Birding Tour Australia: Tasmania – Endemics and the Orange-bellied Parrot
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Australia: Tasmania – Endemics and the Orange-bellied Parrot
October 2023/November 2024
This small group tour of the Australian island state of Tasmania looks for all Tasmanian endemics (we usually see them all well) and also includes a day-trip flight to look for the Critically Endangered (BirdLife International) Orange-bellied Parrot, not everyone offers this option within their tours so do check as this is the only realistic way to see this species.
The handsome Orange-bellied Parrot is the primary target on this tour.
Adjoined to the mainland until the end of the last glacial period about ten thousand years ago, Tasmania is both geographically and genetically isolated from the Australian mainland. Through the millennia this island has developed its own unique set of plants and animals, including twelve avian endemics: Forty-spotted Pardalote, Tasmanian Nativehen, Green Rosella, Yellow Wattlebird, Scrubtit, Tasmanian Scrubwren, Tasmanian Thornbill, Dusky Robin, Yellow-throated Honeyeater, Black-headed Honeyeater, Strong-billed Honeyeater, and Black Currawong. Beyond the endemics Tasmania also harbors several species which winter on the mainland and breed on Tasmania, such as Orange-bellied Parrot already mentioned above and Swift Parrot another Critically Endangered (BirdLife International) parrot and another major target on this tour.
Forty-spotted Pardalote is one of the Tasmanian endemics we will target on this tour.
This tour also offers wonderful opportunities for many other highly sought-after species such as Morepork (a recent split from Australian Boobook), Little Penguin, Hooded Dotterel, Freckled Duck, Wedge-tailed Eagle, Grey Goshawk, Eastern Ground Parrot, Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo, Pink Robin, Flame Robin, Scarlet Robin, Olive Whistler, Southern Emu-wren, and Beautiful Firetail.
Our search for the endemics and breeding specialties of Tasmania is set within a stunning backdrop of rugged coastlines, tall evergreen sclerophyll forests, alpine heathlands, and cool temperate rainforests, undoubtedly enriching our experience here.
For those wishing to continue exploring Australia, this tour can be combined with our set of Australia tours: Eastern Australia: from the Outback to the Wet Tropics, Australia: Northern Territory – Top End Birding, and Western Australia: Southwest Specialties. You can also join our new Northern Territory – Alice Springs Birding tour (it will fit perfectly between our Top End and Western Australia tours). All five of our Australian birdwatching tours could be combined into one long tour, or you could just do one or two (or more!), whatever suits your time. We can also arrange further extensions (e.g., sightseeing trips to Sydney, Uluru, etc., and pelagic trips) if you wish.
Itinerary (6 days/5 nights)
Day 1. Arrival in Hobart
Afternoon arrival at Hobart International Airport and transfer to your hotel in the city, our base for the next few nights, with the rest of the day at your leisure.
Day 2. Hobart environs
We spend the day birding at a couple of sites within close proximity to Hobart city, exploring the beautiful Fern Glade at Mt Wellington and the nearby Waterworks Reserve, where we can expect to get our list of Tasmanian endemic species up and running with Tasmanian Scrubwren, Scrubtit, Tasmanian Thornbill, Black Currawong, Yellow Wattlebird, Dusky Robin, and Strong-billed Honeyeater. The supporting cast may include Pink Robin, Bassian Thrush, and Olive Whistler.
Endemic to Tasmania, Strong-billed Honeyeater will be an early target on the tour.
Day 3. Melaleuca Orange-bellied Parrot day trip
An unforgettable day is in store for us today! Weather-permitting we will board a small plane early in the morning, flying over some incredible scenery over southwestern Tasmania before descending onto the remote airstrip at Melaleuca. Originally a tin mine, Melaleuca is now the center of conservation efforts aimed at restoring the wild population of the Critically Endangered (BirdLife International) Orange-bellied Parrot. A Tasmanian breeding endemic, these beautiful little parrots are in a dire situation, with fewer than forty individuals left in the wild. Time unfortunately seems to be running out for them.
We will hopefully find Orange-bellied Parrot at Melaleuca.
