Backyard Buddies

Factsheets for birds

Black & White Birds

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Photo credit: Rosie Nicolai

Black & White Birds

What bird is that? Many birds look similar and can be hard to tell apart from a distance. Black and white birds are some of the most commonly seen in our backyards. Pied Butcherbird The Pied Butcherbird has a beautiful, musical call that sounds like loud, clear notes from a flute. This bird likes to duet with its mate. Pied Butcherbirds often call from high up in a tree where they are hard to see, but their calls travel over a gr..

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Black Cockatoos

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Photo credit: jj Harrison

Black Cockatoos

There are six different species of Black Cockatoos in Australia but only two of them are common: the Yellow and Red-Tailed Black Cockatoos. All Black Cockatoos are sociable and enjoy hanging out in large groups but they are also happy spending quality ‘couple time’ with their partners. These large parrots can live for up to 50 years but they are very slow at reproducing. The female will lay a couple of eggs but only one will survive. ..

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Brush Turkey

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Photo credit: Ken Stepnell/OEH

Brush Turkey

Brush Turkeys, or Bush Turkeys, have developed a reputation for creating a path of destruction through suburban gardens. With the shrinking of their habitat, they are forced to move into backyards to raise their families. Unfortunately, this requires an enormous mound of decomposing material which is not really welcome in our backyards. A male Brush Turkey spends a lot of his time working on creating a big mound out of leaf litter, mulch..

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Crimson Chat

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Photo credit: Dan Armbrust

Crimson Chat

The Crimson Chat is part of a subfamily of Epthianuridae, which include chats and honeyeaters. They are known for their long, thin bills that are designed for finding insects and spiders. Look for the Crimson Chat walking more often than hopping on the ground. Other names for the Crimson Chat include the Tricoloured Chat, Saltbush Canary and the Crimson- breasted Nun. The incubation period for Crimson Chat eggs is two weeks. Duri..

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Eastern Koel

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Photo credit: Lance

Eastern Koel

The Eastern Koel is a common buddy in many backyards in cities and towns across eastern and northern Australia. Traditionally inhabiting woodlands and rainforests, they're also comfortable in urban places, particularly where there are tall trees to hide in and lots of fruiting plants. Koels are brood parasites which means they are a type of cuckoo who lets other birds raise their young for them. The female Koel will lay an egg in the..

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Eastern Rosella

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Photo credit: M Hooper

Eastern Rosella

The Eastern Rosella is also known as the rosella, white cheeked rosella or rosella parakeet. They mainly eat seeds but will also eat berries, blossoms, nectar, fruit and insects. Their flight is undulating and close to the ground, and they glide upward into trees, fanning their tails as they land. Their heads and necks are bright red, their cheeks are white. Feathers on their backs and wings are black, edged with yellow-green or yell..

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Eastern Spinebill

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Photo credit: OEH

Eastern Spinebill

Eastern Spinebills are honeyeaters. They love the brightly coloured flowers of both natives and non-natives that give them a good source of nectar. As they can even hover mid-air as they feed, they are Australia's answer to the Hummingbird! As their name implies, Eastern Spinebills have a long, fine beak. This useful appendage helps them dip into slender tubular and bell-shaped flowers for nectar. Honeyeaters like the Eastern Spinebi..

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Eurasian Coot

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Photo credit: Photo: David Cook.

Eurasian Coot

Coots live near water in every state of Australia, except in the most arid deserts. Coots also live in New Guinea, Europe, India, China, Indonesia, North Africa and New Zealand. A group of Coots is called a covert. Adult coots are black, with a white facial shield and beak. They have red eyes and long, strong toes with partial webbing. Coot chicks look quite strange! They are fluffy grey, with hairy red and orange feathers on their h..

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Galah

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Photo credit: Allan McLean/OEH

Galah

Galahs are bright pink and grey, friendly parrots. They grow to around 35cm and are easy to spot because of their size and colour. These birds like to show off and fool around which is why some people are referred to as a ‘galah’ when they do something silly. The Galah is a popular pet as they aren’t as noisy as their cousins the Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo, they are very friendly and can mimic words. Most Galahs live to around 25 y..

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Grey Fantail

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Photo credit: Rosie Nicolai

Grey Fantail

Grey Fantails are extremely active little birds. Their distinctive flying style has earned them the nicknames Mad Fans or Cranky Fans. Agile but erratic, Grey Fantails are very adept at hunting for food mid-air. They eat many different kinds of insects such as flies, wasps and bees. Smaller prey are eaten straight away when caught, whereas fantails take the larger insects back to their perches. Avoid using insecticide or bug zappers..

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Kookaburra

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Photo credit: FNPW Image Library

Kookaburra

Laughing Kookaburras have a complex social structure and communicate with a wide variety of sounds. Their distinctive “laugh” is actually warning other kookaburras to stay out of their territory. To let other kookaburras know where their home territory is, a family group will laugh throughout the day, especially around dawn and dusk. Disputes over territory are usually resolved with complicated flight displays involving a bird from each ..

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Little Friarbird

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Photo credit: Geoff Whalan

Little Friarbird

Little Friarbirds live from north Western Australia, across the north of the country, and down the south east all the way to Victoria and South Australia. These Friarbirds can be distinguished from other birds as they don’t have the bump on their beak (called a 'casque') that Noisy, Helmeted or Silver-crowned Friarbirds do. Listen out for the Little Friarbird making its distinctive call: 'Ar-Cooo, Rockety Crook-Shank!' These birds..

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Little Penguins

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Photo credit: M Kuhn

Little Penguins

Little Penguins are also called fairy penguins. They are the smallest species of penguin in the world. They weigh just 1 kg and are only 30–40 cm tall. While excellent swimmers, they cannot fly. Often they have the same mate for life. Both parents feed and care for the young, who leave the nest at 7–9 weeks and live for up to 12 years. There is a colony of Little Penguins living in the middle of Sydney – at Manly. Little Pengu..

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Masked Lapwing (Plover)

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Photo credit: Rosie Nicolai

Masked Lapwing (Plover)

Masked Lapwings are a common visitor to grassy and wet areas of our cities and towns. They love to nest on the ground in parks, school ovals, golf courses, sports fields, and pastures. Masked Lapwings breed after wet weather, in summer and autumn in northern Australia and during winter to early spring in southern Australia. As Lapwings nest on the ground, they are very protective of their eggs. They will swoop at anything that com..

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Musk Lorikeet

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Photo credit: Christopher Watson

Musk Lorikeet

Musk Lorikeets live in south-eastern Australia, from east New South Wales, spanning all of Victoria and south-east South Australia. They also live in drier areas of Tasmania. Musk Lorikeets are a common sight in suburbs and urban areas, and they are nomadic and willing to travel quite a distance to get to that perfect flowering tree. They have a distinctive shrill and rolling call. Their colouring acts as camouflage, blending in among..

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New Holland Honeyeater

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Photo credit: Neerav Bhatt

New Holland Honeyeater

These striking little birds are hard to miss but they are easy to confuse with another bird. The White-cheeked Honeyeater is about the same size and has similar colouring to the New Holland Honeyeater. The way to tell them apart is in their eyes. White eyes = New Holland Honeyeater and black eyes = White-cheeked Honeyeater. The long, curved beak these honeyeaters have are perfect for reaching deep into a flower to get to the sweet..

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Noisy Miner

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Photo credit: Rosie Nicolai

Noisy Miner

The Noisy Miner is a common buddy in many backyards in cities and towns across eastern Australia. Their noisy call can be a nuisance but there are lots of ways to manage them and enjoy their helpful behaviours. Traditionally inhabiting open woodlands, they're also comfortable in urban places, particularly where there are tall trees, lots of nectar giving flowers, and grass but no understory. The male birds will stay around and help t..

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Pelican

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Photo credit: JJ Harrison

Pelican

The Pelican’s massive bill has an extendable pouch which can hold up to 13 litres of water. The pouch acts as a net to catch fish. They strain all the water out the sides of their bills, then swallow their meal immediately – Pelicans don't hold things in their pouch for any extended length of time. Pelicans are graceful fliers, but they can be quite clumsy on the ground with their big bodies and large, blue webbed feet. During per..

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Pied Currawong

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Photo credit: Marj Kibby

Pied Currawong

Growing up to 51 cm, Pied Currawongs are impossible to miss. Their jet black feathers are a striking contrast to their bright yellow eyes. Pied Currawongs also have splotches of white on their tail, undertail and wing tips, which are revealed when they fly. These birds have a cheeky streak that dates back to the 1960s. Sydney Pied Currawongs all got a taste for milk, after learning how to pierce the foil tops of milk bottles with thei..

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Purple Swamphen

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Photo credit: Rosie Nicolai

Purple Swamphen

Purple Swamphens are common throughout eastern and northern Australia, with a separate subspecies common in the extreme south-west of the country. You may also see Purple Swamphens frequenting the same areas as Dusky Moorhens and Eurasian Coots. You can tell a Purple Swamphen apart from similar looking birds by its distinctive purple patch on the breast and red beak and facial shield. Purple Swamphens are arguably the most attrac..

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Rainbow Lorikeet

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Photo credit: Unknownh.

Rainbow Lorikeet

Rainbow lorikeets tend to roost in large groups and can be seen just on dusk arriving by the hundreds at their favourite roosting place, usually in tall eucalypts. These colourful birds can be seen almost anywhere along the east coast of Australia. Their behaviour is quite comical at times, especially at mating time, when the male tries to impress the female with a display of bobbing, bowing and prancing. Although males and females have d..

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Rufous Fantail

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Photo credit: Ken Stepnell/OEH

Rufous Fantail

Rufous Fantails belong to the flycatcher family, and like their relatives, they build distinctive wine glass shaped nests, which have a stem extending from the base. Migration is a largely solo affair for these birds. Rufous Fantails don’t form flocks to head north, but generally go alone or in small groups. Listen out for them calling ‘chip’ from your garden, or ‘chip-chip’ if they’re flying. You might also know these birds by an..

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Small Birds

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Photo credit: David Cook

Small Birds

Small birds are fantastic to have in your garden as they help pollinate, disperse seeds, control insect numbers and recycle nutrients. A garden with small birds visiting it is a healthy garden. Small birds need a layered garden that has different types of plants such as trees, shrubs, grasses, groundcover and leaf litter. In the middle of your space, plant soft shrubs about 1-2 m high to provide a safe haven from bigger birds. They lo..

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Splendid Fairy-wren

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Photo credit: Butupa

Splendid Fairy-wren

Splendid Fairy-wrens live in communal blended families. This matriarchy is run by one single female, the mother. Dad is the only breeding male, and the rest of the flock can contain up to six helpers, including adult sons born in previous seasons. These social wrens usually live in the same area all year long. Raising the chicks together is a way for these little neighbours to bond. This joyful experience lasts for about a month. Sple..

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Sulphur-crested Cockatoo

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Photo credit: FNPW Image Library

Sulphur-crested Cockatoo

Sulphur-crested Cockatoos are large white parrots with a distinctive bright yellow crown of feathers on top of their heads. They grow up to 45 cm in length. These birds love to feed on seeds, nuts, roots, berries, leaf buds, and some insects and their larvae. The Cockatoo’s beak is strong enough to crack many seed and nut shells, and its tongue is flexible enough to sort the seed from the broken bits of shell and spit them out. Th..

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Superb Fairy-wren

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Photo credit: Rosie Nicolai

Superb Fairy-wren

Superb fairy-wrens are also known as blue wrens. They live as a family group. Only the mother sits on the eggs, the others in the group feed and protect the babies allowing the mother to lay up to three broods per season. Fairy-wrens have weak powers of flight but have long legs and spend most of their time on the ground or in shrubs, progressing in a series of hops as they gather food. They forage in a group, with insects disturb..

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Tawny Frogmouth

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Photo credit: David Croft/OEH

Tawny Frogmouth

Tawny frogmouths are between 40–50cm long from head to tail. With their nocturnal habit and owl-like appearance, they are often thought of as owls. However their feet are weak, and lack the curved talons which owls use to catch prey. They live singly or in pairs and occasionally in family groups. They may remain in the same area for many years. The soft edges of their feathers enable silent flight. This bird is so perfectly camouf..

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White Ibis

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Photo credit: Rosie-Nicolai

White Ibis

These water birds are sometimes cursed and shooed from family picnics in parks. Trying to chase ibises from urban areas is ineffective, and also very short sighted. It’s important to understand why we see ibises in such numbers in our cities. Habitat destruction and droughts in rural areas have devastated their natural homes. The abundance of clean water and food in our cities has enticed them in just to survive. Rebuilding wetlan..

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Wood Duck

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Photo credit: Rosie Nicolai

Wood Duck

Wood Ducks are very distinctive birds and easy to recognise, as no other duck looks like them. The males rarely make much noise but listen out for the female Wood Duck making a long, loud 'gnow' sound. The Wood Duck is sometimes called the Maned Goose as they look more like miniature geese than ducks. The Wood Duck is one of the few Australian native animals that has benefitted from European settlement. With the creation of dams ..

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