The vast and varied natural resources of the island, which include wetlands, bushland, and freshwater lakes, have proved a haven for wildlife, particularly birds. At present, there have been recorded sightings of more than 260 species of birds, both residents and migrating breeds.
The location of North Stradbroke Island means that it is the logical layover point for many migratory birds. Species that make the visit include Sandpipers and Tattlers, which make journeys up to 30,000 km from Siberia to reach it. If you are visiting North Stradbroke Island in order to see migrating birds, there are certain times of year in which they are present. From April to September is the best time to witness Australasian Gannets, October to December sees the presence of Koels in the region, and Short-tailed Shearwaters arrive during November.
But Birdwatching on Straddie starts the moment you leave the mainland to come here. Crossing Moreton Bay you could spot the pied cormorant; Pelicans; black swans; the well-known silver gull with its red legs and bill; crested tern; little tern, and maybe the Caspian tern, the largest of our terns, with a large red bill and black cap.
Four raptors are often seen on North Stradbroke Island. These are the brahmin kite, with rich reddish-brown back and wings and contrasting white head; white-bellied sea-eagle, grey above, white below and often seen soaring with broad upswept wings; whistling kite; and the osprey with white head, dark eye-stripe, and brown back and tail, perhaps diving into the water to capture a fish or maybe eating a fish whilst perched.
At low tide, mixed flocks of waders feed on the sand and mud banks north of Dunwich and at high tide, they congregate on exposed sand spits. Migratory waders are often seen, the largest of these being the eastern curlew. Smaller waders include the lesser golden plover, greenshank, and the black and white black-winged stilt with very long, thin, pink legs. Several species of birds are usually found only in mangroves or in adjacent areas such as mangrove heron, a squat-crouching grey or brown heron; mangrove kingfisher, mangrove warbler or the mangrove honeyeater with its lovely, strong, melodious calls.
Larger species, which are likely to be seen on the beaches, in swamps, or in open grasslands, include the masked plover or lapwing; sacred or white ibis; straw-necked ibis; Royal spoonbill, and white-faced heron.
The familiar gannet can usually be seen from Point Lookout, especially in winter, while the wedge-tailed shearwater or muttonbird can be seen during the summer banking and gliding close to the waves. Many other seabirds have been recorded off Point Lookout, including albatrosses, petrels, shearwaters, frigatebirds, boobies, skuas, and terns.
Of course, there are also nectar-eating species. Most noticeable are the well-known rainbow lorikeet and the scaly-breasted lorikeet which congregate in noisy, colorful flocks when the banksias and eucalypts are in flower. Many honeyeaters are visible in the forests and heaths, including the noisy friarbird or leatherhead; the little wattlebird; the noisy miner, and much more.
Other well-distributed and common birds are the kookaburras; rainbow bee-eater; dollar-bird; the black-faced cuckoo-shrike; figbird and of course other birds so such as those found throughout eastern Australia such as willie wagtail; pee-wee; pied butcher bird; Australian magpie; pied currawong; and the all-black Torresian crow.
The birds listed are a small fraction of the 260 species which have been recorded for North Stradbroke Island.
Information obtained from Notes On North Stradbroke Island and North Stradbroke Island Visitors’ Guide by John Liddy.
Images courtesy of Laurie Webkie