Ready to see birds in Port Douglas? Wildlife Habitat is renowned for its abundance of local bird species. More than half (approx. 52%) of Australia’s bird species are found within the Wet Tropics region. Over 75 species of bird can be discovered whilst you are walking through our large immersive habitats, including the endangered Southern Cassowary, the Black Necked Stork and an abundance of cheeky cockatoos.
Cockatoos are distinguished by their erect crest. These charismatic birds are common pets in Australia and are one of our most well-known and recognisable species. Generally Cockatoos have black, grey or white plumage with minimal vibrant colours. Some of the most stunning cockatoos in Australia include the Major Mitchell Cockatoo, and the Red-tailed Black Cockatoo.
Cockatoos have a large robust bill for processing seeds and nuts along with their muscular tongue. We have 5 different species of cockatoo at Wildlife Habitat: Red-tailed Black Cockatoo, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo, Galah and the Cockatiel.
Of the 3 known cassowary species, only the Southern Cassowary (or double wattled cassowary) is found in Australia. A keystone species, it is believed there are only approximately 4000 individuals left in the wild, from Airlie Beach, throughout the Daintree Rainforest and into Cape York. Reasons for the cassowary population decline is predominantly related to habitat clearing, dog attacks and being struck by cars on roads. These birds play a pivotal part in rainforest regeneration with their capability for long range seed dispersal. Looking more like they have stepped out of the Jurassic period, these large, compact and heavy flightless birds can be viewed here at the Wildlife Habitat in our Rainforest walk through aviary.
Pigeons & Doves
Pigeons and doves are plump birds found all over the world, except for the polar areas. Australia has 22 native species. The main difference between pigeons and doves is their size, with doves usually classed in the smaller category. One thing they both have in common is the construction of flimsy twig nest platforms. Some are so sparse it is amazing their chicks get to fledge!
Most species forage for fruits and seeds as well as the occasional insect or two. Most species of birds need to take small gulps of water at a time which they then swallow, but pigeons and doves are able to drink continuously without needing to raise their heads to swallow. Incredible!
Species found at the park include the Emerald Dove, Rose-crowned fruit-dove, Pied imperial pigeon, White-headed pigeon, Wonga pigeon, Brown cuckoo dove, Forest Bronzewing, Diamond dove, Bar shouldered dove and the Peaceful Dove.
Although common in our local region the Bush stone-curlew is endangered in the southern states of Australia. This cryptic bird relies on its ability to camouflage during the day whilst hunting for insects by night. The “stone” reference in their name refers to the tendency of these birds to consume small pebbles to help break up the insects they consume. The curlew is renowned for its mournful cry, and this is often the only way to identify its presence.
When disturbed it crouches down low to the ground or freezes rather than flying away which is a major contributor to its decline. Introduced predators such as the fox are a major threat to the species. The stone curlew relies on fallen branches and debris to assist in its ability to hide, to both roost and nest. This too may be a contributor to its decline.
Of the 20 odd species of finch found in Australia, 18 are native to this country. Finches are members of the family Passeridae and all have short conical bills, well adapted to enable these small birds to eat and catch food. Finches mainly eat grass seeds, small insects and some vegetation. They busily forage through grasses and on the ground throughout the daylight hours and never are still for long. Most finches weave intricate grass nests to raise their young, but will happily utilise man-made options if available, weaving grasses inside boxes and hollows. Depending on the season, it is regularly possible to see nesting finches in action in our Woodlands Aviary. Finch species found at the park – Gouldian Finch, Red-browed finch.
Ducks & Geese
A duck isn’t just a duck – some dabble, some graze, some dive and some dredge. At Wildlife Habitat we have divers, grazers and dabblers. Next time you are looking at a duck, watch how it is feeding and see if you can work out what feeding technique it is using. The main diet of ducks include grasses, aquatic plant life, insects, frogs, worms, and molluscs.
One of the iconic features of a duck is, of course, its webbed feet. Having webbed feet enables the bird to move efficiently through the water and with some species, also dive.
Species of duck and goose at Wildlife Habitat: Wandering Whistling-duck, Pacific Black duck, Maned duck, Plumed Whistling-duck, Radjah Shelduck, Magpie Goose, Grey teal , Chestnut teal , Blue-billed duck, Hardhead duck.
There are representatives of all 3 Australian families of parrots at Wildlife Habitat – the Cockatoos (see Cockatoos), Lorikeets and the true parrots.
Notable features of all parrots are their strong down-turned beaks, vibrant feather colouration and toe structure. They have two facing forward toes and 2 facing backward facing toes that enable them to perch and climb easily. Did you know that most are left handed?
Species at Wildlife Habitat include – Red-collared lorikeet, Rainbow lorikeet and Scaly-breasted lorikeet, Double-eyed Fig-parrot, Cockatiel, Eclectus parrot, Budgerigar and Pale-headed rosella.
Widely known as the Jabiru, the Black-necked Stork is the only representative of its family within Australia. Wildlife Habitat is proud to have homed the world’s only successful captive breeding pair – James and Jabbie.
After James’ unfortunate passing in 2018, Wildlife Habitat is still home to Jabbie, who has mothered 18 young.
These majestic birds are predators of mainly coastal and near-coastal wetland areas of northern and eastern Australia. Throughout the monsoonal areas of northern Australia, the Black-necked Stork is still widespread, but fewer numbers appear through southern QLD and NSW.
They are usually found independently feeding on fish from freshwater ecosystems, however crustaceans, baby crocodiles and turtles also form part of their diet.
Although often mistaken for an Owl, Frogmouths are a nocturnal bird found throughout Australia, and are more closely related to a Nightjar.
Frogmouths are masters of camouflage; their textured plumage resembles tree bark, which makes them incredibly hard to spot in the wild.
Wildlife Habitat is home to two varieties of Frogmouth; the Papuan and the Tawny. The easiest way to differ between these two species is to look at their eye colour. Tawny Frogmouth’s have yellow-orange eyes, whereas Papuan Frogmouths have red eyes.
The Emu is the second tallest bird on the planet and is Australia’s tallest native bird. The Emu can grow to between 1.6 and 1.9 metres in height and can run up to 50 kilometres per hour! Like the Southern Cassowary, the Emu is a flightless bird and belongs to the family ratites.
Emus are found throughout mainland Australia and habitats range from coastal regions and mountain ranges to arid desert plains
Their diet includes flowers, insects, fruits and seeds, and they aid their digestion by consuming stones.
Wildlife Habitat is home to two species of Kookaburra; the Laughing Kookaburra and the Blue Winged Kookaburra.
Known for its distinctive cackle, the Laughing Kookaburra can be found throughout eastern Australia and south-west Western Australia. It is the largest member of the Kingfisher family and can grow up to 45cm in length.
The Blue Winged Kookaburra is a smaller species that can be found in north east and north west Australia in coastal and subcoastal areas. The Blue Winged Kookaburra also has a “laughing” call.
Kookaburras are carnivorous and live on a diet of reptiles, large insects, fish and small mammals.
The Australian Pelican is part of the family Pelecanidae and can be found in Australia, New Guinea, Fiji and parts of Indonesia. They occur on open water and their habitats include billabongs, rivers, lakes and coastal lagoons.
Pelicans hunt for fish as a large group and work by driving fish into shallower waters and then catching them in their bills. The Australian Pelican has a particularly sensitive bill which helps it to detect prey in murky waters.