Birding Hotspots Around the island
King Island is home and host to a wide range of birds.
Species present on the island varies according to the time of year and the
A number of birds, such as the Flame Robin and Grey Fantail, migrate
across Bass Strait in the spring and autumn, but a few remain to
overwinter or breed here.
Many birds are residents, spending their lives on the island. Some of these
have been isolated from mainland populations for so long they have become significantly different and are now classified as King Island subspecies – unique to this island. These subspecies are the King Island:
Scrubtit (Critically Endangered), Brown Thornbill (Critically Endangered), Green Rosella (Endangered), Black Currawong (Critically Endangered), Dusky Robin, Yellow Wattlebird (Endangered), Tasmanian Scrubwren, Tasmanian Thornbill and Suburb Fairy-wren.
Beach-nesting birds are both resident and migratory. Some, such as the Hooded Plover move around the island when they aren’t breeding but as far as we know, they don’t leave it altogether. However, many of the Pied Oystercatchers are known to head to the mainland during the winter.
Migratory waders spend the summer here arriving in mid Spring from their breeding grounds in the far northern hemisphere and departing again in late April.
Water birds come and go throughout the year and vagrants, such as the Pacific or White-necked Heron, can turn up at anytime.
There are a number of seabird rookeries around the island including Silver Gull and Crested Terns as well as the migratory Short-tailed Shearwater or Muttonbird.
Of course, there are also a number of introduced birds. Some of these do very well here as there are no foxes or rabbits on the island so ground-dwellers such as the Common Pheasant and American Turkey are in their element.
Finding birds on King Island.
Driving around the island and walking any beach provides great opportunities to see birds. Forest Ravens, Australian Magpies (white-backed), Spur-winged Plover, wild American Turkeys, wild Indian Peafowl and Common Pheasant are easy to spot. Sea Eagles can often be seen as they cruise the island as can Swamp Harrier and Nankeen Kestrel. Brush Bronzewing are frequently observed on well vegetated roads and have no fear of cars while small birds such as the KI Suburb Fairy-wren dash across in front of you -so take care when driving.. Pacific and Silver Gull and Crested Tern are common along the coastlines. But there are also some Birding Hotspots its worth checking out...
The following list identifies some good birding sites and is best used in conjunction with a comprehensive map of King Island. The list starts in the north of the island and works roughly east, south, west and back to north. Gold indicates best spots if you are short of time.
Cape Wickham Lighthouse;
Especially when there is a good wind and sea running, this spot can be good
for seabirds. Nankeen Kestral breed in the Lighthouse each year and some grassland birds such as Richard's Pipit are usually around. Drive to Cape Wickham and Park, walk from there.
Shorebirds such as Hooded Plover are often present on this beach and the
KI Black Currawong breed in the scrub. Also good in the autumn and spring
with the arrival and departure of Bass Strait migrants such as
Tasmanian Silvereye, Flame Robins and Grey Fantail. Park in the car park and walk from there.
A deep hanging lake, there are often Musk Duck seen here. Also bush birds such as Dusky Robin, Grey Fantail etc. Gas BBQs are available and it's a great spot for a picnic or a swim in the summer. A part of Lavinia State Reserve, follow the signs to the Lagoon.
Saltwater Creek Walk:
This area is regenerating from 2007 fire and is part of the Lavinia State Reserve. The track leads down into the Nook Swamp although it gets very rough. However, much of it is kept clear as a fire break so is manageable. Bush and grassland birds are seen along it. Olive Whistler, New Holland Honeyeater, Flame and Dusky Robin, Dusky and White-browned Wood-swallow and many others. While in the area take a walk or drive up to Council Hill lookout where there is a good view of the mid-north of the island. Drive from North Road along Reekara Rd to a sharp right turn. Salt-water track is unmarked but you will see a rough track heading east from this sharp corner. Walk along this as far as you want to go.
Bootlace Private Forest Reserve Track:
A private, easy walk of 2 km through a highly biodiverse pristine and covenanted forest.
Several threatened species - plant and bird - live or have been recorded here.
By appointment only. M: 0417487263 E: Kate.firstname.lastname@example.org. This walk is guided but undertaken at your own risk. A donation towards track maintenance is greatly appreciated.
Sea Elephant Estuary:
This is a RAMSAR site. Waterbirds include various ducks, Black Swan, Pied
Oystercatcher, White-faced Heron, Greenshank in the summer months and
many others. A lovely and easy board walk leads down from the car park, along the
edge of the estuary and includes a bird hide. Bush birds are also seen along this
walk such as Grey Fantail, Silvereye, King Island Tasmanian Thornbill etc.
Past this walk there is salt marsh. You may need gumboots depending on the tides
and time of year. White-fronted chats are common and Orange Bellied Parrots use
this site on their migrations. Drive along Sea Elephant Road to car park.
Walk from there.
Pegarah State Forest:
This forest has been closed to milling for some decades and includes some of the oldest remaining eucalypt forest on King island. Many bush birds can be seen here and it is home to both the King Island Brown Thornbill (KI subspecies - critically endangered), the King Island Scrubtit (KI subspecies - critically endangered) and the King Island Green Rosella (KI subspecies - Endangered). There are a number of tracks leading through the forest but some are impassable in a car. Entry from Pegarah Road. Drive and Walk.
Pegarah Private Nature Reserve:
Unique Bird, Fauna & Flora. 100 acres GPS mapped, signage, easy grade tracks.
By appointment only. 03 6461 1201
One of the largest Little Blue Penguin colonies on King Island is found here.