The surrounding heath hosts a healthy population of Southern Emu-wren, Striated Fieldwren, Olive Whistler, Pink Robin, Crescent Honeyeater, Beautiful Firetail, and the very secretive and subtly beautiful Eastern Ground Parrot, which we will also try to find. Over the course of the day we will be truly spoiled with a range of fantastic local Tasmanian food and drink. Our return flight to Hobart late in the afternoon will likely take us on a different route back to Hobart, offering more views of stunning mountain scenery. This is often considered one of the most enjoyable days across all of our Australian tours.
Day 4. Hobart to Bruny Island
Located off the southeastern coast of Tasmania, Bruny Island supports all twelve currently recognized Tasmanian endemics, including the world’s largest population of the Endangered (BirdLife International) Forty-spotted Pardalote. We will board a ferry to this rich site during the morning, watching for White-bellied Sea Eagle, Pacific Gull, and Black-faced Cormorant on our way out.
Once we arrive on the island, we will spend the better part of the day looking for all the Tasmanian endemics, such as the demure Dusky Robin, the vociferous Yellow Wattlebird, and the comical Tasmanian Nativehen. By scanning sandy beaches, we also hope to connect with the increasingly rare Hooded Dotterel. While here we will also look for the Critically Endangered (BirdLife International) breeding-endemic Swift Parrot, another species in a state of unfortunate rapid decline.
Swift Parrot – another Critically Endangered (BirdLife International) parrot that we hope to find on this tour.
We will take a drive and walk around at dusk to look for Little Penguin and Short-tailed Shearwater as well as the recently split Morepork (a hawk-owl). Birds of the latter species in Tasmania were formerly thought to be a subspecies of Australian Boobook, which is found widely on the Australian mainland, but recent DNA analysis has found them to be more closely related to birds on New Zealand and actually a subspecies of the species found in that country!
Overnight: Bruny Island
Day 5. Bruny Island to Hobart
We spend a full day birding Bruny Island, focusing perhaps on the scarcer endemics such as Scrubtit and Strong-billed Honeyeater. Other specialties like Wedge-tailed Eagle, Beautiful Firetail, Olive Whistler, Eastern Ground Parrot, and Swift Parrot will be among our targets too. We will also keep an eye open over the water for Black-browed Albatross and Shy Albatross, Australasian Gannet, and White-bellied Sea Eagle. In the late afternoon we will catch the ferry off Bruny Island and head back to our hotel in the city of Hobart.
Day 6. Birding Southeast Tasmania and tour concludes
We will have a final morning session birding at some sites in the southeast of the island, where we may find Latham’s Snipe, Baillon’s, Australian, and Spotless Crakes, Little Grassbird, and Australian Reed Warbler, as well as, hopefully, an assortment of waterbirds (depending on water levels).
The tour will end after a final lunch together before we make our way back to Hobart International Airport, where the tour ends at 2pm. Those continuing on the Eastern Australia: from the Outback to the Wet Tropics tour will fly to Melbourne for the start of that tour the following day.
Overnight: Not included
This tour gives great opportunities to see the magnificent Beautiful Firetail.
Please note that the itinerary cannot be guaranteed as it is only a rough guide and can be changed (usually slightly) due to factors such as availability of accommodation, updated information on the state of accommodation, roads, or birding sites, the discretion of the guides and other factors.Download Itinerary
Tasmania Trip Report, October 2018
22 – 27 OCTOBER 2018
By Andy Walker
DOWNLOAD TRIP REPORT
This short Tasmania group tour commenced in the state capital Hobart on the 22nd of October 2018 and concluded back there on the 27th of October 2018. The tour focused on finding the state’s endemic birds as well as two breeding endemic species (both Critically Endangered [IUCN] parrots), and the tour is a great way to get accustomed to Australian birds and birding ahead of the longer East Coast tour.
