Purple-crowned fairy wren
Photo: AnneMarie Van Doorn
Photo: Jean-Charles Perquin
Birds are an obvious and attractive feature of the landscape in
northern Australia, even in urban and suburban areas. Many tourists
to the region specifically quest for its endemic bird species; and
for other visitors birds may offer some of the most memorable
One of the most spectacular sights in northern Australia is the
massed aggregations of waterfowl, particularly magpie geese, in
floodplains and other wetlands, with particularly dense
concentrations (tens of thousands) of birds in the late dry season
when availability of surface water is at a minimum.
The bird fauna of northern Australia is a unique mix of old
Australian elements and more recent arrivals whose affinities are
with tropical areas to the immediate north.
The woodlands that dominate northern Australia share many bird
species with, or have closely related species in, the woodlands of
eastern and south-western Australia: such nearly ubiquitous species
groups include weebills, whistlers, treecreepers, honeyeaters,
fairy-wrens, shrike-thrushes and butcherbirds.
But the north has a relatively high diversity of some other
groups, notably including pigeons and doves, parrots and cockatoos,
and finches, with this diversity reflecting the dominance of
grasses (and hence abundance of grass seeds) in these environments.
And the north, particularly in the pockets of rainforests, has an
added element of species with truly tropical affinities, including
pittas, scrubfowl and drongos.
The bird fauna of northern Australia is notable also for its
integrity. Most of the north Australian bushland lacks the foreign
sparrows, starlings, blackbirds and Indian mynahs that have become
some of the most common birds elsewhere in Australia. Further, many
native bird species that have declined drastically in temperate
Australia remain common and widespread in the north: such species
include red-tailed black-cockatoos, bush stone-curlews, magpie
geese, Australian bustards and the grey-crowned babbler.