Kakadu’s birdlife will blow you away. From colourful finches to majestic birds of prey, Kakadu is home to a third of Australia’s bird species.
Of the roughly 280 bird species that call Kakadu home we’ve selected 10 favourites.
1. Rainbow pitta
The exotic-looking rainbow pitta lives in rainforest, mangrove and eucalyptus forest. Look out for it on the forest floor during the wetter months.
As the humidity rises, it becomes very active and can often be seen hopping around the forest floor. It is often seen on the Gu-ngarre Walk in the South Alligator region and on the walking track to Maguk (Barramundi Gorge) in the Mary River region. You could also try Gunlom in the Mary River region, Gubara in the Nourlangie region or the Manngarre Walk in the East Alligator region.
2. Australasian yellow oriole
This is a pretty yellow-green bird with pale lime tips to its black wings.
Its yellow-green plumage makes it difficult to see. Look for it at Yellow Water near Cooinda (in paperbark trees near the walkway at the water’s edge), or at nearby Mardugal.
3. Crimson finch
Also known as a blood finch, the small but spectacular crimson finch has a red face, beak and belly and red-brown streaked back, finished with a long slim red tail. Juveniles do not have colour, and the female lacks the crimson breast. The crimson finch has two sub-species, the white-bellied and the black-bellied which is more common in captivity.
This is a stand-out bird along Kakadu’s wetland fringes, and can be found in savannah woodland and in Kakadu’s lowlands.
4. Barking owl (Mobbok)
The intriguing barking owl – known as mobbok by Kakadu’s traditional owners - is a medium-sized hawk owl, named for its dog-like barking and growling at night.
It lives mostly near rivers, swamps, creek beds and billabongs. At night it is active and noisy and its barking and sometimes woman-like screams have led to a belief that it is the source of the mythical bunyip stories. According to legend, the fearsome bunyip inhabits creeks and lonely river beds in the Australian bush.
5. Little corella
No, it’s not a vampire - the little corella takes its scientific name of cacatua sanguina - meaning blood-stained cockatoo - from the pink markings between the eye and the bill.
It is often found in the savannah woodlands and lowlands where many species of the parrot family are common. Look for it at Mamukala in the South Alligator region, Yellow Water near Cooinda or Bukbukluk Lookout in the south of the park.
6. Comb-crested jacana
Also known as a lily walker or lotus bird, this species is unmistakable for its seeming ability to walk over water!
This bird rarely comes to shore but you will certainly see it on the floodplains where it walks elegantly across the lily pads looking for food. Try Yellow Water near Cooinda or Mamukala wetland in the South Alligator region, where it builds up in numbers towards the end of the dry season.
7. Marrawuddi (white-bellied sea eagle)
Known as marrawuddi by Kakadu’s traditional owners, the white-bellied sea eagle is an impressive raptor with long, broad wings and a short, wedge-shaped tail. It measures 75–85 cm in length, and has a wingspan of 180–220 cm! Females are larger than males, weighing between 2.8 and 4.2 kg.
Look out for single eagles or pairs around Yellow Water. You may even see one dive for a snack and swoop away with a catch dangling from its beak!
8. Willie wagtail (willy wagtail)
The willie wagtail is a very tame bird, and the best known of the wagtails. It’s very charismatic and photogenic, named for its long tail which waggles from side to side as it moves about. It can be found in almost any part of Kakadu. Look for it on the walking track between Bowali Visitor Centre and the township of Jabiru.
9. Rainbow bee-eater
Photo by At A Glance Pty Ltd.
The glorious rainbow bee-eater is a striking, colourful bird found throughout mainland Australia.
As the name suggests, the bee-eater has a real taste for bees, eating as many as several hundred a day, as well as a variety of other flying insects.
It hunts from its perch, swooping down to catch insects mid-flight and bringing them back to the perch to knock them against it. In the case of bees and stinging insects, although the bird is actually immune to bee stings, it will rub the stinger against its perch to rub off the sting. It even closes its eyes to avoid being squirted by any poison.
10. Silver-crowned friarbird
This bird is endemic to Australia, meaning it is found nowhere else in the world. It loves subtropical and tropical dry forests and mangrove forests. It is easy to identify thanks to the silver crown, nape and throat and the large bump on its slim curved black bill.
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