More than 800 species of native, migratory and introduced birds have been recorded on Australia’s mainland, islands and offshore territories. So many that Aussies become blasé about our bounty, appreciating the rich assortment of birds only when overseas visitors wax lyrical about the vivid colours of parrots, transfixing behaviour of raptors and songs of way too many varieties to mention.
Birds thrive in Australia’s central deserts and around the coast, on alpine plains and in tropical rainforests – so you have to try very hard NOT to see birds when bushwalking. Allow time to stop, watch and listen.
And don’t let anyone convince you that you need to wear camouflage. I have had many close encounters with birds (and other animals) over 20 years of hiking wearing rainbow stripes. Perhaps they think I’m a very large and colourful flower or another bird!
All you need for a spot of twitching – as the English charmingly call bird watching – are binoculars and a reference book, both of which come in day-pack size. There are numerous attributes to consider when buying binoculars but the most important for a day out on foot are weight and magnification.
Many twitchers recommend 8x magnification because any higher narrows your field of view, making it more difficult to locate moving birds and darkening the image.
A top book is The Slater Field Guide to Australian Birds, for its compactness, information, and sketches of raptors in flight from below, which makes identification easier.