Not as boring as it sounds - which ones have you seen?
Bird watching was not on my list of weekend activities when I first moved to Canberra, however with so many colourful native birds also making Canberra their home, it is hard not stop and admire their beauty. I am not a twitcher (is that what they are called?) and I don't own any binoculars, however I have found the zoom on my new camera to be equally as helpful. Bird watching happens when you least expect it in Canberra, wherever you turn you find rosellas, cockatoos, galahs and other native birds squawking up in the trees or doing silent and beautiful flyovers. I have often seen birds in Canberra that I have never seen before in other states, so checking the Canberra Birds website has been a handy resource to find out more, and was used for this article.
Here are three locations around the city that I have found unusual and striking birds, within minutes of the city's main roads and attractions. Where are your favourite spots?
Gang Gang eating Hawthorn Berries at Parliament House
This particular bird, above, is what started our family's enjoyment of bird watching in this capital city. On a crisp Autumn morning, we were taking a walk around the outside of Parliament House and we heard an unusual sound up in the trees. We looked up to see this striking bird, one that none of us had ever seen before. I had time to gingerly pull out my camera and take a few shots before it flew away into the government wilderness.
We soon learnt it was a Gang Gang, a type of Cockatoo closely related to a Galah and Canberra is the only city in Australia where they can be found. They particularly like to visit the ACT as they enjoy the altitude and in particular, eating the Hawthorn Berries that grow here - which our bird was coincidently eating when we saw it. Take a walk behind Parliament House (or any parks in Canberra with Hawthorn trees) in Canberra's cooler months to catch a glimpse these striking birds camouflaged in the red berries. Look out for the tell-tale signs of half-eaten berries dropping down off the trees onto to the pavement below (and onto people walking underneath!) and their chirp that sounds like a creaky gate. To listen to their call, click here and select the music note.
If you love birdlife, then Tuggeranong Town Park Beach (20 minutes south of the city) is a good spot to take your camera and wait for the birds to come flying in - and they will. Once again, in Autumn, we found this area to particularly plentiful with birdlife. As we walked along the shoreline we could hardly hear each other talk from the chatter of the Little Corella's above (take a listen here). Little Corella is a type of Cockatoo, not usually native to the ACT, however it is believed these birds may be escaped or released aviary birds released into the wild. Their usual habitat is a fair distance away in Western Australia, however there are flocks of them here in Tuggeranong, western Belconnen, Narrabundah and the Kingston foreshores.
The highlight of this beach are the small beautifully coloured parrots that live here, several of them at a time often seen having a splash in the water to clean their wings. At any shift of movement they will fly off and new ones would soon return for a swim. After research it was found that these sweet little birds are called Red-rumped Parrots. The males are the colourful parrots seen in the photos which have red feathers on their rumps and the females are the browner ones next to them. Just watching them is a delight for children and adults alike, so visit the little beach at Tuggeranong Town Park and take a seat for a colourful show.
Lake Burley Griffin is another area of Canberra which attracts a huge variety of birds. Black seems to be the colour theme of birds that reside here, with black water birds, swans, cormorants and swallows darting around the lakes edge. I managed to get a photo of one of these fast-flying swallows, the Welcome Swallow, as it took a rest on one of the pylons along the jetty. It is a species native to Australia found in Canberra in the warmer months, before migrating north for the winter. The following Spring, these little birds will return back here to breed. This little swallow was part of a breeding pair, with another Welcome Swallow nearby twisting and turning in the wind over the lake. Don't blink, or you will miss these speedy little birds over the water.
A hundred metres back from Lake Burley Griffin is Nerang Pool, a wetlands area which is located in Commonwealth Park. Here you can watch water birds expertly step over water lilies, cormorants diving underwater and swans flying overhead with wings wide spread and feet stretched out in front of them to land. Spot tiny finches, Cockatoos and Crimson Rosellas in the trees nearby, with plenty of berries and fruit for them to feed on. On the side of the pool closest to the lake there is a little path and several fruit trees in a row. This area attracts Crimson Rosellas who heartily feed on the berries, whilst still able to hide in the dense bushes. The flock of crimson rosellas that we saw at the end of March (in this photo below) were all juveniles, with green plumage on their backs which change to red and blue as they get older. We were surprised by how close we could get to the birds to take photos, before we stepped over an imaginary line and they fluttered away in a blur of colour.
This city has birdlife in every corner of every suburb. Often the most colourful and striking birds are the ones that flit above you at the local café or hover over your clean washing in your back garden. Of course there are numerous other places to spot beautiful native birdlife such as Lake Ginninderra, Yerrabi Ponds, Jerrabomberra Wetlands, Tidbinbilla, Weston Park and all nature parks and reserves around the region.
So look to the skies this weekend and also listen for that tweet in the trees to start your bird watching adventure. With so much grace and beauty around the city, it is also an enjoyable way to spend time outdoors appreciating Canberra's scenic locations.
1. Gang-gangs can be found in the outskirts of Sydney and Melbourne too, it's just they are more numerous in Canberra.
2. Little Corellas aren't only found in Western Australia, they are found all over the inland and the north of Australia (and in the south-west of WA there is a Western Corella, and in Victoria and along the Murray a Long-billed Corella). Wild birds start about 100kms west of Canberra. The birds in Canberra are probably descended from cage-birds, some of them are Long-billed type Corellas (longer-bill, more red on the face and cheeks).
3. Welcome Swallows can be found in Canberra in the winter, breeding birds move north and birds from further south move in in smaller numbers for the winter.