The tour included a couple of days birding in the Hobart environs, a day trip by light aircraft to the southwest of the state, and a couple of days on the picturesque and bird-rich Bruny Island. We found, and got very good views of, all twelve endemic birds of Tasmania, these being Forty-spotted Pardalote, Green Rosella, Tasmanian Nativehen, Scrubtit, Tasmanian Scrubwren, Dusky Robin, Strong-billed, Black-headed, and Yellow-throated Honeyeaters, Yellow Wattlebird, Tasmanian Thornbill, and Black Currawong, as well as the two Critically Endangered breeding endemic species (Orange-bellied Parrot and Swift Parrot), of which we also got excellent and prolonged views of a sizeable proportion of their global populations. Other highlights included Little Penguin, Hooded Dotterel, Freckled Duck, White-bellied Sea Eagle, Wedge-tailed Eagle, Grey Goshawk, Laughing Kookaburra, Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo, Blue-winged Parrot, Pink Robin, Flame Robin, Scarlet Robin, Striated Fieldwren, Southern Emu-wren, and Beautiful Firetail. A vagrant Hudsonian Godwit was a rather nice bonus bird too.
A total of 110 bird species were seen (plus two species heard only), along with an impressive list of mammals including Short-beaked Echidna, Afro-Australian Fur Seal, Tasmanian (Red-bellied) Pademelon, Red-necked (Bennett’s) Wallaby, Common Brushtail Possum, and Spotted-tailed Quoll. Full species lists are provided at the end of this report.
Day 1, 22nd October 2018. Arrival in Hobart
Tim, Kay, and Sandra arrived around midday and transferred to our hotel in Hobart, with the rest of the day at leisure.
Day 2, 23rd October 2018. Hobart environs
We spent the whole day birding to the west of Hobart. As we stepped out of the car in the parking lot we were immediately into it, with the first bird of the trip being the simply gorgeous Superb Fairywren – what a way to start the tour! It didn’t stop there, and over the next few minutes we were watching Green Rosella, Black-headed Honeyeater, Scarlet Robin, Satin Flycatcher, Silvereye, Grey Currawong, Forest Raven, and nesting Striated Pardalote. Continuing out of the parking lot we found Masked Lapwing, Great Cormorant, Hoary-headed Grebe, Pacific Black Duck, and Eurasian Coot.
Entering the forest we were suddenly face-to-face with another Scarlet Robin and then had fantastic, prolonged views of a family group of foraging Strong-billed Honeyeaters. Here we also found Grey Fantail, Grey Shrikethrush, Brown Thornbill, Tasmanian Scrubwren, and Tasmanian Thornbill. A very showy Shining Bronze Cuckoo also gave great views, while Fan-tailed Cuckoo remained a heard-only bird.
A small waterbody held our first Maned Ducks, Hardhead, and a flock of bathing Kelp Gulls, along with more Great Cormorants and Hoary-headed Grebes. Some further exploration resulted in finding a very showy Laughing Kookaburra, many of the aforementioned species, and our first mammals of the trip, several Tasmanian (Red-bellied) Pademelons (including a female with a very cute joey in her pouch) and a Red-necked (Bennett’s) Wallaby.
After lunch (with Superb Fairywren and Eastern Spinebill) we took a walk along a river gorge. It was fairly quiet in general; however, we found our main target birds along the trail when we saw Scrubtit, an often-tricky Tasmanian endemic, along with Black Currawong and the stunning Pink Robin. We had further views of several mouse-like Tasmanian Scrubwrens, a brief Brush Bronzewing, and nesting Spotted Pardalote too. All of this ended what was an excellent first day’s birding.
Day 3, 24th October 2018. Melaleuca Orange-bellied Parrot twitch
After breakfast we headed to the Cambridge Airfield near Hobart, where, full of anticipation, we boarded our small plane for our one-hour flight to Melaleuca in the southwest corner of Tasmania, all of this for our quest to find one of the rarest birds in the world. The flight is worth taking in its own right, as the views of the coast and Bruny Island (our destination for the following day) are absolutely spectacular. The flight back at the end of the day was equally impressive as we flew through the mountains on an overland route, several peaks still with snow present.
After we arrived on the small airstrip at Melaleuca we immediately set out birding, and after literally just stepping off the airfield we were watching an eye-level Horsfield’s Bronze Cuckoo in great light, followed by the stunning Beautiful Firetail, a particularly well-named bird.
