One of the seasonal resident Barking Owls at Atherton Hinterland Motel


Birdwatching in the Tablelands attracts global attention.  There are more than 430 bird species in the Wet Tropics and the Great Barrier Reef and 327 of these are to be seen right here.  Twelve bird species are endemic to the region.  The diverse avifauna is due to the variety of habitats here: riverine, wetland, woodland, rainforest, grassland, agricultural and parkland.

Birders can easily find the best spots by downloading the free Bird Trails App, which puts all the best locations in the region at your fingertips with GPS precision and provides a wealth of birding information.  Birding tours are available across the Tablelands including Jabiru Safari Lodge (at the Mareeba Wetlands), Chambers Wildlife Rainforest Lodges, The Canopy Rainforest Treehouses and Rose Gums Wilderness Retreat.

October to April may be our hotter and wetter months, but it is the time when the migrant species arrive from Papua New Guinea including the beautiful Buff-breasted Paradise Kingfisher, Channel-billed Cuckoo and Commn Koel.  Many birds such as Noisy Pitta are also breeding at this time of year and are easier to observe as they search for food.  During our cooler, drier, winter months (May to September) the Victoria's Riflebirds are displaying and winter breeders such as White-eared Monarch can be easier to see.  During this period, Brolgas and Sarus Cranes are also found on the Tablelands feeding on the agricultural fields.

Top birdwatching spots include the dry regions of Mt Molloy and Kaban, the wetlands of Mareeba, Nyleta, Hasties Swamp, Nardellos Lagoon, Bromfield Swamp, Abattoir Swamp, the National Parks of Mt Hypipamee, Crater Lakes, Davis Creek, Barron Falls, Mt Lewis, and the Wongabel State Forest.

Birding Hot Spot on Atherton Tablelands

The Cairns Highlands has a wide variety of habitats such as riverine, wetland, woodland, rainforest, grassland, agricultural and parkland and also has one of the largest avifauna of any region in Australia.

Geographically the Atherton Tableland covers from Malanda at the southern end to Mareeba/Julatten at the northern end, out to Ravenshoe, Herberton in the west and across to the coastal ranges,  Within this area are many habitats ranging from dry monsoon eucalypt woodland, wet & dry sclerophyll and upland rainforest as well as open bodies of water like Tinaroo Dam, Lake Eacham and Lake Barrine (pristine volcanic crater lakes in the rainforest).  This diversity of habitats attracts a large range of bird species within a relatively small area and offers great bird watching opportunities.  Within the tableland area over 300 bird species have been recorded including the 13 Wet Tropics endemics:

  • Lesser Sooty Owl
  • Grey-headed Robin
  • Bower's Shrike-thrush
  • Pied Monarch
  • Chowchilla
  • Fern wren
  • Atherton Scrub wren

  • Macleay's Honeyeater
  • Bridled Honeyeater
  • Tooth-billed Bowerbird
  • Victoria's Riflebird
  • Golden Bower bird
  • Mountain Thornbill
Australia has 726 bird species and three hundred of these, nearly half, have been recorded on the Atherton Tablelands, quite a significant number considering there are only 9,000 species of birds living on the earth.

Within a fifty kilometre radius of Tinaroo Dam (situated fifteen kilometres north-east of the township of Malanda) about five hundred bird species have been recorded, making this area without a doubt the premier bird site in Australia.  Amongst these are some of Australia's most spectacular parrots including the Red-tailed Black Cockatoo, Australian King Parrot, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Double-eyed Fig Parrot, Crimson Rosella, Pale-headed Rosella and Red-winged Parrot.

The Atherton Tablelands (Cairns Highlands) has a strong tie with New Guinea as regards the flora and fauna.  Many of the same bird species occur both in New Guinea and North Queensland such as the Southern Cassowary and Grey-headed Robin.  Other birds migrate to North Queensland from New Guinea such as the Channel-billed Cuckoo, Dollarbird, Rainbow bee-eater and many more.
Bromfield Swamp
A unique volcanic crater with swamp land and home during the winter months to the Sarus Crane and the Brolga.  Over 800 cranes fly into the crater in the evening after feeding in the nearby paddocks.
Lake Eacham
Hasties Swamp
Malanda Environmental Park
Mt Hypipamee (The Crater) NP (30 min)
Nardello's Lagoon
Mareeba Wetlands
Kaban near Ravenshoe
Little Lorikeets, Brown Treecreepers, and a great array of dry forest birds inhabit this part of the highlands.

Lake Barrine NP
Longlands Gap State Forest
Curtain Fig Tree State Forest Park
Danbulla State Forest which includes Lake Tinaroo
Wongabel State Forest
Davies Creek Falls NP