Flinders Ranges Birds
(A beginner’s guide)
The following list consists of birds most likely to be encountered in the Flinders Ranges (roughly from Mount Remarkable to The Gammons). This is just a list of more common species and is by no means exclusive. Habitat is all important and many birds are only likely to occur if particular habitat types are visited. Some birds are also seasonal. The list is mainly grouped into species that appear similar, but some are grouped by habitat or behaviour. It should all be self explanatory! This list also contains the type of birds which become commoner in the drier areas around Adelaide (as you drop over the other side of the hills) so could be used as a guide there, although it will be slightly less accurate in such areas. It is not a good guide of common birds in the Adelaide hills, or coastal regions, although many of the birds on this list do occur there. When you see a bird try very hard to identify its call – even better, when you hear a call try very hard to see the bird. This process not only is the fundamental technique for learning calls, but acts as a very good identifier of the bird – actually more accurate than a sighting in my opinion, as sightings are so often in bad light or too far away. If you know the calls you will realise that there are many more birds out there than you think (and you won’t have to get out of your tent in the morning to bird "watch"!)
It’s an Emu stupid!
Always tricky to identify. If it is big (often in a pair) and circling high in the sky, most likely a Wedge-tailed Eagle. Most commonly and odds on in any raptor encounter is Brown Falcon. After that there are other possibilities. Kestrel (open plains), Black-shouldered Kite (easy to identify), Black Kite (look for slightly forked tail), Whistling Kite (especially near water), Brown Goshawk (mallee), Collared Sparrowhawk (trees, mallee), Little Eagle (very pale underwing – stunning bird – less common). Also possible, but rarer is Black Falcon (looks like a fast and elegant crow).
Quail like Things
Forget it – you never see them unless you flush them (aka stand on them). If it takes off from under your feet and is the size of a small footy ball then it was a Stubble Quail. If it was the size of a tennis ball it was a Little Button –quail.
Pigeons and Doves
Most common is the Crested Pigeon (its wings make a ringing noise when it takes off). Around scrub and trees listen for Peaceful Dove (lovely doddle-doh call, heard a long way away). If you are lucky you can see Diamond Dove (small and sexy). In mallee you are likely to encounter Common Bronzewing (listen for quiet repeated low oom oom call).
Parrots, Cockies and squawky things.
Lots of good ones around. Noisy, visible and often in large flocks, especially around creeks are Galahs and Little Corellas. The biggest parrots on show are likely to be Mallee Ringneck and Adelaide Rosella (only in the southern Flinders). Next in size are Red-rumped Parrot (mainly southern Flinders) and Mulga Parrot (very pretty, often on ground). Also possible are Cockatiels and Budgerigars (both summer only). The smallest parrots likely are Elegant Parrot or Blue-winged Parrot (bright yellow and hard to separate except by a good look or by call), and Purple-crowned Lorikeet (in mallee, has a loud zzit zzit call as it screams low over your head).
Things that go Ooom in the night
Most common night bird with a low repetitive ooming noise is Tawny Frogmouth. Also common with a funny scream is Owlet Nightjar. In the Southern Flinders both Boobook and Barn Owl are possible. You’d be lucky to find a Spotted Nightjar.
Colourful bright things with longishbeaks
In the summer look out for Rainbow Bee-eater (stunning) and Sacred Kingfisher. In the Northern Flinders (Gammons) Red-backed Kingfisher is fairly common. In the very southern Flinders of course Laughing Kookaburra occurs.
Biggish blackish greyish things
One of the most common biggish things that flies about a lot is Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike (pale grey with a black mask). Also common is of course Magpie Lark . Greyish with a distinctive laughter like call and likely to be hiding in a bush is Grey Butcherbird. Big and black and on the ground is White-winged Chough (always in noisy groups making loud eery whistling noises). The common big black bird in the sky is the Australian Raven. Especially as you head north, Little Crow is also common (makes a more nasal sharp call – a bit tricky until learnt). Grey Currawong is also a possibility (in wooded areas). Finally Pallid Cuckoo is a large exciting grey bird which is a possibility in scrubby vegetation – it likes to sit high up in trees.
Smallish things flying about in the sky
Most common is the Tree Martin (near creek beds). White-backed Swallow would be a nice sighting, and the white is very evident, but Welcome Swallow is more likely, especially close to towns. Also fairly small and mostly in the air are the Woodswallows: Black-faced (open country), White-browed and Masked (the last two often together and near mallee). Sadly Starlings are always possible, always flying somewhere or other.
Small birds, but not that small, in bushes
Loads of options! I kind of mean things that would only just fit into a small carton of Nippys. Here’s a list: White-winged Triller (black and white and elegant), Gilbert’s Whistler (mallee), Golden Whistler (especially south – beware of the brownish ones!), Rufous Whistler (most common whistler), Grey-shrike Thrush (fairly large with a melodic chuck-chuck fooee call), Crested Bellbird (my favourite – heard more than seen, with a low far carrying piping call – mallee, open country), Restless Flycatcher (bizarre call like grating scissors, waves tail around), Willie Wagtail (common, as always), White-browed Babbler (noisy churring and calling chack-a-chack, usually in groups, likes to run across the ground or fly low to the next bush), Chestnut-crowned Babbler (like previous, most common in mallee). Rufous Songlark could also be around. On the trunk of a tree could be Brown Treecreeper. Finally, Horsfield’s Bronze-cuckoo is inconspicuous but with a penetrating a persistent descending whistle.. peeeooo peeooo. If it’s not in this list – maybe it’s a honeyeater…
Small birds, yep definitely small, in bushes
Tricky little sods when they start fitting into pencil cases. Red-capped Robin is usually an easy one to pick. Also possible is Hooded Robin. If it is so drab that you can’t see a field mark, it might be a Jacky Winter. The blue wrens in the Flinders are usually Variegated, although Superb occurs in the south, and Splendid in the north. Keep hunting until you see a full plumaged male. White-browed Scrubwren makes a churring noise, Shy Hylacola would be a good find, Weebill is really tiny and hovers. The thornbills are really tiny and need practice – try to hear their calls. Possible are Inland (buzzing), Chestnut-rumped (high pitched see see call), Buff-rumped (particularly south), Yellow-rumped (bubbly call). Southern Whiteface also has a bubbly call, often in groups and on ground as well. Striated Pardalote makes a peep-peep call from trees in creek beds, Yellow-rumped Pardalote likes the mallee. Mistletoebird likes guess what plant? Silverye can be almost anywhere. Varied Sitellas occur in groups and make pathetic little chipping sounds.
Birds on the ground, or kind of near it
A good find would be Cinnamon Quail Thrush, which will try its best to hide (Chestnut Quail Thrush in mallee). More likely sightings are Richards Pipit (open country), White-fronted Chat, Crimson Chat (especially north), Orange Chat (likes salt bush), Zebra Finch (crowds.. fang fang call), Diamond Firetail.
Ho ho – the dreaded honeyeaters.. lots of them and some people find them hard to call. They are not that bad at all really. The big two are Singing and Spiny-cheeked. Both are generally common and have distinctive calls. Others possible are: Yellow-faced (south only), White-eared, Grey-fronted (more common north), Yellow-plumed (mallee), White-plumed (creek beds), Brown-headed (mallee, small parties), White-fronted (bizarre looking bird). Bonus birds of the summer that are possible as you go north are Black and Pied. Worth reporting any sightings of them. Don’t forget that Red Wattlebirds and Yellow-throated Miners are also honeyeaters. Don’t report any sightings of them please..
It is odd to have a section on water, but there is always water somewhere, usually creek beds or dams. Most likely water birds are Little Grebe, Hoary-headed Grebe, Darter, Little Pied Cormorant, Pacific Heron, White-faced Heron, Rufous Night Heron, White Ibis, Straw-necked Ibis, Royal Spoonbill, Yellow-billed Spoonbill, Pacific Black Duck, Grey Teal, Eurasian Coot, Purple Swamphen, Dusky Moorhen, Masked Lapwing, Black-fronted Dotterel, Common Sandpiper, Clamorous Reed Warbler (makes a chip chick noise from reeds).