Another hundred meters along the track we suddenly stood with several of the Critically Endangered Orange-bellied Parrots all around us! Just incredible, and over the next hour or so we sat in awe watching these birds tend their nests, foraging, and even bathing in a small puddle! We recorded at least twelve, possibly as many as fifteen birds during the time we were there. A definite highlight of the Tasmania tour that would prove hard to beat!
Although it was hard to take our eyes away from the parrots we did find a few other very nice birds in the area, including good looks at Yellow-throated Honeyeater, Dusky Robin, Green Rosella, Black Currawong, Beautiful Firetail, Southern Emu-wren, Striated Fieldwren, Superb Fairywren, New Holland Honeyeater, and Swamp Harrier. It was also wonderful to spend the day in such a remote and beautiful wilderness area, with the only sound being that of the birds.
Exceedingly happy we jumped back on the plane and headed back to Hobart, where we had a lovely meal on the quayside, along with a celebratory nice bottle of wine!
Day 4, 25th October 2018. Hobart to Bruny Island
We had the full day birding on Bruny Island, and it was yet another wonderful day packed full of really exciting birds and other wildlife. Leaving Hobart after breakfast we headed toward the small town of Kettering, where we boarded the car ferry to cross the short distance to Bruny Island. Along the way we found our first Black-faced Cormorants, but the sea was very calm, so nothing else of real note was seen (except for a pair of much-enjoyed Afro-Australian Fur Seals), but the view was rather nice.
We spent the morning birding around the north of the island, where we targeted a few endemics and other species and in doing so found the rare Forty-spotted Pardalote with ease, which was very pleasing. Other birds we found included Dusky Robin, Flame Robin, Chestnut Teal, Hoary-headed Grebe, Common Bronzewing, Tasmanian Nativehen, White-faced Heron, White-bellied Sea Eagle, Yellow Wattlebird, Dusky Woodswallow, Yellow-rumped Thornbill, and Black-faced Cuckooshrike.
We had a great lunch at the Cheese Factory, and as we sat and ate we got some amazing views of a rather tame Grey Butcherbird that gave very close views, allowing a great study of all its features.
We then continued to the south of the island across ‘The Neck’, stopping to enjoy our first Pied Oystercatchers, Sooty Oystercatchers, and Pacific Gulls of the trip, and along the way we got very lucky with a brief glimpse of the shy Bassian Thrush.
Our afternoon was very successful too. We spent it around Adventure Bay (visited by both Captain Cook and Charles Darwin), and despite the cool conditions and increasing wind we found Hooded Dotterel, Swamp Harrier, Brown Falcon, Wedge-tailed Eagle, and, best of all, the Critically Endangered Swift Parrot. We did very well with the Swift Parrots, watching about a dozen birds feeding in a flowering eucalyptus tree.
After checking into our rather novel accommodation (a converted church!), we enjoyed dinner and followed it up with a night walk and drive. This was also very successful and finished the day off in an excellent manner, with us watching several Little Penguins leaving the sea and walking up the beach to their burrows, after watching thousands of Short-tailed Shearwaters flying around our heads as a huge full moon rose over the ocean. What a sight! After this we took a brief drive, finding Spotted-tailed Quoll, Common Brushtail Possum, Red-necked (Bennett’s) Wallaby, and Tasmanian (Red-bellied) Pademelon. A Morepork was heard but was on private land, so we couldn’t chase after it. But all in all, what a great day with all Tasmanian-endemic birds now firmly ‘in the bag’ for the trip!
Day 5, 26th October 2018. Bruny Island to Hobart
We awoke to a cool morning and made our way to Adventure Bay for breakfast, although nothing is done quickly on Bruny Island and it took us over an hour to cover the short distance as we kept finding great birds to look at along the way, such as Grey Goshawk, Collared Sparrowhawk, Flame Robin, Scarlet Robin, and many more birds we had enjoyed the previous day.
