Meet the Birds…

The Waterfall Way is a wonderful meeting place for birds. The region is like a huge crossroads with birds arriving from the south and the north of Australia. Others fly in from Japan, New Guinea or the Philippines. The exciting diversity of habitats means that birdwatchers have the chance to see a wide range of species in one region.

If you’re looking for your first jabiru, an endangered regent honeyeater, the nest tunnels of the rainbow bee-eater or black swan cygnets, then there are some special places to visit along the Waterfall Way.

Dangar’s Lagoon, just outside Uralla on Thunderbolt’s Way, is a favourite with waterbirds because it is one of the few lagoons in the area that usually has water. It was declared as a Wildlife Refuge in 1972 and more than 110 species of birds have been recorded there. Take a walk around the lagoon to the bird hide where you may be able to watch pink-eared, blue-billed and musk ducks, shovelers, hardheads, Australasian and hoary-headed grebes and great crested grebes, whiskered terns, sharp-tailed sandpipers, marsh sandpipers and greenshanks to name just a few of the visitors.

A new story a new journey

Waterfall Way Another popular breeding and feeding ground for waterbirds is the Mother of Ducks Lagoon in Guyra. Next to the town’s golf course, this lagoon is a freshwater wetland in a volcanic crater, 14km around. Take a walk along the edge to watch for black ducks, black swans, straw-necked ibis, grey teals, hoary-headed grebes, musk ducks, swamphens, woodhens and Japanese snipe. The Japanese snipe breed in Japan then leave in August for the long journey to Australia through Taiwan, Eastern New Guinea and arrive in Australia at Cape York to fly down the east coast for the Australian summer. This important migration route for waders is covered by an international agreement to protect feeding and breeding sites for waterbirds.

As you journey down from the high plateau into the rainforest at Dorrigo the habitat changes and so does the birdlife. Follow a walk through the rainforest to discover the birds that prefer life in the cool, green light under the tree canopy. Walking along the path you’ll hear rustlings in the leaf litter where birds are hunting for insects. There are plenty of scrubwrens and brush-turkeys along the tracks.

Look out for the bright red and green king parrots, yellow and black regent bowerbirds, and the green catbird with its call that sounds like a cat or a wailing baby.
Travelling down to the coastal regions, you’ll find another range of habitats for local and visiting birds. Rainbow bee-eaters dig their metre-long nesting tunnels near the coast here. These brightly-coloured birds fly south from the Kimberley and Gulf of Carpentaria to breed here. You can often see them during summer along the Lake Road at Woolgoolga where an area is fenced off to protect their nests. They nest in groups and help each other to dig their nesting tunnels and share the incubation and feeding of their chicks. You can watch them catch bees, wasps and other insects as they swoop from their perches near their nesting site.

Muttonbirds or wedge-tailed shearwaters visit Coffs Harbour between August and May to breed on Muttonbird Island. Walk along the Coffs Harbour breakwater to reach the island where the shearwaters nest. They dig or repair burrows on the island and lay their eggs underground. The best time to watch them is when they return at dusk with food for their mates and chicks in the burrow. By April the chicks are fully grown and may weigh more than their parents. Most of the adults leave the island first and the chicks follow early in May.

Waterfall Way South from Coffs Harbour along the coast at Boambee and Sawtell are good spots to look for the brilliant yellow and black regent honeyeater. This bird was once common in New South Wales but now only 1500 birds are estimated to survive in Australia. This is one of several woodland birds that have severely declined due to vegetation clearance.

Mangroves provide valuable habitat for fish and birds and at Urunga you can explore the mangroves without getting your feet wet. Take a walk along the boardwalk that starts at the southern end of the caravan park for a chance to watch estuarine birds feeding in the mangroves.

Further south near Macksville you can visit the wetlands where black swans breed and you may see the impressive jabiru or black-necked stork, standing over a metre high.

The Waterfall Way covers an incredible range of habitats where new and experienced birdwatchers will find a wonderful variety of species to watch and enjoy.

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