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Self-Guided Family Bird Watching Safaris

Home > Perth > Environment | Family | Free | Nature | Outdoor
by Peter Hancock (subscribe)
Journalist, historian and naturalist living in Perth's eastern suburbs.
Published May 14th 2019
Get acquainted with Perth's fantastic feathered friends
With the weather perfect for exploring the outdoors, now is the time to get to know the beautiful birds that share our city, which are also some of the world's tamest.

Thanks to many decades of legal protection, Perth's birdlife has lost much of its fear of human beings, other than to stay wisely out of reach.

In fact, some birds that are so shy that in other countries they would require a special bird-watching 'hide' and binoculars to observe, stroll among Perth picnickers without a worry.

Birds, birdwatching, twitching, feathered friends, ducks, waterfowl, nature walks,safari, bushwalking, wetlands,
Pink-eared ducks are one of the many extraordinary waterbirds that live on our wetlands.


And Perth is the only Australian capital city not to have been invaded by introduced European birds such as sparrows and starlings, which have displaced most of the smaller native birds in the eastern state's suburbs.

Apart from a few pigeons in the CBD and the unobtrusive necklace doves and turtle doves, which originate from south-east Asia, Perth's only introduced bird species are iconic Australian species from the east the kookaburra (introduced from Victoria a century ago) and the colourful rainbow lorikeet (accidentally released from a private aviary about 20 years ago).

Birds, birdwatching, twitching, feathered friends, ducks, waterfowl, nature walks,safari, bushwalking, wetlands,
The colourful new holland honeyeater is common in Perth's backyards and bushland.


This means that the birds you see are birds that have lived in the Perth region since before European colonisation and they have indigenous stories attached to them that go back to the Dreamtime.

For example, the neat little black and white willy wagtail, known as 'Chitty Chitty' in the area's traditional Noongar tongue, was said to have always been a great hunter. Back in the Dreamtime, during a time of poor hunting, the dingo and the crow went to Chitty Chitty's camp while he was away hunting and stole his store of food. Chitty Chitty has never forgiven them, and that's why wagtails attack dogs and crows to this very day.

Birds, birdwatching, twitching, feathered friends, ducks, waterfowl, nature walks,safari, bushwalking, wetlands,
Ever-hungry willy wagtails help keep Perth's insect population under control.


Although places like Chittering Brook and Chittering Valley are named after them, we're fortunate to have wagtails in the metro area because they were almost wiped out in the 1970s when authorities sprayed the suburbs with insecticides to tackle an outbreak of Argentine ants. Luckily the plucky and resilient little birds have made a successful comeback.

Another bird we take for granted is the magpie, which is renowned across the world for its melodious chortling call. The indigenous people tell us that at the beginning of time the sky touched the ground so that there was no space for the spirits of the animals and plants to become physical beings.

Birds, birdwatching, twitching, feathered friends, ducks, waterfowl, nature walks,safari, bushwalking, wetlands,
A purple swamphen shows a fledgling around the park.


The giant water serpent, the Wargle, opened a small space in which things could crawl, but the birds wanted to fly, so the Magpies took a stick and pushed upwards until the sky suddenly sprang into its rightful place. Now the magpies sing every morning to remind the world that they created the first sunrise.

These are just two of the many Noongar stories told about Perth's birdlife, which flourishes here largely due to the many wetlands in the region. Our lakes and swamps are home to a huge variety of waterfowl and ducks, as well as being destinations for migratory birds that fly from as far away as Siberia to spend the northern winter here.

Birds, birdwatching, twitching, feathered friends, ducks, waterfowl, nature walks,safari, bushwalking, wetlands,
Corellas feed noisily in lakeside trees.


Bird-watching makes for great free family fun, and once you start looking you'll be amazed at how many different types of birds live amongst us. The photos illustrating this story were all taken during an hour's walk around my local lake at Centenary Park in Belmont, which is just one of the hundreds of lakes boasting similar birdlife.

For bush birds such as honeyeaters and parrots, bushland areas, including Kings Park, provide an endless supply of viewing opportunities.

So get into safari mode, grab the kids and see how many different birds you can spot and/or photograph. If you move smoothly, slowly and quietly, you'll be surprised how close you can get to take a picture.

Sites you can call upon your phone that will help you identify the birds you see include Bush Birds, and the Birds in Backyards Bird Finder. Good hunting!

Birds, birdwatching, twitching, feathered friends, ducks, waterfowl, nature walks,safari, bushwalking, wetlands,
The dainty sacred kingfisher is the kookaburra's little cousin.

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Why? Enjoy getting to know the many amazing birds that share your city
When: Anytime during the day
Where: Perth, Western Australia
Cost: Free
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