Love birds? You’ll love the Gold Coast

Samantha Morris

Twitchers rejoice. Gold Coast may seem an unlikely destination for bird lovers, but there are some amazing offerings for bird lovers - some in unexpected places.

While some tourists delight in seeing ibis in the “wild” (for many birders, the Gold Coast is the first place they’ve encounter an ibis), the Gold Coast is also home to a heap of more colourful bird species.

Bird Places of the Gold Coast is a wonderful resource for those wanting the low-down on the City’s Important Bird Areas (IBAs) and what you might see at each site.

The most common birds seen across the Gold Coast include the Australian Magpie, Australian Pelican, Purple Swamphen, Rainbow Lorikeet, Silver Gull, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Silvereye, Grey Butcherbird, Laughing Kookaburra, Little Corella, Magpie-lark, Masked Lapwing, Superb Fairywren, Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike, Pied Butcherbird, Pied Currawong, Torresian Crow, Welcome Swallow, Australasian Figbird and Willie Wagtail but there are hundreds of other species you could be ticking off your list while visiting the city as well.

Here are our top picks for highly accessible bird watching outside of Gold Coast’s national parks:

Aqua Promenade and Currumbin Eco Village, Currumbin Valley

You might not know that there’s a big public park in the middle of the Eco Village. Called Currumbin Reach, the park encompasses the flood plains both upstream and downstream of a bridge over Currumbin Creek. Residents of the Eco Village have been maintaining a list of birds seen onsite for seven years and to date have clocked some 181 species – the most recent being the Hoary Headed Grebe. Water-bird lovers will be delighted with the variety of birds to be seen both within that flood plain as well as Robert Neumann Park which adjoins the Village. You can literally grab your binoculars from the comfort of your car and see a heap of birds at the park.

In the lake and from the bridge across Currumbin Creek you’ll see Jacanas, the four Cormorants, Australasian Darter, Whistlers, Eastern Whipbird, Topknot Pigeon, Egrets and Chestnut-breasted Mannikin, Fairy Martin, Buff-banded Rail and more.

The community group Currumbin Creek Care have planted more than 18,000 trees in the area, which has contributed to the growing number of birds found on the site. Once you’ve checked out Robert Neumann Park, the bridge, the lake and the park you can meander up to the Three Figs Café to rest and refuel.

Coombabah Wetlands and Coombabah Lakelands Conservation Area

The bird watching is considered excellent around Coombabah Wetlands, which is no surprise as the site is listed in Migratory Bird Agreements with China and Japan (known as CAMBA and JAMBA respectively) which protect migratory birds (and their habitats) in danger of extinction.

227 bird species have been recorded at Coombabah Wetlands and its associated reserve, including the Jabiru, Eastern Curlew, Red Capped Curlew and Bar-tailed Godwit, White-faced Heron, Great Egret, Royal Spoonbill and Whistling Kite. 35 of those bird species are listed in international migratory bird treaties. But birds aren’t all you’ll find. According to the Directory of Australian Wetlands, more than 308 fauna species have been recorded in the area. Kangaroos, koalas, and frogs can also be seen frequently.

There are multiple sites and entry points to the Conservation Area including a bird hide, boardwalks, viewing platforms and unpaved tracks.

Hinterland Regional Park, Mudgeeraba

This 62-hectare park, which includes an area used for grazing has been revegetated by Hinterland Bushcare Group with the end result being a mosaic of habitats which make bird watching a treat. More than 112 species were recorded across 20 visits to the park in 2012, including the endangered Glossy Black-Cockatoo. Ecosystems include wet open habitat, melaleuca wetland, dry eucalypt forest and riparian rainforest.

A comprehensive guide by Birds Queensland outlines a series of trails along with the birds (and their calls) you might encounter. Some of the common species include Grey Shrike-thrush, White-throated Gerygone, Noisy Pitta, Eastern Shipbird, Leaden Flycatcher, Spotted Pardalote, Double-barred Finch, Cicadabird, Lewin’s Honeyeater, Rose Robin, Nankeen Night-Heron, Golden-headed Cisticola and Rufous Whistler, amongst many more.

Federation Walk, The Spit

The Federation Walk Coastal Reserve is 93 hectares of coastal dunes with a network of established paths and tracks throughout. It’s a popular spot for active recreation as well as quiet reflection and leads all the way from opposite Sea World to the Gold Coast Seaway – approximately 3km in total. Coastal forest, open woodland and other dune vegetation communities provide habitat for birds such as Black-shouldered Kite, Bush Stone-curlew, Yellow-faced Honeyeater, Little Strike-thrush, Bar-shouldered Dove and lots more. There are two great resources for bird watching at Federation Walk. There’s a list of wildlife, including birds, you can find onsite at the Friends of Federation Walk website, plus Peter Scholer has a very comprehensive (and beautiful) guide on his website too.

Upper Ormeau Road, Ormeau

There are three popular sites for bird watching in Ormeau and all of them are along Upper Ormeau Road. Ormeau Sports Park is located just off the Pacific Motorway and has plenty of open green space (including sports fields). Pimpama River passes through just north west of the car park and there’s riparian and eucalypt forest onsite. The fields also abut Coomera North Conservation Reserve. At this site you can see Scaly-breasted Lorikeet, Lewin’s Honeyeater, Noisy Friarbird and Grey Fantail amongst others.

Just 3km west of the Sports Park is Upper Ormeau Park, also running along part of Pimpama River and located at the corner of Barrenjoey Drive and Upper Ormeau Road. Some tree plantings have occurred on this site and there’s some intact riparian vegetation along the river. Here you can see the Australian King Parrot, Grey Fantail, Double-barred Finch, Red-browed Finch, Scarlet Honeyeater, Tree Martin, Golden Whistler and more.

Finally, there’s an environmental reserve adjacent to the Boral Quarry a little further along Upper Ormeau Road. There’s riparian vegetation including rainforest and large fig trees and you can see Olive-backed Oriole, Lewin’s Honeyeater, Varied Triller and Rose Robin, amongst others.

Other notes for birders visiting the Gold Coast:

Robina Lakes ranks high amongst local bird enthusiasts, particularly given its highly urban location.  Austinville, Coomera, Bonogin and Tallebudgera Valley also have numerous spots with long lists of birds to see. Early morning is always best for bird watching and I can’t stress enough what a wonderful resource Bird Places of the Gold Coast will be to serious birders keen to add a few species to their lists as well as amateur bird lovers who just don’t know where to start. Here are some useful links:

Samantha Morris

Blank GC

Samantha Morris has lived on the Gold Coast nearly all her life and has been going to gigs here since before she was legally allowed to. Most of her career has been spent working with conservation and land management groups on communication, fundraising and engagement strategies and she's won several awards recognizing her work in that space. In 2013 she decided to focus closer to home and launched an old-school printed monthly newspaper focused on the local music and cultural scene. Blank GC has become the City's cultural voice. In 2015 she also launched the Gold Coast Music Awards. She is a freelance writer and a culture vulture.

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