With its relatively sparse human population and diverse habitats, Darwin and the whole Top End are home to an amazing variety of birds. Most of the coast and tidal rivers are protected by a skirt of unspoiled mangrove habitat that is sustained by tidal movements of up to eight metres. This is interrupted in places with rocky or muddy shoreline. The dominant habitat across the coastal tropical north is savannah woodland, interspersed generously with floodplains and wetlands. Tucked in here and there are small remnant monsoon forests, left over from aeons ago when tropical rainforests were much more widespread. Within each of these habitats you will find an abundance of life, the noisiest, most colourful and easiest to see are the birds! Each habitat has its specialist species, such as Chestnut Rail (only found in mangroves) and Rainbow Pitta (almost exclusively found in monsoon forests) and other bird species are generalists, found across many different habitats.
Visiting bird watchers will often be delighted with the sight of Orange-footed Scrubfowls, Forest Kingfishers, Red-collared Lorikeets and many others, during a short scroll in the esplanade gardens overlooking the harbour. Out at East Point, there is shoreline which is excellent for waders when the tide is right, monsoon forest (Rainbow Pitta, Rose-crowned Fruit-Dove, Grey Whistler and Green-backed Gerygone) and a well-built mangrove boardwalk (Collared Kingfisher, Red-headed Honeyeater, Broad-billed Flycatcher and Helmeted Friarbird). You can do the 14 kilometre walk from the foot bridge at Rapid Creek (one of Darwin’s northern suburbs) all the way to Lee Point, encountering many diverse habitats and potentially seeing a big list of birds.
In Darwin and the Top End there are six bird species you will not find anywhere else in the world and a further forty five (including the spectacular Gouldian Finch, Hooded Parrot and Arafura Fantail) that are easier to find from Darwin than anywhere else.
Kakadu was recently voted number one in the top ten bird watching destinations in Australia by Australian Geographic. About 280 species can be seen in the park.
Tip: Search for ‘Northern Territory Field Guide’ ap on your smart phone! Its published by the NT Museum and you can download it free, use it to identify over 600 species of animals found in the Northern Territory.
Bird watching and nature tours ranging from half-day (around Darwin) through to eight days (Darwin, Kakadu, Pine Creek, Katherine, Timber Creek, Litchfield) are available. These are limited in availability and best booked well in advance.
Contributed by Mike Jarvis from Experience the Wild