I recently had the opportunity to spend 6 fabulous weeks birding and doing bird photography in Melbourne, Australia. I’ve compiled this comprehensive list of Melbourne birding resources to help anyone visiting the region make the most of their time here. These are all the things I wish someone had told me before I arrived in Melbourne!
Australia Field Guide
When I was in Melbourne I used the Field Guide to Australian Birds, Complete Compact Edition, available on Amazon.
What I love about this guide is how easy it is to use. It has a quick find index at the back that I found invaluable for easily finding the page you want without having to rifle through the book. It’s also small and lightweight so I was able to carry it with me everywhere I went. The only downside is that it’s a 2004 edition so you’ll notice that some of the species have changed names and it’s a bit out of date.
If you want the latest and the greatest, The Australian Bird Guide is the field guide that everyone in Australia is talking about! It was published in May 2017 and, being 8 years in the making, it was highly anticipated by the Australian birding community. Although I haven’t picked up a copy for myself yet, from reading online reviews and talking to local birders, it doesn’t disappoint.
*If you choose to make a purchase from the Amazon links provided, I will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. This goes towards the cost of running this website which is greatly appreciated.
Australia Birding App
When I’m traveling I like to download a local bird app to my iPhone so I can easily identify birds in the field.
For Australia, I used the sister app to my field guide: The Morcombe & Stewart Guide to Birds of Australia App, available on iTunes. You can download a free lite version that gives you 50 species or it’s $18.99 for the full version.
Australian Bird Identification (ABID) Facebook Group
If you have an ID you’re not sure about, all you need to do is upload your photograph to the ABID Facebook group and within minutes someone will let you know what they think it is! There’s no judgement, just a helpful group of people who are enthusiastic about bird ID. This group is seriously amazing and helped me out on several occasions.
Melbourne Bird Photographers is a fantastic group of people who meet once/month for birding and photography at different locations around Melbourne. The organizer, Graham Harkom, will go above and beyond to give you tips about birding in Melbourne. If the timing works out, I recommend joining this group on one of their outings.
If you’re looking for a local guide to show you around a particular Melbourne birding hotspot, you can use Birding Pal to find yourself a guide. It only costs $10/year and the guides are free. I used this service to find a guide to show me around the Western Treatment Plant and I had fantastic experience.
eBird and more
Although eBird isn’t as well used in Australia as other places I’ve visited, I still found it to be a helpful resource for finding birding locations around Melbourne.
For interesting and unusual sightings around Australia, a popular website is Eremaea.
Birdata is a scientific database of bird sightings in Australia. It’s basically Australia’s eBird.
Melbourne Birding Spots
There are a lot of great birding areas in Melbourne and, even in 6 weeks, I didn’t get to cover them all!
Here are some of my favourite Melbourne birding spots:
Western Treatment Plant
This is Melbourne’s best birding site and one of the top birding sites in all of Australia. It’s enormous and requires a permit so it isn’t a spot you pop into for an hour. For more information, I did a full blog post on this location: Western Treatment Plant Birding Extravaganza.
Banyule Flats Reserve
Banyule Flats is a great birding hotspot along the Yarra river, only 19km from Melbourne’s CBD. I liked it so much, I visited it on 3 occasions! It packs a lot of different habitats in a small area so you can see a great diversity of species here without having to walk too far.
Toolangi State Forest
One of my favourite things about visiting Australia was spending time in the temperate rainforests. It’s a totally different world under the canopy: cooler temperatures, lots of bird-life and it smells like eucalyptus! If you’re lucky you’ll see a Superb Lyrebird here. I did the Wirrawilla rain forest walk as well as some of the Tanglefoot track (both accessible from the same parking lot).
If Superb Lyrebird is on your wishlist and you aren’t successful at Toolangi, this article gives 5 other reliable locations for them.
Royal Botanic Gardens
During my time in Australia, I discovered that many cities have large centrally located botanic gardens that are free to visit. These gardens are also hotspots for birds and provide fantastic photo opportunities with beautiful flowers, trees and lakes as backdrops.
Woodlands Historic Park
This is a fabulous area of green space right beside Melbourne airport! It’s a known hotspot for a variety of Robin species and is also a great place to see Eastern Grey Kangaroos. I did the majority of my birding at an area known as the “Back Paddock” that is accessible from a parking lot on Providence Road. Click here for a map.
Other Birding Spots
For a list of other great Melbourne birding sites, Birdlife Melbourne is a great resource.
A highlight of any birder’s trip to Melbourne is seeing Little Penguins waddle across a beach at dusk. The most popular option is to visit Phillip Island where you can pay to watch the nightly “penguin parade.” Since this is a busy tourist destination, you aren’t allowed taking photographs (flash can scare and disorient the penguins).
I opted to see the penguins at St. Kilda’s pier, a lesser known spot. There was still a crowd of tourists, but it’s free and you’re allowed taking photographs as long as you don’t use flash. I had a great experience here!
Melbourne Bird Photographers on Instagram
When I’m visiting a new location, I like to discover local photographers via my Instagram account. It’s a great way to get inspiration and insights into the local photography scene. It’s also fun to chat with people who live in the city you’re visiting!
Here are some of my favourite Instagram bird photographers based in Melbourne. You don’t need an Instagram account to view these:
- Aaron Stevenson – @aaronstevensonphotography
- Ambika B – @ambikangela
- Justin Cooper – @justin_cooper73
- Stuart G – @stus_photography
- Sue – @sumaryb
- Ruben Montero – @birdsofmelbourne
- Wild Melbourne – @wildmelbourne. A great organization dedicated to inspiring people to connect with the natural world. Tag your Melbourne nature photos to #wildmelbourne for a chance to be featured on their Instagram page.
Melbourne is a fantastic place to go birding and these resources should get you well on your way to making the most of your time here. If anyone has a favourite birding spot in Melbourne that I haven’t mentioned or tips for visitors, please share them in the comments below ↓
-The Afternoon Birder