A walk along the breakwater just after dusk is very rewarding. No special
lighting is available so you will need to take a torch. Please cover these with
red cellophane (available from the Post Office in Currie) so the birds aren't
blinded. If you don't feel like walking then just sit on the foreshore and some
birds will come waddling past. Nearby, immediately behind Sandblow Beach
is a large Short-tailed Shearwater colony. They also return to their burrows
around dusk and the whole area can become very 'bird busy' for sometime.
Be careful if driving as many birds cross the road and they have no vehicle
sense. Why should they have?
The southern most point of King Island, where Bass Strait meets the Southern
Ocean, is a barren, wind-swept and beautiful place that is a bit of an
adventure to reach - but worth the trip. In a good wind, it is a good place for
seabirds such as Australian Gannett, albatross and Short-tailed Shearwater. Double-banded Plover overwinter on King Island, and can often be seen here during the winter months, while during the summer Ruddy Turnstone work the kelp on the beaches. White-fronted Chats are usually present in good numbers. Drive to end of South Road.
Calcified Forest Walk:
Mainly a board-walk leading to the Calcified Forest, the heathland and scrub along this often has good numbers of small birds such as Olive Whistler, Silvereye, King Island Tasmanian Scrubwren and Thornbills, all the Honeyeaters and Painted Button-quail have been recorded. Park at the Calcified Forest car park.
Leaving from Seal Rocks carpark this walk wanders along the cliffs and is a great spot for seabirds such as Australian Gannet, Short-tailed Shearwater and albatross species when there is a good wind and scrubland birds such as Olive Whistler, Silvereyes, King Island Tasmanian Scrubwren (KI species), Dusky (KI subspecies) and Flame Robins, when the wind is still.
This is a closed Nature Reserve but there is a good viewing spot from South Road. Waterbirds including a variety of ducks including, although rarely, Blue-billed and Pink Eared Duck. Others include Australasian and Hoary-headed Grebe, Black Swan, Eurasian Coot and Purple Swamphen. Cape Barren Geese are sometimes present grazing along the northern bank although there are also a significant number of domestic geese present.
Burgess Bay and Netherby Point:
The rocky foreshore that runs south from the Currie Harbour to British Admiral
Beach is a good spot for Ruddy Turnstone, White-fronted chat, Black and Pied
Oystercatchers, Crested Turn and other shore birds. There is a road that leads
along much of this coast so it is almost all drivable. Access is by driving to the
Currie Museum, continuing past it down to the shoreline and turning south.
Little Porky Beach and Porky Creek Estuary:
The mix of fresh and salt water supports many shorebirds and some waterbirds.
Drive down Barnes Road (just beside the Cheese Factory at Loranna, turning
south at the beach and parking on the headland. Walk south from there into
Little Porky. This is a great beach walk and you can keep going if you wish into
Whalebone Beach and further south. Shorebirds and beach-nesting birds such as
Hooded and Red-capped Plover, Black-fronted Dotterel, Red-necked Stints,
Pacific Golden Plover, Pacific Gull and many others have been recorded here.
Shag Lagoon Bird Hide:
This small lagoon is very susceptible to water level variation, but can be a great spot for waterbirds including Latham's Snipe, and various visitors passing through as well as some locals. Always worth checking it is found on the Northern side of Heddles Road.
Yellow Rock Bush and Beach Walk to Coopers Bluff:
This is a gorgeous walk and includes opportunities to see bush, water and shorebirds. Sea Eagles are often observed here and it is home to a good number of King Island Black Currawong (KI endemic subspecies - Endangered). A short walk through the bush along the side of the Yellow Rock River provides opportunities to see small bushbirds such as KI Supurb Fairy Wren( KI subspecies) KI Tasmanian
Thornbill (KI subspecies) and waterbirds such as Black Swan and Musk
Duck. The track leads over sand dunes and heathland onto a long Sandy
Beach. Fairy Terns quite often set up a breeding colony on the edge of the
dunes near here, so be aware and keep well clear of any colony. If you are
swooped you know they are nesting or have young, so take great care and
move away. Fairy Terns are listed as Vulnerable and ideally you should keep
at least 50 yards away from any nesting colony. Heading south along the beach, - you may have a shallow wade across the river at this point especially in the winter/spring when water levels are higher - walk, past the wreck of the Shannon to Coopers Bluff. This area is now changing as a result of Sea Level Rise. It used to b e a perfect beach-nesting bird site in the higher dry sand, however while this is not always so these days, it is still worth checking for birds such as Hooded and Red-capped Plover, Black and Pied Oystercatcher. Bar-tailed Godwits, Sanderlings, Red-necked Stints, Pacific Golden Plover and other shore birds. Park in the car park at the end of North Yellow Rock Road and walk from there. About 2 km each way.
The Springs and Lake Flannigan:
We are now back at the northern end of the island. The Springs Road heads to the west from Cape Wickham Road. Travelling over farmland you arrive at the southern end of Lake Flannigan. Just as the road heads up another hill you will see a short track to the right where you can park and take a walk along the Lake edge. A great spot for observing lots of waterbirds as well as bushbirds in the mature Leptospernum and Melaleuca forest that runs along its edge. Further along the road there is an interesting historical memorial to early settlers on the left and more open but unfarmed land and sand dune scrub. Many bush and scrubland birds can be seen here. Finally you come to a round about that looks out into the Southern Ocean and has the northern end of Phogues Bay - a very long sandy and good surfing beach - on the southern side and rocky foreshore on the northern. Birds found here include beach-nesting birds as well as your migratory waders, seabirds and Sea Eagles.
King Island Birding Hotspots - Is downloadable in a PDF notesheet here: