How To See 25 Australian Parrot Species In Whirlwind 8 Days From Brisbane

If you have been following this blog for the last couple months you’ve seen how I saw all kinds of parrot species in South-East Queensland. So now let’s string it together and tally up the possible parrots.  Remember, this itinerary only gets you into the habitat where the birds are commonly seen.  There is never a guarantee with wild birds but if you plan well and do your homework on eBird’s Species Maps, you have a very good chance to get them all!

This is sort of the Amazing Race of Birding and designed for people with limited time.  If you can, add one day to each location and a final day in Brisbane before your flight out.  It’s easy to get to Australia with airline miles, then just rent a car and take off!  This trip must be done while Bowra Station is open between the months of March to September.

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SEQ Birding

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LAKE COOLMUNDA/DURIKAI – 2 DAYS

Start in Brisbane.  Pick up your rental car at the airport and drive to Lake Coolmunda.  Stop at the Durikai Watering Hole on the way.  Possible Parrots:

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BOWRA STATION – 3 DAYS

This will be about 7 hours drive so start as early as possible.  Here you can find Sulphur Crested Cockatoos, Red-winged Parrots, Blue Bonnet Parrots, Red-rumps, Cockatiels & Little Corellas (already mentioned).  Then add new species:

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STANTHORPE/GIRRAWEEN – 2 DAYS

Make an early start for about 7 hours drive to Stanthorpe.  Here you have a 2nd chance at Turquoise Parrots, Eastern Rosellas, Galahs, Sulphur-crested Cockatoos, Rainbow Lorikeets, Scaly-breasted Lorikeets.  There are several good reserves in this area so I would check eBird first to see where the birds have been seen most recently.

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BRISBANE & RAINBOW BEACH – 1 DAY

If you haven’t seen King Parrots yet, have lunch at the small cafe near Jolly’s Lookout as King Parrots, Rainbow Lorkeets & Sulphur-crested Cockatoos hang out there.  Then make the 3 hour drive north to Rainbow Beach or Tin Can Bay.  Up here you have another chance at Yellow-tail Black Cockatoos, Rainbow Lorikeets, Galahs & Sulphur-crested Cockatooos.  But the main reason to come here is:

So there you have it – 25 parrot species all in South-east Queensland.  We do occasionally get Swift Parrots up this far as well but that’s a longshot.  They made it to Brisbane in 2014 but not this year.  I do recommend doing 3 days in Coolmunda, 4 in Bowra, 3 in Girraween, 1 or 2 in Tin Can Bay/Rainbow Beach and one final day in Brisbane so try to allow 2 weeks if you can for a more leisurely birding experience!

Pale-headed Rosella (Platycercus adscitus)

The Pale-headed Rosella (Platycercus adscitus), is a broad-tailed parrot of the genus Platycercus native to northeastern Australia.  This beautiful parrot is special for me as they sometimes come into our property.  Their visits are sporadic so I always feel honoured when they come around.

IMG_1232a IMG_1229a Pale-headed Rosellas have a large range extending from the far north of Queensland into New South Wales.  They are readily seen both in bushland and in suburbs of Brisbane (lucky me!) and prefer open forests.  They were very easy to see at Lake Coolmunda  and Mosquito Creek Road.

phr rangeLEARN MORE ABOUT PALE-HEADED ROSELLAS

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Beautiful close up to appreciate the colours on this bird.

They not only sound sweet, they are great communicators!  Check out how this one chats to a Butcherbird!

 

Restaurant Review: The Polish Place, Tamborine, Queensland

I don’t often do restaurant reviews but the Polish Place in Tamborine, Queensland does also offer accommodation which I hope to try someday.  It’s kind of a surreal experience.  If you hadn’t just driven up from Brisbane or down from Lamington you could believe that you were in a quaint little Polish village in Europe.  Not even the hot, tropical Queensland climate interferes as you are high up enough for a pleasant, cool breeze.

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Whether you are staying in Brisbane or the Gold Coast, The Polish Place is just a short drive away.  We drove down from O’Reilly’s in time to have lunch here.  There’s plenty of birding in the area at Tamborine National Park.

Polish Place Polish Place2The gift shop is straight out of Poland with some beautiful arts and crafts.  I loved the doll collection!

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The waitresses wear traditional Polish costumes.

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The best seating is outside on the deck overlooking a spectacular view over teh Dividing Range.

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My photos of the menu didn’t come out well but you can see more about the cuisine here.  My pierogi were delicious and it was all I could do to finish the iced coffee before I was mobbed by Rainbow Lorikeets!

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This was the most fun I have had at a restaurant in ages!  The brilliant lorikeets put on a great show every time someone gets up from their meal to leave, hoping to steal the leftovers before the waitress can get to it.

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The cheeky little devils were all over my iced coffee.  I had to hide it under the table while I drank it as it really isn’t good for them.  I then put some water in the glass to dilute the leftovers.  They were undeterred and still tried to lick the glass clean!  Don’t worry, they didn’t get much – I took my photos quickly and gave the glass to the waitress!  Next time I’ll order some orange juice for them – unsweetened.

