Birdwatching

The best time to see birds is early in the morning. Being quiet and patient is the key to success - you may well hear a bird before you see it.

Below is a little taste of the types of birds you can find in two of the different areas types, for more information about our birds, download our iPhone bird app or download our android bird app.

Please do not feed the birds. Wild birds find their own natural foods like insects, plants and small mammals. Other foods can make them sick.

  • Eucalypt lawn and open spaces birds

    These birds are easily found in some of the more open areas of the Gardens such as the lawns around the Cafe and the Eucalypt lawn.

    • White-eared honeyeater | Lichenostomus leucotis

      The white-eared honeyeater grows to about 21 centimetres long. The most obvious identifier is the white ear patch contrasting its black face and chin. It has a grey crown and hind neck, both streaked with black, and olive green wings, tail and upperparts while its underparts are pale yellow-green.

      Where
      This bird loves dry eucalypt forests and woodlands, with a well-developed understorey. They can also be found in a range of heath, shrubland and scrub habitats. If you are lucky, you may spot it around the Sydney Region Gully or in eucalypts.
      Feeding
      This bird doesn't eat as much nectar as other honeyeaters, preferring to consume insects and spiders that it finds in the peeling bark and leaves of eucalypt trees.

      Photo: Lindell Emerton

    • Golden whistler | Pachycephala pectoralis

      Golden whistlers grow to about 18 centimetres long. Males and females look very different. In his second or third year the adult male has a brilliant yellow collar and underparts and olive-green wings. The female and immature male are mid-grey above and pale grey below and the young male has rufous-washed wings.

      Where
      As altitudinal migrants, these beautiful birds are more commonly seen in winter months when you might find them throughout the Gardens.
      Feeding
      Golden whistlers usually feed singly or in pair, eating insects, larvae and berries that are taken from leaves and branches. If you are lucky, you may see one foraging on the ground or catching an insect mid-flight.

      Photo: Lindell Emerton

    • Laughing kookaburra | Dacelo novaeguineae

      Perhaps our most famous native bird, the laughing kookaburra is also one of the world's larger kingfishers - growing to about 46 centimetres long.
      It has an predominantly off-white head with brown bars on its crown and through each eye, and a massive bill.
      It has an off-white underside, a grey-brown back and wings, and a chestnut tail with black bars. The wings have flecks of blue on each shoulder and the male also has a blue patch on its rump.

      Where
      The laughing kookaburra occupies the same territory throughout the year and there are several individuals that call the Gardens home. Try looking up at the exposed tree branches on the Eucalypt Lawn to spot one.
      Feeding
      It uses its strong dagger-like bill to catch a wide variety of prey, including fish, small snakes, lizards, rodents, worms, beetles and other insects. It swoops on its prey from a perch, eating small animals whole but bashing larger animals against the ground or a tree branch.

      Photo: June Andersen

    • Weebill | Smicrornis brevirostris

      At around nine centimetres long, the weebill is Australia's smallest bird. It is grey-green above and pale yellow below. It has a whitish eye with a pale line above and a tiny, stubby, pale beak which gives it its common name.

      Where
      The weebill is a tricky one to find in the Gardens as it spends much of its time foraging in the mid to upper canopy of eucalypt trees. The tiny weebill has a surprisingly loud song for its size and is often heard before it's seen. The song sounds something like 'wee-wit' and 'willy wee-wit'.
      Feeding
      It feeds in a flock, fluttering in and around the outer edges of trees collecting small insects. It will also hop amongst leaves and hover over them to catch flying insects.

      Photo: Lindell Emerton

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  • Rainforest and forest birds

    Look out for these birds in the Rainforest gully or in areas in the Gardens with thicker vegetation

    • Eastern spinebill | Acanthorhynchus tenuirostris

      The eastern spinebill is a small, colourful honeyeater around 16 centimetres in length. It has a fine, long, black, down-curved beak which is perfect for extracting nectar from tubular flowers.

      Where
      It can be seen all year round in areas of the Gardens with nectar-producing shrubs such as banksias and grevilleas. This busy little bird is relatively easy to see as it forages within a metre or two of the ground.
      Feeding
      It is a very active feeder - pausing briefly on a perch or hovering like a hummingbird using its long tubular tongue to sip nectar. Although adult spinebills mostly eat nectar, they do eat some insects and feed their young almost entirely on insects.

      Photo: Lindell Emerton

    • Silvereye | Zosterops lateralis

      This common small bird has a conspicuous ring of white feathers around its eye that gives the species its name. Growing to about 12 centimetres long, it has a green head and wings while the rest of the body is a greyish colour. Females may be paler in colour. The colour of the flanks can vary from greyish in local birds to brown or tan in birds from southern Australia and Tasmania.
      Although among Australia's smallest birds, silvereyes are capable of travelling great distances during migration.

      Where
      Silvereyes are common around Canberra's suburbs and the Gardens. They are more common in winter, when they form flocks with birds migrating from southern Australia and Tasmania. Look for them foraging in groups in the Rainforest, areas with eucalypts and on seed plants.
      Feeding
      These birds feed on insects, nectar and fruit in all levels of trees and shrubs.

      Photo: Oystercatcher

    • Australian king-parrot | Alisterus scapularis

      The Australian king parrot is a large, striking bird, measuring about 43 centimetres long. The handsome male is brilliant scarlet with a bright green 'cloak' on his wings and back, and a blue rump. The female is elegant too, with her green head and back, blue rump, and red belly and legs.

      Where
      King parrots may be seen all year round although more are seen in winter as the resident birds are joined by others coming down from the ranges. Look for them in the Gardens' thicker vegetation, high up in the taller trees, or gathering in small groups on the ground beneath.
      Feeding
      Forages in trees and on the ground for seeds and fruit.

      Photo: Roger Williams

    • Gang-gang cockatoo | Callocephalon fimbriatum

      This dark grey cockatoo grows to about 35 centimetres long and is usually seen in a pair. The male has an eye-catching bright red head and short curly crest. Although the female lacks the red head, when you look closely she has a rich bronze edging to her chest feathers which catches the light beautifully at certain angles.

      Where
      These birds are regular visitors to the Gardens. You're most likely to see the gang-gang high up in the trees - look for falling twigs and chewed seed pods when you're walking through forested areas. Listen for their calls as they feed in tall trees or fly over the Gardens.
      Feeding
      Gang-gang cockatoos eat seeds, berries, fruit, nuts, and sometimes insects and their larvae. They come to the ground only to drink and to forage among fallen fruit or seeds, preferably from eucalypts, hakeas and wattles. Outside the breeding season they may feed in flocks.

      Photo: Oystercatcher

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