eyes, dark beak. Pacific Gull - large seagull, dark body. Kookaburra - large head, large beak, white stomach, dark back, dark line across the eyes. Australian Pied Cormorant - Black back, white stomach, long neck, pointy face. Crested Tern - seagull, white stomach, white face, dark eyes, dark crest, grey body.

This is the final set of my random bird sightings. Besides for the Kookaburra and the cormorant, I didn’t see these birds very often. The Australian Pied Cormorant usually caused some laughs from Josh and I as we almost always thought it was a penguin sighting at first glance. It is a small cormorant with a black back and white front.

I am not sure what the bottom center duck is. Please leave a comment if you have any ideas. It had a large, flat beak similar to a shoveler. The brown/red belly was very bright.

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Sichuan, China Birding – February 2018

Chengdu is a very large city. Everywhere I went there were groups of little birds snatching snacks off the ground in parks and a few scattered here and there along the river. There are even a couple of man-made wetlands built specifically for migrating birds in the area. However, as mentioned in my Bad Ideas Blog, I was not able to make it to the wetlands, so my birding was limited to the city proper.

My favorite bird of the month was the Light Vented Bulbul. I spotted it while at the Panda Research Base. It was eating the red panda’s food. It was very pretty and I liked the little tuft of white feathers on its head.

Unfortunately, I did not spot many birds this month, but I’m still pretty happy to be adding three new birds to my life list. Hopefully next month I will be celebrating my 100th unique bird!


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Birding Update – February 2018

Identified: 5

New: 3

Life List: 98


  • Crested Myna
  • Light-vented Bulbul
  • Little Egret
  • Mallard
  • Oriental Magpie-robin

 

Guangxi, China Birding – January 2018

The birding in Guangxi was awesome despite the cold. I am particularly excited that each bird I found was a new addition to my life list.

The birding in Guangxi this month was awesome despite the cold. I lived next door to a farm, so it was easy to spend time after breakfast each day watching the backyard birds. Without my usual apps I had a hard time identifying them all, but with the help of my friends on Reddit, I was able to get most of them.

I do not include caged birds on my Life List, but I do enjoy going to Aviaries and, in China’s case, the market(!). It was difficult to see the treatment of these animals, but it was interesting to see the variety of birds available for both food and friend.

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My favorite bird of the month was the Blyth’s Kingfisher. I saw two different kingfishers in two different towns. Each time, they allowed me to get close enough for a halfway decent picture. One was spotted just off of a busy street. I got some very strange looks for stopping in the middle of traffic to get out my binoculars and camera, but after some bilingual charades, I made it clear that I was after the birds.

I am particularly excited that all seven of the birds I identified this month were new additions to my life list. I have caught a Kingfisher and Night Heron before, but never a Blyth’s Kingfisher or Chinese-Pond Heron. This one month added quite a few more birds to my list. All in all, it was a good month for birding.


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Birding Update – January 2018

Identified: 7

New: 7

Life List: 96


  • Blyth’s Kingfisher
  • Chinese-Pond Heron
  • Collared Crow
  • Common Stonechat
  • Crested Myna
  • Daurian Redstart
  • White Wagtail

 

Bird Watching in Guangxi, China – January 2018

The birding in Guangxi was awesome despite the cold. I am particularly excited that each bird I found was a new addition to my life list.

Birding in Guangxi was awesome despite the cold. I lived next door to a farm, so it was easy to spend time after breakfast each day watching the backyard birds. Without my usual apps I had a hard time identifying them all, but with the help of my friends on Reddit, I was able to get most of them.

Check out the beautiful guest house we stayed in while in Yangshuo. ♥

Bird Watching

I do not include caged birds on my Life List, but I do enjoy going to Aviaries and, in China’s case, the market(!). It was difficult to see the treatment of these animals, but it was interesting to see the variety of birds available for both food and friend.

20180123_124806

My favorite bird of the month was the Blyth’s Kingfisher. I saw two different kingfishers in two different towns. Each time, they allowed me to get close enough for a halfway decent picture. One was spotted just off of a busy street. I got some very strange looks for stopping in the middle of traffic to get out my binoculars and camera, but after some bilingual charades, I made it clear that I was after the birds.

I am particularly excited that all seven of the Chinese birds I identified this month were new additions to my life list. I have caught a Kingfisher and Night Heron before, but never a Blyth’s Kingfisher or Chinese-Pond Heron. This one month added quite a few more birds to my list. All in all, it was a good month for birding.

January’s Birding List

Birds Identified: 7

New Birds: 7

Life List: 96


 

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Idaho Birding – December 2017

I enjoyed an abundance of mallards and a few scattered magpies, but that was about it.

The birding in Idaho was a bit limited due to the cold weather and our proximity to the city and suburbs. I enjoyed an abundance of mallards and a few scattered magpies. I saw several raptors of one sort or another soaring or settled on lamp posts, but wasn’t able to get a firm identification on any of them.


