Local ecology

8 birds to spot in Sydney

More than 120 bird species visit or live in our city. Observe and record the ones that live near you for the Aussie Bird Count from 16 to 22 October.

  • New Holland honeyeater

    A small bird that was once common in inner Sydney, it’s now hard to find. The New Holland honeyeater is an important pollinator of many flowering plants such as banksias and wattles. Look out for it near the Alexandra Canal off Huntley Street in Alexandria or in and around Kimberley Grove Reserve in Rosebery.

    Credit: Nevil Lazarus
  • Royal spoonbill

    If you’re lucky you’ll find this bird hanging out at Sydney Park wetlands or Alexandra Canal. You’ll see it stirring up the mud and feeding at the edges of wetlands. In the breeding season it has a crest of white feathers from the back of its head. It’s also highly sensitive to disturbance so please keep your distance.

  • Powerful owl

    This is the largest owl in Australia, with the sweetest white fluffballs for offspring. It’s listed as vulnerable to extinction in NSW but seems to be doing well in urban areas. The owl’s favourite foods are possums and flying foxes. They also take rabbits and rats so it’s important not to use rat bait.

    Go to the Royal Botanic Garden to see this impressive bird, or venture outside of the City of Sydney local area to see a family of four in Centennial Parklands.

    Credit: Getty Images
  • Striated heron

    You’ll find this quiet, hard-to-spot bird looking for fish and other sea creatures in mangroves, mudflats and oyster beds. Because it blends into the background Rozelle Bay, at the front of Federal Park where the mangroves are located, is your best bet if you want to see one.

    Credit: Jon Irvine
  • Superb fairy wren

    There used to be fairy wrens everywhere in our local area but now they’re only found in a few locations and with low numbers. The males are the ones that stand out because of their bright colour. Help us find more. We know they love the bioretention swales next to the wetlands in Sydney Park. We’ve also seen several along the Alexandra Canal and a few in Rosebery in and around Bannerman Crescent Reserve.

    Credit: Getty Images
  • Tawny frogmouth

    Often mistaken for an owl, they are more closely related to nightjars. Pairs mate for life and in the wild they can live up to 14 years. They can easily be confused with a tree branch. Listen for their 'oom, oom, oom' call at night. Sydney Park has hosted them, and they’ve been heard in Alexandria and Erskineville.

    Credit: Getty Images
  • Willie wagtail

    A winner’s attitude makes up for size. These small birds have adapted to urban living and are not afraid to take on larger birds such as the kookaburra and have even been seen to chase the impressive wedge tailed eagle. Look out for them in lawns and parks. They love to chase insects in freshly mown grass while wagging their tails.

    Credit: Getty Images
  • Peregrine falcon

    One of the most common bird of prey in the world, it’s also the fastest animal around, reaching up to 320 km/hr when performing its hunting dive. Often seen in Chifley Square, in the city’s centre, this bird has adapted well to the urban environment. It makes nests in tall buildings and feeds on pigeons and ducks. Pesticides nearly wiped them out in many parts of the world but they’re making a comeback.

    Credit: Getty Images

Count the birds that are counting on you

Register to take part in the Aussie Bird Count. Just spend 20 minutes in your favourite outdoor space and tell BirdLife Australia about the birds you see during that period. There’s a built-in “bird finder” tool to help you identify birds you’re unsure of. You'll be helping BirdLife Australia find out about the common species that live where people live. This is important because it’s these more common species that give us the best indication of the health of the environment. Every count helps.

Published 9 October 2020, updated 1 November 2023