Tropical north Queensland is a bird watchers paradise with four distinct birding areas. From the Daintree, coastal region, Atherton Tablelands and Cape York, significant bird trails in each region offer exceptional bird spotting opportunities. Thala Beach Nature Reserve is located in a coastal region and has documented over 200 bird species.
Rainforests, mountains, dry country, swamps, lakes, parks, mudflats, mangroves, beaches and reef are all habitats for birds in the region. North Queensland has the largest avifauna (birds of a particular habitat or region) of any region in Australia. Cairns and surrounds is home to over 450 species of birds and 12 of these are locally endemic.
Visit Birding Tropical North Queensland for more information on bird watching opportunities around Port Douglas and Cairns regions.
Seasonal Bird Sightings
During our warmer and wetter months (Oct – Apr) migrant species arrive from Papua New Guinea such as Buff-breasted Paradise Kingfisher, Channel-billed Cuckoo and Eastern Koel. Noisy Pitta are breeding at this time.
The cooler drier months (May – Sep) Victoria’s Riflebird are displaying and winter breeders such as White-eared Monarch may be sighted.
Boat trips on the Daintree River (approx. 30 mins from Thala) offer terrific bird-watching opportunities – expect to see Great-billed Heron, Little Kingfisher and Shining Flycatchers amongst others. Michaelmas Cay is a seabird breeding colony – check with our Tour Desk to find out which cruise operators visit this area at certain times of the year.
Wet Tropics Endemic bird species
Lesser Sooty Owl – seen in and around rainforest, heard more often than seen.
Tooth-billed Bowerbird – seen when displaying in mid-high altitude between Aug and Dec.
Golden Bowerbird – best seen at bowers during breeding season (Sep – Jan). Outside of breeding, higher altitudes offer the best sightings.
Fernwren – usually seen in higher altitude rainforests.
Atherton Scrubwren – usually seen in higher altitude rainforests.
Mountain Thornbill – usually seen in higher altitude rainforests.
Bridled Honeyeater – common. Some altitudinal migration during cooler months, sighted in rainforest and woodlands
Macleays Honeyeater – common at lower and min-altitudes around rainforest regions.
Chowchilla – look for them in early morning, usually in higher altitude rainforest.
Bower’s Shrike-thrush – readily seen in higher altitude rainforests with some altitudinal migration
Pied Monarch – seen in rainforest and woodlands, except at high altitudes. Can be elusive
Victoria’s Riflebird – inhabit rainforest and woodlands but can be elusive.
Grey-headed Robin – common in high altitude rainforest.
North Queensland Bird Trails within easy reach of Thala
1. Stone Curlew Trail – Cairns and northern beaches
See shorebirds, lowland species such as Rose-crowned Fruit-Dove, Pied Imperial Pigeon (Aug-Apr), Beach and Bush Stone-Curlew
2. Kingfisher Trail – Mossman and Daintree
Eight of Australia’s nine kingfisher species may be seen in this area including the Buff-breasted Paradise-Kingfisher (Nov-Apr) which nest in arboreal termite mounds before returning to PNG for winter.
3. Honeyeater Trail – Julatten and Mt Lewis
20 Honeyeater species have been recorded in this area. Mt Lewis is the habitat for 11 Wet Tropic endemics including Macleay’s and Bridled Honeyeaters.
4. Bustard Trail – Mt Carbine to Mareeba
The Australian Bustard is found in this dry country, known for open woodland and wetlands, particularly at Maryfarms, which attracts bush and waterbirds.
5. Catbird Trail – Kuranda to Mareeba
Mid-altitude rainforest and drier woodland offer a variety of species including Spotted Catbird.
6. Riflebird Trail – Atherton Tablelands
Allow a couple of days if you can to explore the Tablelands which are home to a wide variety of species including Victoria’s Riflebird in the many rainforest areas.
7. Cassowary Trail – Cairns Mission Beach
Southern Cassowaries are often sighted around Mission Beach, particularly on rainforest walking tracks and on the beach at Etty Bay.