Birding Update – December 2017

Identified: 4

New: 0

Life List: 89


  • American Coot
  • Black-billed Magpie
  • Canada Goose
  • Mallard

 

Florida Birding – November 2017

Bird list from my month on the Atlantic Coast of Florida.

The birding here in Florida is wonderful! Most of the birds listed here are ones I found pretty regularly, either on the beach, the backyard, or at the numerous nature parks. My favorites were the Wood Storks; they were listed as being a rare find, but I saw quite a few of them and they were not particularly afraid of people. Their attitudes reminded me a lot of chickens.

The Anhingas were another enjoyable find. They were everywhere, but I mostly saw their silhouette during flight or just their heads poking out of water, and therefore mistook them for Cormorants for quite some time. It wasn’t until I saw one up close, with their distinctive coloring, that I realized I had made the mistake. It was an exciting moment.

I’m still having trouble identifying differences in common birds like doves/pigeons, sand pipers, terns, and seagulls. There are just so many of them! My goal for the trip was to identify two different types of seagulls. I saved the identification guide and brought it to the beach with me each day. I learned a lot, but I still have a ways to go. I did, however, make some good strides in my dove identification thanks to the open windows of my bedroom each night. The sound of the various doves are pretty distinct and really helped to boost my identification confidence.


Birding Update – November 2017

Identified: 15

New: 6

Life List: 89


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  • Anhinga
  • Bald Eagle
  • Black-bellied Plover 
  • Black Vulture
  • Brown Pelican
  • Common Gallinule
  • Double-crested Cormorant
  • Eurasian Collared-Dove
  • Great Egret
  • Muscovy Duck
  • Osprey
  • Ruddy Turnstone
  • Sanderling
  • White Ibis
  • Wood Stork

 

Sebastian Inlet State Park

Sebastian Inlet State Park is located just ten miles South of Melbourne Beach and is the second most visited state park in Florida.

Sebastian Inlet State Park is located just ten miles South of Melbourne Beach and is the second most visited state park in Florida (wikipedia). We spent half a day exploring the ten mile drive down to Sebastian and the park itself.

The majority of the drive was through beautiful water-front neighborhoods and was along the famous Florida Birding Trail. Our first stop was the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Information Center, where they had a lot of free and informative interactive material about sea turtles. It also detailed the conservation efforts undertaken at the refuge specifically, and in Florida more generally. For example, proceeds from the sales of these license plates go to fund sea turtle research and conservation efforts around the state.

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There were several hiking trailheads along the side of the road during our drive. We stopped at one of them, but due to the recent hurricane, much of the trail was flooded and covered in plant debris. We didn’t make it very far before we were forced to turn around and go back to the car.

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Many “nature walks” in Florida are built on raised walkways like this one.

After our failed hike, we reached the main attraction, Sebastian Inlet State Park. It is a fairly large park, with sections on both sides of the inlet that connects the ocean and the river. There is an entrance fee, but it’s only $8 for the day. The park also showed signs of hurricane damage, with some fallen trees left uncleared and dark waters that are usually crystal clear.

Even a short walk through the park allowed us views of more flora and fauna than we had seen during the entire rest of our trip. We saw several species of birds, including a rare sighting of Wood Storks, along with several sea turtles, fish, a huge land crab, skinks, hermit crabs, and a few types of butterflies. Our favorite was the land crab; we chased it for a while, trying to capture a photo of it’s bright ruby coloring before it could disappear back into the water.

 

Josh and I spent a decent amount of time crabbing when we lived in Oregon. Despite our lack of actual spoils, we consider ourselves quite the seamen. Therefore, it was with confidence that we walked out onto the park’s crowded fishing piers. These docks were huge, jutting out much farther into the ocean than what we were used to. Not only that, but the fishermen on these piers were serious, not the laid-back Oregonians we usually met. These guys were cut-throat, and had more gear than our usual net, bucket, chair, book, and beer. And it appears that was for the best, because they were actually catching fish!

We watched three different large fish get lifted out of the water during our ten minute venture onto the pier. They looked to be at least two to three feet long. One fisherman told us that the fish we watched him haul up was limited to one per fisherman.

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Once the fish smell hit my nose, I had an immediate craving for fish. Thankfully, there is a large gift and snack shop in the park that provides decently priced food. It had all the expected park food, with the added treat of fresh seafood, most of it grilled or fried. Unable to resist (not that we really tried), we ordered a couple baskets of clam strips and ate them on the shaded patio overlooking the ocean.

I really enjoyed our trip to Sebastian and look forward to coming back next year once the area has had a little more time to recover from the hurricane. There’s some calm water off the inlet that looks like an amazing place to do some of my favorite “paddle birding”, and we may even bring some poles and try to reel in some of those delicious ocean fish.