Magic of King Islands Birds

King Island is ancient and unique.  It is remote and beautiful, sometimes it’s wild and sometimes it’s gentle — even balmy. 

 

Located in the middle of the Western entrance to Bass Strait, half-way between Victoria and Tasmania, the Island acts as a biological stepping-stone between Tasmania and mainland Australia. For birds migrating North and South, the Island is a vital stopover to rest and refuel.

In late spring other migrants arrive to our shore and coastlines.  These include breeding birds such as the Fairy Tern and Short-tailed shearwater and non-breeding birds such as the Ruddy Turnstone. Many waterbirds including various duck and egret species come and go throughout the year with occasional appearances of species such as Freckled Duck and White-necked Heron.

Bird life on King Island can be broadly placed into five major groups: 
  • Resident species 

  • International migratory species,  

  • Bass Strait migratory species  

  • Vagrants and 

  • Threatened Species 

 

  1)     RESIDENT SPECIES 

 These birds live their entire lives on King Island. They include: 

  • Bush birds such as Grey Shrike-thrush, New Holland Honeyeaters and Supurb Fairy-wrens  

  • Raptors such as Sea Eagle, Australasian Kestrel, Brown Falcon and the Boobook Owl (Tasmanian race leucopsis). 

  • Sea and shore birds such as Red-capped Plover, Pacific Gull and Crested Tern

  • King Island Subspecies:  Black Currawong (sounds like), Yellow Wattlebird, Green Rosella (sounds like), Dusky Robin, King Island Brown Thornbill and the King Island Scrub Tit. 

  • Tasmanian endemics:  10 of Tasmania’s 12 endemic birds live and breed on King Island   e.g. Yellow-throated and Black-headed Honeyeaters, only missing the 40 Spotted Pardolate (now extinct on KI) and Native Hen.

  • Threatened Species: King Island Scrubtit and Brown Thornbill (Critically Endangerd); King Island Green Rosella (Vulnerable) and Black Currawong (Vulnerable); species that are threatened on the mainland but stable on King Island e.g. the Hooded Plover. 

2)     INTERNATIONAL MIGRANTS  

  • Non-breeding Spring Arrivals: International travellers such as Ruddy Turnstone, Greenshank and Red-necked Stint come to feast along the shorelines over summer and autumn 

  • Breeding spring arrivals: Pelagic travellers such as Short-tailed Shearwaters and Fairy Prions.   

  • Winter arrivals: In late autumn the Double-banded Plover arrives from the Southern Alps of New Zealand to enjoy the comparatively mild winter of King Island. 

  • Weather Dependent: Spine-tailed Swifts (also known as White-tailed Needletails) are often seen as storms move across 

 

3)     BASS STRAIT MIGRANTS 

  • Those that stop, refuel and move on: species that migrate using King Island as a staging point but don’t breed here e.g. Orange-bellied, Swift parrots and Blue-winged Parrots

  • Some stay some move on: Spring arrivals with a percentage staying and breeding on King Island e.g. Flame Robin and Silvereye but the majority continuing to Tasmania

  • On the move anytime: birds that seem to be coming and going frequently e.g. Many water birds; including Freckled and Blue-billed ducks, Black Swans, Wood ducks etc. 

  

4)     VAGRANTS 

  • Occasional arrivals: birds that turn up but have no pattern to their presence.  Examples range from Scarlet Honeyeater to Crested Penguin. 

5)   LISTED THREATENED SPECIES

  • King Island Subspecies: Scrubtit and Brown Thornbill (Critically Endangered), Green Rosella and Black Currawong (Vulnerable)

  • Bass-Strait migratory species: Orange-bellied and Swift Parrot (Critically Endangered)

  • Shorebirds: Hooded Plover (stable in Tasmania but threatened in most states on mainland)         NOTE: There are a number of species that are not formally listed as threatened but are thought to be in decline.  These include Short-tailed shearwater and Latham's Snipe 

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