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Australian King Parrot (Alisterus scapularis)

The Australian King Parrot (Alisterus scapularis) is endemic to eastern Australia found in humid and heavily forested upland regions of the eastern portion of the continent, including eucalyptus wooded areas in and directly adjacent to subtropical and temperate rainforest. They feed on fruits and seeds gathered from trees or on the ground.

The male has a bright red head and breast wheras the female is mostly green.  Although this female has a leg band, she is actually one of the wild parrots that hang around O’Reilly’s for a free meal.

IMG_3675 IMG_3829 IMG_3729King Parrots are easily found within their range as the males are very bright and conspicuous and the females stay close to their mates.  You are pretty much guaranteed to see them at O’Reilly’s and the small cafe near Jolly’s Lookout near Brisbane.

AKP rangeLEARN MORE ABOUT AUSTRALIAN KING PARROTS

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There’s no shortage of King Parrot videos online.  This one is good for the close ups of the birds foraging and you can clearly see the difference between the male and female.

This little guy from the Blue Mountains in NSW has no trouble with accepting hand outs (literally)!

And here is a whole flock (mostly juveniles) that visit someone’s back yard.  Notice the pleasant sound they make!

 

O’Reilly’s, Lamington Park

O’Reilly’s is a great place to practice your bird photography skills as you can see several species very close and they are predictable.  If you start early, you can make this a day trip from Brisbane with a 2.5 hour drive.  It’s not really far but the road to the top of the mountain is very twisty.  Exact directions are on their website.  They also have some lovely eco-villas overlooking the rainforest and some good deals can be found mid-week outside of school holidays.  Every year, they have a Bird Week in November.

Bird feeding is touristy but fun.  The area is open daily from 10:00am – 4:00pm (weather dependent) and costs $4.00 per tray (suits 2 people).  Get up close and personal with some of Lamington’s iconic birds, such as King Parrots, Crimson Rosellas, or you might be lucky enough to see our ‘mascot’, the Regent Bowerbird.

I’ve been there a few times, usually to take friends up or to practice photography.  Here’s a few scenes from the bird feeding.  They gather in the trees and come down when someone offers a tray of seed or drops seed on the ground.

IMG_9305a IMG_9307a IMG_9300 IMG_9299a IMG_9314 IMG_3655 IMG_3675 IMG_3689 IMG_3694 IMG_3701 IMG_3727 IMG_3729 IMG_3743 IMG_3746 IMG_3748 IMG_3765 IMG_3787 IMG_3807 IMG_3818 IMG_3829 IMG_3832 IMG_3841 IMG_3910 IMG_3912 IMG_3919 IMG_3920They also have a canopy walkway in the rainforest – get here early enough and you can have it all to yourself before the tourists arrive!

IMG_3925 IMG_3926 IMG_9359 IMG_9355 IMG_9351a IMG_9345a IMG_9339a IMG_9336a IMG_9335a IMG_9332 IMG_9328a IMG_9326a IMG_9324a IMG_9321They have a nice gift shop and restaurant with seats overlooking the spectacular view.  You can also see birds out here.  There are signs telling you not to feed the birds but the birds have discovered that sometimes they can beat the waiters to the leftovers before the scraps can be cleaned up.

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Scaly-breasted Lorikeet (Trichoglossus chlorolepidotus)

The Scaly-breasted Lorikeet (Trichoglossus chlorolepidotus) is an Australian lorikeet found in woodland in eastern Australia. The common name aptly describes this bird, which has yellow breast feathers broadly edged with green that look like scales.  Look for them on nectar-bearing plants such as bottlebrush and grevellia.

IMG_0208Next to the gaudy Rainbow Lorikeet, these more delicately hued birds are the easiest Lorikeet to see in Eastern Australia.  I’ve seen them in my neighborhood, in most local Brisbane reserves and parks and as far west as Coolmunda Dam where I took the above photo.

sb lkt rangeLEARN MORE ABOUT SCALY BREASTED LORIKEETS

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Nice close up at a feeder

Chattering flock

Little Corella (Cacatua sanguinea)

The Little Corella (Cacatua sanguinea), also known as the bare-eyed cockatoo, blood-stained cockatoo, short-billed corella, little cockatoo and blue-eyed cockatoo, is a white cockatoo native to Australia and southern New Guinea.  It was known as Birdirra among the Yindjibarndi people of the central and western Pilbara.

IMG_0257 IMG_8261a IMG_8802aLittle Corellas are seen just about everywhere, often flocking together with Galahs.  They frequent the park near my house, I can hear them flying overhead most mornings.  They have a huge range in Australia and are found in all capital cities so whichever gateway city you use, you are bound to see them even before you hit the bush!

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Some amusing behavior by Little Corellas in this compilation.

Corellas of a feather floch together!

 

Birding Durikai State Forest – Near Karara

Durikai State Forest is better known for fossicking but those who look deeper can find some wonderful birds here.  Last year, someone even spotted a rare Regent Honey-eater although I was not so lucky this year!  It is located about 3 hours drive from Brisbane, 7 km from Karara and around 40 km from Warwick and you can access it from the Cunningham Highway.  On the right side of this map, the red line is a gravel road leading into the forest.  We were there around 2pm so there weren’t many birds around but the highlight was a lovely Mistletoe Bird.  The yellow splotch is across the road and a bit hard to find.

Karara DurikaiIMG_1081 IMG_1086 IMG_1089 IMG_1092 IMG_1094 IMG_1096To find the Durikai Watering Hole, you look on the left if coming from Warwick (around 44 km)  for this sign.  The turn-off to the watering hole is pretty well concealed but you can see a white Jeep coming out from it.

IMG_1369 IMG_1366If you are coming from Coolmunda or Karara, look on the right for these signs about 7 km past Karara.

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This watering hole is a magical spot where you can set up a camp chair, chill out and watch beautiful little Yellow-tufted Honey-eaters, White-naped Honey-eaters, Noisy Friarbirds and Little Lorikeets frolic through the trees and come down to drink water.  I also got a glimpse of Turquoise Parrots shooting through but unfortunately they didn’t stop to pose for photos.  I was really lucky to get decent shots of the Little Lorikeets which had been eluding me in tree branches for ages!

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Meanwhile back at Karara apparently these Little Corellas missed their train!

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Planning Your Birding Adventure In South-east Queensland

Now that you know how to use miles to get to Australia and use Brisbane as a gateway city, what you really want to know is how to get out in the bush where the birds are!  Fortunately, Australia is an amazingly easy country to travel around in.  It’s safe, everyone speaks English and the tourism infrastructure is excellent!  All you need is a well-researched plan and a car to get there.

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MAKE YOUR PLAN

1. Determine what species of birds you want to see. Bear in mind that no matter what species you are targeting, you will find many other species in the same location. In my case, although I was really keen to see wild Parrots, I was very happy to see that other species such as Fairy-wrens and Bowerbirds were also within reach.

2. Use guide books such as “Parrots of the World” by Joseph Forshaw and “The Field Guide to the Birds of Australia” by Graham Pizzey & Frank Knight to determine where these species can most easily be found. These books have maps to help you formulate an itinerary. Although I prefer Kindle/eBooks for casual reading, with a field guide you really need the hard copy to be able to compare the birds you see to the images in the book. Don’t worry if you don’t know all the species. As long as you get a decent photo, you can always look them up! You can buy these books on Amazon.com if you don’t have them already.

3. Use other internet resources to find out where the birds have been seen most recently. These may be Facebook or Twitter contacts, blogs like Miles to the Wild or trip reports on Surfbirds. Google the scientific name of the bird + “report”. For example if you Google “Lophochroa leadbeateri  sightings” you get this. If you have destinations in mind from researching the field guides, you can get better results by Googling “Lophochroa leadbeateri Bowra” such as this.

4.  Do an eBird search on the species to see where other people have reported them. Here’s an example of “eBird Major Mitchell Cockatoo“.  You can then click on the hotspot information to see what other species are found there.  This will help you allocate how many days you want to spend there. Spend more time if the destination has more of the species you are targeting.  From the above search, I zoomed in on Bowra Station and can see an impressive 224 species reported so I would want to spend at least a few days there!

This step can be very time consuming as you need to research each species you want to see individually but it is well worth it as you will save lots of time once you are traveling and you can travel independently which saves you lots of money and gives you more choices as to when, where & how you want your birding adventure to happen!

5.  EBird is integrated with Google maps so you can click on the hotspot (using Bowra Station as an example) and find out how far it is from you.  In this case, it’s in the bush so Google maps can’t find it exactly so I used the nearest town which is Cunnamulla to learn that it would be over 9 hours drive from Brisbane.  I’ve done it in one day but it’s a VERY long day!  You also need to make sure you arrive well before dusk to avoid adding to the roo road kill on the roadside!

Bowra mapI recommend breaking the journey at Lake Coolmunda on the outbound and Stanthorpe on the return.  See my road trip post for more details.  As we go through the SEQ (South-east QLD series, I will give more details about each location.

So there is a very basic idea of how to plan your itinerary.  Next, you will need a car, accommodation and a budget so stay tuned!

Rainbow Lorikeet (Trichoglossus moluccanus)

The Rainbow Lorikeet (Trichoglossus moluccanus) is a species of parrot found in Australia. It is common along the eastern seaboard, from northern Queensland to South Australia and Tasmania. Its habitat is rainforest, coastal bush and woodland areas. Several taxa traditionally listed as subspecies of the rainbow lorikeet are now treated as separate species (see Taxonomy) or this more detailed explanation of taxonomy.

IMG_9819a IMG_9822aRainbow Lorikeets are readily found in towns along the eastern Australian seaboard.  You don’t have to go birding to see them in Brisbane, they are everywhere!  They visit my back yard and front yard most days of the year and roost noisily in the trees outside the Chermside Shopping Centre in the 1000’s.  A smaller population has been introduced to parks near Perth, WA.

RLorirangeLEARN MORE ABOUT RAINBOW LORIKEETS

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VIDEOS

Here you see Rainbow Lorikeets in the bush and also some which frequent a wildlife park – Currumbin Sanctuary.  All the birds are wild, they just like a free feed like anyone else!

Here you can see their playful nature!