Birding Australia's islands

A twitcher’s guide to Australia.

For bird watching enthusiasts, known as twitchers, Australia is a veritable paradise with more than 800 unique bird species.

Twitcher Sue Taylor is on a mission to see every one of them.

Since retiring, Sue has spent the last 20 years ticking Australian birds off her list and has turned her experiences into a series of books aimed at travelling twitchers and those wishing to see more of Australia.

Sue’s latest book Birding Australia’s Islands recounts her adventures on 22 of Australia’s most visit-worthy islands, including Queensland’s Raine and Bedarra islands.

“Queensland is a birder’s paradise and there are a lot of birds you can only see on the islands,” Sue said.

“Raine Island is a tiny little uninhabited nature reserve at the top of the Great Barrier Reef. 

“You’re not allowed there without a permit but it’s the only place in Australia where the Herald Petrel nests, and I was lucky to see them when I was there.”

Sue’s bird count currently sits at 823 but she still has a few to go.

“Realistically, I’ve got about five more birds to see,” she said.

“I know I’m most likely not going to see a night parrot or a western ground parrot, both of which have only been seen a handful of times, but I still have hope.”

Sue said aspiring twitchers should start with their local islands.

“Christmas and Cocos islands are perfect for beginner birders, but you can also start on islands near your home,” she said.

“Join a birding tour so professionals can point out both endemic and vagrant species – you’ll have a better experience going with an expert.”

After seeing so many birds in the wild, there is one species that has captured Sue’s heart.

“My absolute favourite is the willy wagtail because they are cheeky little devils that have such unique personalities.

Sue’s book Birding Australia’s Islands is available online or at all good booksellers.

Islands to visit on your next road trip

  • Philip Island, home to the endangered Little Penguin.
  • Chat Island, an inland island created by damming Lake Argyle, the largest man-made lake in the southern hemisphere.
  • King Island, home to 52 bird species, echidnas, pademelons and the famous King Island Dairy cheese.
  • Rottnest Island, home to the selfie-loving quokka.