22 March 2011
The most attractive feature about the Sunshine Coast from a birding perspective is the wide variety of habitat on offer within a geographically short range. A 20-minute drive from my home in Yandina can place me in or on rainforest, dry vine scrub, wet sclerophyll forest, open eucalypt forest, freshwater wetlands, wallum heath, coastal sandflats, beaches, coastal rocky headlands, mangroves, or grasslands – all the habitats of southeast Queensland. For instance, I have Grass Owl 11km to the east of my home, and Sooty Owl 15km to the west.
Several bird species which are rare or uncommon – or are normally difficult to find – are reliably viewable at several Sunshine Coast sites.
In the Blackall and Conondale Ranges in the hinterland, several pairs of Marbled Frogmouth inhabit the extensive areas of rainforest and wet sclerophyll forest. The region is the stronghold for the plumiferus race of the species, which had not been seen or heard for several decades until it was rediscovered here in the mid-1970s. Masked Owls and Sooty Owls occur widely in forests, sometimes sharing the same site. Added bonuses while spotlighting are mammals such as Feathertail Glider and Yellow-bellied Glider.
The forested mountains and lower slopes closer to the coast have good numbers of Topknot Pigeon, Wompoo Fruit-Dove, Rose-crowned Fruit-Dove and other rainforest pigeons; Superb Fruit-Doves are found regularly in summer. White-headed Pigeon is a garden bird at my home. Other wet forest species widespread in the region include Paradise Riflebird, Pale-yellow Robin, Logrunner, Noisy Pitta, Green Catbird, Russet-tailed Thrush, Regent Bowerbird and Satin Bowerbird. A remnant population of Eastern Bristlebird occurs in the Conondale Range but is endangered.
Red-browed Treecreeper is resident in wet sclerophyll forest and Painted Button-Quail in drier eucalypt forest. Some species which are generally scarce in south-east Queensland such as White-eared Monarch, Fairy Gerygone and Dusky Honeyeater are encountered frequently on the Sunshine Coast. Vine scrubs in the Imbil and Kenilworth areas provide habitat for the endangered Black-breasted Button-quail.
Good birding sites in the Conondale Range include the Booloumba Creek and Charlie Moreland camping grounds, and the Sunday Creek Road. In the Blackall Range, Mary Cairncross Park and Mapleton Forest Reserve are key birding destinations. Coastal vine scrubs are found in Noosa National Park and in various places along the coastal strip.
The wallum heath of the Sunshine Coast contains remnant populations of the endangered Ground Parrot which can be seen easily at key sites closer to Brisbane than Cooloola, the traditional site. King Quail and Lewin’s Rail are also found in the heath. White-cheeked Honeyeaters and Little Wattlebirds are abundant. Noosa National Park and surrounding suburbs include several feeding areas used by Glossy Black Cockatoos, which have benefited from a conservation program supported actively by locals.
Extensive grasslands occur amid sugar cane plantations in the vicinity of the Maroochy River and around Nambour. Birds occurring in grassland include Grass Owl, Red-backed Button-quail, King Quail, Brolga and Tawny Grassbird. The habitat is good for raptors, with Spotted Harrier and Australian Hobby seen regularly. Unusually, Grey Goshawks commonly hunt in open country in this area. Other rare raptors on the Sunshine Coast include Square-tailed Kite, which occurs over a variety of habitats. Red Goshawk has occasionally been reported in the hinterland.
In the mangroves, some of the most southerly populations of Shining Flycatcher are resident. Collared Kingfisher, Mangrove Gerygone and Mangrove Honeyeater are common. Mangroves occur extensively along the Maroochy, Noosa and Mooloolah Rivers. Islands and tidal flats in the rivers are refuges for breeding pairs of Beach Stone-Curlew, while Bush Stone-Curlew occurs sparingly in open country and parkland.
Some of the biggest concentrations of terns in summer in Australia are found in the estuaries of these rivers and at the northern end of Pumicestone Channel, with large numbers of Common Tern and White-winged Tern being particularly noteworthy. Migratory shorebirds of various species roost and feed at several coastal sites. On rocky headlands such as Point Cartwright, Wandering Tattlers are reliably found in summer, while Sooty Oystercatchers and Eastern Reef-Egrets are not uncommon.
Freshwater wetlands include Ewen Maddock Dam, the Cooroy sewage treatment works and Lake Macdonald. Species of interest include Spotless Crake, Baillon’s Crake, Little Grassbird, Wandering Whistling-Duck, Cotton Pygmy-Goose, Magpie Goose and Black-necked Stork. Pale-vented Bush-Hen and Lewin’s Rail occur in wetlands and moist grassy areas near streams. Black Bitterns are also found along well-vegetated streams.
Species which can been seen offshore from rocky headlands, especially during strong easterly winds, include Lesser Frigatebird, Bridled Tern, Sooty Tern, Flesh-footed Shearwater, Arctic Jaeger and Pomarine Jaeger.
For convenience, the Sunshine Coast region here extends north to include the Gympie-Cooloola-Inskip Point areas. Black-breasted Button-quail and Beach Stone-Curlew are regular at Inskip Point. The only sites for Brush Bronzewing and Southern Emu-wren in the region are at Cooloola.
- White-headed Pigeons – Yandina
A full day’s birding on the Sunshine Coast, without needing to visit Cooloola-Inskip Point, can embrace all the habitats mentioned above and result in sightings of several rare species such as Ground Parrot, Glossy Black Cockatoo, Marbled Frogmouth, Grass Owl and Black-breasted Button-quail. Over two days, most of the species referred to above can be seen. If you are interested in guiding services, especially to look for difficult-to-find species, email Greg Roberts firstname.lastname@example.org. See here for birding blog: http://sunshinecoastbirds.blogspot.com/.