Kakadu's many habitats support more than 280 species of birds, or about one-third of Australia's bird species. Some birds range over a number of habitats, but many are found in only one environment.
In the wet season streams and rivers rise and floodplains are inundated. The rising waters signal the beginning of the breeding season for water birds as they spread throughout the vast expanses of shallow water.
As the water recedes through the dry season, these birds congregate on shrinking billabongs, and deep waterholes. Late in the dry season large flocks of magpie geese, plumed whistling-ducks and other water birds crowd the remaining billabongs like Mumukala and Yellow Water.
Stately brolgas, jabirus and egrets patrol the shallows while comb-crested jacanas walk across the lily leaves and many different birds of prey cruise the skies. The largest of these, the white-bellied sea-eagle, glides over the billabongs plucking fish from the water with large talons.
The comb-crested jacana | photo: Morland Smith
In the woodlands blue-winged kookaburras perch in the trees, lorikeets and honeyeaters feast on the nectar of eucalypt flowers and whistling and black kites fly overhead.
Peaceful doves and partridge pigeons feed along road verges and flocks of red-tailed black cockatoos eat seeds on recently burnt ground. Crimson finches build their nests at the base of the spiky leaves of the pandanus.
Chestnut-quilled rock-pigeons are found on rock ledges of the escarpment and outliers such as Ubirr and Nourlangie. Monsoon rainforests, home to the orangefooted scrubfowl and rainbow pitta, are visited by many animals, including the Torres Strait Imperial Pigeon.
At night owls, frogmouths and curlews are active and noisy, and may be visible from roads.
Common or notable bird species
- Barking owl Ninox connivens Mobbok
- Black kite Milvus migrans Marram
- Blue-winged kookaburra Dacelo leachii Galdurkk
- Burdekin duck Tadorna radjah Na-ngarralbak
- Bush thick-knee Burhinus grallarius Gurrwirluk
- Chestnut-quilled rock pigeon Petrophassa rufipennis Gurrbelak
- Comb-crested jacana Iredippara gallinacea Garlarrwidwid
- Green pygmy-goose Nettapus pulchellus Biwudj
- Jabiru Xenorhynchus asiaticus Djagarna
- Magpie goose Anseranas semipalmata Bamurru
- Partridge pigeon Geophaps smithii Ragul
- Plumed whistling-duck Dendrocygna eytoni Djurrbiyuk
- Rainbow bee-eater Merops ornatus Berrerdberrerd
- Rainbow pitta Pitta iris Worrbauworrbauk
- Red collared lorikeet Trichoglossus haematodus Deded
- Red-tailed black cockatoo Calyptorhynchus magnificus Garnamarr
- Torresian crow Corvus orru Wakwak
- Whistling kite Haliastur sphenurus Marram
- White-bellied sea eagle Haliaeetus leucogaster Marrawuddi