Black-breasted Buzzard

Hamirostra melanosternon

Black-breasted Buzzards are an uncommon species found in wooded areas in the northern two-thirds of Australia. They are usually seen soaring overhead when they can be identified by their distinctive silhouette – broad and even, with black, deep-fingered wings bordering a large, obvious white patch, a short, plain grey, square-cut tail, and a rufous underbody. Conversely, they may be found on the ground near road kill. Black-breasted buzzards feed on birds, mammals, reptiles, large insects and carrion e.g. road-kill. They also feed on the large eggs of ground-nesting birds and…

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Australian Pelican

Pelican conspicillatus

The Australian pelican is a very large waterbird, unmistakeable in appearance, and is the only pelican in the Australia. Despite their sometimes-comical manoeuvres, with their large bills and distensible pouches, pelicans are majestic birds whether soaring high overhead, coming into land on the water with legs extended like a water skier, or swimming in convoys on the water. Every art show or photo exhibition along the coast testifies to their popularity with the public, and their inspiration to the artistic.   Australian Pelicans mainly feed on fish but will also…

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Cattle Egret

Bubulcus ibis

Cattle Egrets are one the most successful bird species worldwide. A native of Africa, India and SE Asia, they were self-introduced to South America in the 1870s and have since spread throughout that continent, and as far north as the USA. They were similarly self-introduced to Australia and by 1948 were found in large numbers in the Northern Territory. They have since spread throughout Australia. The first South Australian breeding record was in 1972 at Salt Lagoon near Yalkurri, Lake Alexandrina. Cattle Egrets feed mainly on insects, particularly locusts and…

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White-faced Heron

Egretta novaehollandiae

White-faced herons are Australia’s most common and whitespread heron and can be found in suitable habitat throughout the country, including Tasmania. These herons eat a generalist diet including small fish, amphibians, aquatic insects and crustaceans, earthworms and carrion. They mainly feed by day but occasionally forage at night as well. Foraging techniques vary from walking slowly or quickly – even running – and then striking swiftly by shooting out the S-shaped neck. They may flush prey by foot stirring or raking of the surface. They usually forage alone but may…

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White-necked Heron

Ardea pacifica

White-necked herons are larger and more striking than the more commonly seen white-faced heron. In South Australia they are often seen alone on farm dams, or on the small estuaries of creeks near the coast.   White-necked herons feed on a wide variety of aquatic and terrestrial animals including small fish, birds, amphibians, reptiles, molluscs, crustaceans and aquatic insects. Generally, they feed alone but sometimes in loose flocks. They forage by standing and waiting or walking slowly before rapidly striking with the bill. These herons usually breed from spring to…

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Australasian Bittern

Botaurus poiciloptilus

Bitterns are secretive and superbly camouflaged, and so often remain undetected in their preferred habitat of reeds and rushes. They give themselves away, though, by deep, resonant booms uttered two or three times at 1-2 second intervals. Australasian Bitterns are rare and rated as ENDANGERED in Australia. Australian Bitterns prey on a wide variety of aquatic animals – fish, crayfish, amphibians (particularly frogs), crustaceans, snails, insects and other arthropods, small mammals (rats and mice) and even birds such as silvereyes (Zosterops). They forage by standing still, or quietly stalking, and…

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Spotted Harrier

Circus assimilis

Spotted Harriers are the dry country equivalent of the Swamp Harrier, which is common over wetlands in the south and east. They have the similar hunting technique of slow circling and searching the ground beneath. There is a clearly marked rufous facial disc indicating that they, like many other harriers, use an acute sense of hearing in foraging. It also makes them look decidedly owl-like especially from the front. Spotted Harriers prey on terrestrial birds such as quails, larks and pipits; on mammals such as mice, bandicoots and rabbits; on…

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Swamp Harrier

Circus approximans

Swamp harriers are often seen flying slowly and close to the ground in wetland areas searching for their prey. This hunting strategy is often known as “quartering”. Other raptors use this technique but harriers are specialists at it (their generic name “Circus” refers to their circling flight). Like owls they use hearing to locate their prey, and like owls, they have a disc of feathers around the sides of their heads, which serves to funnel sound into their ears. Swamp Harriers prey on a wide variety of vertebrates including rabbits,…

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Pandion haliaetus

Ospreys are highly specialised fish-eaters with a reversible outer toe and spicules on the soles of their feet to hold slippery fish. They also have closable nostrils for diving, and a flexible ‘wrist’ (carpal joint) to allow powerful thrusts to pull the bird and its prey out of the water after a dive. Ospreys have a world-wide distribution, and occur along major river systems and the coast. In Australia, though, they are found mainly along the coast. Ospreys are almost exclusively fish-eaters but occasionally they take other birds, crustaceans, reptiles…

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