Following our great breakfast in a beautiful setting we spent some time watching a foraging flock of Swift Parrots, getting better views than the previous day due to the wind finally having dropped a bit. Here we also had further good looks at New Holland Honeyeaters and Dusky Woodswallows. A short drive along the bay revealed Tasmanian Nativehen (our best look to date), a flock of gorgeous male Superb Fairywrens, stunning views of a family group of Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos, and a lovely surprise in the form of a rather small (but hugely appreciated) Short-beaked Echidna (see picture at the end of the report). As we commenced our journey back to the north of the island we were distracted by a fly-over Fan-tailed Cuckoo, which led to a U-turn. Suddenly we were watching and listening to both Fan-tailed Cuckoo (a pair) and Pallid Cuckoo sitting next to each other on overhead powerlines. Even with Grey Fantail, Silvereye, and a pair of Scarlet Robins trying to distract us, all kept an eye on the cuckoos. We also had a low flyover of a huge White-bellied Sea Eagle here.
Finally getting to our target trail we took a brief walk, finding many of the birds we’d enjoyed over the previous days, such as Shining Bronze Cuckoo, another Fan-tailed Cuckoo, Australian Golden Whistler, more close views of Scarlet Robins, Yellow-throated, Black-headed, and New Holland Honeyeaters, a flock of Grey Currawongs, and some distant Australian Pipits.
After another enjoyable lunch we spent a while birding around the north, finding a repeat of the birds we had seen there yesterday with the added bonus of a Blue-winged Parrot along with Dusky Robin and probably our best views of Green Rosellas too (and another, much larger, Short-beaked Echidna). With that it was time to catch the ferry back to the Tasmanian mainland and drive the short distance to Hobart, where we enjoyed a lovely Thai evening meal to celebrate a wonderful day, but, more importantly, Kays birthday!
Day 6, 27th October 2018. Southeast Tasmania and tour concludes
We awoke to a windy and rather threatening overcast morning in Hobart and prepared for our final few hours of birding of the trip. We headed to a small waterbody near the city and found a nice selection of waterbirds new for the trip. With Freckled Duck being probably the most significant find, the high count of thirty birds was very good. Here we also found Australasian Shoveler, Hardhead, Chestnut and Grey Teals, Mallard, and several other ducks and similar species. Great Egret was busy hunting in the shallows, and Latham’s Snipe was sitting stationary along the edge of the reedbed, displaying fantastic camouflage. Tasmanian Nativehen was fairly common, as too was Australasian Swamphen. Tim managed to get some incredible footage as he witnessed a swamphen catch and then drown a Pacific Black Duck duckling, which it then ate – not something you see every day! The trees and grassland nearby held Musk Lorikeet, Galah, Eastern Rosella, and European Greenfinch, all new birds for the trip. The wind was bitingly cold, and so we thought enough was enough and moved along.
Our next, and final, stop of the trip was at a lagoon near the airport. Here we found a flock of Bar-tailed Godwits, and within this flock was a vagrant Hudsonian Godwit – a really nice surprise addition to the tour list! Here we also had good views of Eastern Rosella and Little Wattlebird in the adjacent gardens, along with Red Knot, Pied Oystercatcher, Musk Duck, Little Pied Cormorant, Great Crested Grebe, and Hoary-headed Grebe. It was enjoyable watching these birds out of the increasing wind and a great way to end what had been an excellent and really enjoyable four-and-a-half-days’ birding around the beautiful island state of Tasmania.
We headed back to our hotel, packed, and made our way to the airport, where the tour concluded. Luckily we were all about to commence the 16-day East Coast tour, so we were all very excited about the prospect of some more great birding and travel together as we boarded our flight to Melbourne, Victoria.
Please see the downloadable PDF above with the full species lists included. Please email us ([email protected]) for more trip reports from this destination.
‘Andy is a superb guide with a wonderful knowledge of birds and where to find them. He is enthusiastic and keen, great company and a real pleasure to bird with. Our Australian trip was very successful in terms of sightings and also really enjoyable. Andy played a big part in that with his superb organisation, excellent birding skills, easy-going nature and positive attitude. I would happily join Andy on a birding trip again and hope to be able to do so later this year!’