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Birds of Australia facts for kids

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Galahs flying motion blur
A flock of galahs

Australia and its offshore islands and territories have 898 recorded bird species as of 2014. Of the recorded birds, 165 are considered vagrant or accidental visitors, of the remainder over 45% are classified as Australian endemics: found nowhere else on earth. It has been suggested that up to 10% of Australian bird species may go extinct by the year 2100 as a result of climate change.

Australian species range from the tiny 8 cm weebill to the huge, flightless emu. Many species of Australian birds will immediately seem familiar to visitors from the Northern Hemisphere - Australian wrens look and act much like northern wrens and Australian robins seem to be close relatives of the northern robins, but in fact the majority of Australian passerines are descended from the ancestors of the crow family, and the close resemblance is misleading: the cause is not genetic relatedness but convergent evolution.

For example, almost any land habitat offers a nice home for a small bird that specialises in finding small insects: the form best fitted to that task is one with long legs for agility and obstacle clearance, moderately-sized wings optimised for quick, short flights, and a large, upright tail for rapid changes of direction. In consequence, the unrelated birds that fill that role in the Americas and in Australia look and act as though they are close relatives.

Australian birds which show convergent evolution with Northern Hemisphere species:

  • honeyeaters (resemble sunbirds)
  • sittellas (resemble nuthatches)
  • Australasian babblers (resemble scimitar babblers)
  • Australian robins (resemble Old World chats)
  • Scrub robins (resemble thrushes)

Kinds of birds

Australian birds can be classified into six categories:

Regional lists

For comprehensive regional lists, see:

For Australia's endemic species, see:

Other regional, state and island bird lists:

  • Victoria
  • New South Wales & Lord Howe Island
  • Queensland
  • Western Australia
  • Tasmania
  • South Australia
  • Ashmore Reef
  • Boigu, Saibai and Dauan Islands
  • Christmas Island
  • Cocos (Keeling) Islands
  • Heard Island
  • Kangaroo Island
  • Macquarie Island
  • Houtman Abrolhos

Organizations

National organizations

  • BirdLife Australia (previously known as Birds Australia) is the leading Australian NGO for birds, birding, ornithology and conservation, formed by a merger of the Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union and Bird Observation & Conservation Australia
  • Australian Bird Study Association, for banders and other field ornithologists

Australian regional and state organisations

  • Australian Capital Territory
      • Canberra Ornithologists Group
  • New South Wales
    • NSW Bird Atlassers Inc.
    • Birding NSW
    • Birds Australia Northern NSW
  • South Australia
    • Birds SA
  • Tasmania
    • Birds Tasmania
  • Victoria
    • Birds Australia - Victoria
  • Western Australia

Regional references and guides

Important regional references include:

  • Australia Birds, a portable folding guide authored by zoologist James Kavanagh, features 140 of the most familiar species. Part of a four title series on Australia flora & fauna featuring ecoregions and major bird spotting sites around the country.
  • Finding Australian Birds, authored by Tim Dolby and Rohan Clarke (2014), features the best places in Australia for finding birds.
  • The Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds (HANZAB), the pre-eminent scientific reference, in seven volumes.
  • The New Atlas of Australian Birds, an extensive detailed survey of Australian bird distributions.
  • Reader's Digest Complete Book of Australian Birds was once the standard general reference, but is now somewhat dated. The second edition (1986) remains in print.
  • Where to See Birds in Victoria, edited by Tim Dolby (2009), features places in Victoria for seeing birds.

Full-coverage field guides in print are as follows, in rough order of authority:

  • Slater: The Slater Field Guide to Australian Birds, Slater P, Slater P and Slater R, 2009 revised edition
  • Morcombe: Field Guide to Australian Birds, Morcombe, M, 2nd edition 2003, and complete compact edition 2004
  • Flegg: Photographic Field Guide: Birds of Australia, Flegg, J, 2nd edition, 2002
  • Trounson: Australian Birds: A Concise Photographic Field Guide, Trounson D and Trounson M, 2005 reprint
  • Cayley: What Bird is That?, Cayley, N, 2000 edition
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