Best bird guide for Australia?

One of our regular readers contacted us asking what is the best field guide to birds in Tasmania. Not being birding people we are a bit stumped but remembered a trip to the South Coast of Tasmania where we met some Twitchers.

Ok, so what is a twitcher? Off to Wikipedia for a definition:

The term twitcher, sometimes misapplied as a synonym for birder, is reserved for those who travel long distances to see a rare bird that would then be ticked, or checked off, on a list. The term originated in the 1950s, when it was used to describe the nervous behaviour of Howard Medhurst, a British birdwatcher.

The main goal of twitching is often to accumulate species on one’s lists. Some birders engage in competition to accumulate the longest species list. The act of the pursuit itself is referred to as a twitch or a chase. A rare bird that stays put long enough for people to see it is twitchable or chaseable.

Now, we had a close encounter with an American couple who were in Australia for over three months and were down to the last 5 or 6 birds in the The Field Guide to the Birds of Australia. Yep, they had sighted over 700 birds and were at Melaleuka in south west Tasmania,  to “tick off” the endangered orange-bellied parrot.  An epic trip for one bird….

From memory they were using The Field Guide to the Birds of Australia so that is the book we recommended.

The Field Guide to the Birds of Australia

Do you love  identifying birds on your hiking trips?

Do you have a recommended “bird book” that may be better than The Field Guide to the Birds of Australia?

Have you seen the orange-bellied parrot?

Please leave a reply below and share your experience and advice.


  1. says

    My favorite field guide is Michael Morcombe’s :

    It’s proven very reliable so far. Love the illustrations, which are accurate AND look good (I’m a visual person, I like drawings that look good ;-)). He has a very helpful way of pointing out the features and differences that allow for identification of each species. The full field guide (ie not the pocket one) also has some info about nests. I find this book just a lot nicer to use than others :) But I’ve yet to see an OBP!!

  2. says

    I gave my husband really good waterproof binoculars for our 20th anniversary. It changed everything because you now have time to focus on the birds & you can see fantastic detail. So now our collection of bird books is growing with every trip we take and I find it makes travel much more interesting.
    Bird song identification is yet another level to aspire too. That’s a long way off.

    • Frank says

      20 years! Well done and congrats…..I love a good set of binoculars Leigh. glad your bird watching is adding another dimension to your adventures!

  3. Annette says

    Morcombe has a pocket guide now which is bit easier to carry in the field. He has also released an iphone digital field guide for Australian birds – not sure where it is available.

    • Keith says

      The morcombe field guide is indeed available as an eGuide for iPhone , iPad and iPod touch. It can be seen at on the apple itunes web site, with example screen shots, reviews.

      Has entire contents of the book, 3000+ illustrations, plus also some 2000 bird calls. Normally these calls cost several hunded dollars as CD’s.

      Interactive, helps identify. Being used by many birders, especially bushwalkers,hikers etc as it eliminates the bulk and kilo of weight of the usual paper guide. Permanently on the iphone, not dependent upon being in phone range. Find heaps about it by Google search on eguide australian birds, or author name, or go to author website, for lots of info, user comments. See Apple’s website, and buy at:

      If you are a menber of Birds Australia, good review in March Wingspan magazine.

      • Frank says

        Thanks Keith, Very handy information. Many people take their iPhones with them so a handy tip thanks! Now if it had a battery life like the iPad we would be talking!

  4. says

    The Orange Bellied Parrot can be sighted near us: in places along the Bellarine Peninsula and at the Werribee Treatment Plant. I prefer wikipedia over any book as this provides more accurate information about subspecies and such.

    Yeah. I’m a twitcher.

    • Frank says

      Thanks for that Jade. I did not realise the Orange Bellied Parrot was so close. Think the reason people travel to Melaleuka is that they are fed each day so they can be counted!

      Suppose Wiki is not super portable , especially in areas without mobile phone service, that’s why some people might prefer a book.
      Thanks for dropping by

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