List of birds of Tasmania

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The yellow wattlebird is Australia's largest honeyeater and an endemic Tasmanian species.

A total of 262 species of bird have been recorded living in the wild on the island of Tasmania, nearby islands and islands in Bass Strait, 182 of which are regularly recorded, while another 79 are vagrants and one is extinct. Birds of Macquarie Island are not included in this list. Twelve species are unique (endemic) to the island of Tasmania, and most of these are common and widespread.[1] However, the forty-spotted pardalote is rare and restricted, while the island's two breeding endemic species, the world's only migratory parrots, are both threatened.[2] Several species of penguin are late summer visitors to Tasmanian shores.[1] Tasmania's endemic birds have led to it being classified as an Endemic Bird Area (EBA), one of 218 such areas worldwide.[3] Priority regions for habitat-based conservation of birds around the world, they are defined by containing two or more restricted-range (endemic) species.[4]

Although Tasmania has been isolated from the Australian mainland for about 10,000 years, islands in the Bass Strait between the two landmasses have allowed many species to traverse. With around 5,400 km (3,400 mi) of coastline and 350 offshore islands, Tasmania provides a diverse haven for birds despite its relatively small size. Birds are abundant in Tasmanian wetlands and waterways, and ten of these habitats are internationally important and protected under the Ramsar Convention. Many migratory birds make use of the bays, mudflats and beaches for feeding, including the threatened hooded plover and little tern, both of which breed along the coast. The near-coastal button grass grasslands of the southwest, harbour the breeding grounds of the critically endangered orange-bellied parrot. Many of the rarer species dwell in Tasmania's eucalyptus (sclerophyll) forests or rainforests, which cover much of the island.[5]

The common and scientific names and taxonomic arrangement follow the conventions laid out in the 2008 publication Systematics and Taxonomy of Australian Birds.[6] Unless otherwise noted, all species listed below are considered to occur, or have occurred since European settlement in the case of extinct species, regularly in Tasmania as permanent residents, summer or winter visitors, or migrants. The following codes denote certain categories of species:

Table of contents

See also        References


Order: Casuariformes   Family: Dromaiidae

The Dromaiidae were represented in Tasmanian territory by two species, both now locally extinct. The King Island emu became extinct around 1802,[7] and the original populations of emus on Tasmania had vanished by 1865.[8] Whether or not the Tasmanian emu was a separate subspecies is unclear. The extant emus of Tasmania have originated from introduced emus from mainland Australia.

New World quail

Order: Galliformes   Family: Odontophoridae

The New World quails are small, plump terrestrial birds only distantly related to the quails of the Old World, but named for their similar appearance and habits. One species has become naturalised in Tasmania.


Order: Galliformes   Family: Phasianidae

Phasianidae consists of the pheasants and their allies. These are terrestrial species, variable in size but generally plump, with broad, relatively short wings. Many species are gamebirds or have been domesticated as a food source for humans. Two species are native to Tasmania, and three commonly domesticated species are feral in King Island.

Magpie goose

Order: Anseriformes   Family: Anseranatidae

The family contains a single species, the Magpie goose. It was an early and distinctive offshoot of the anseriform family tree, diverging after screamers and before all other ducks, geese and swans, sometime in the late Cretaceous. The single species is a vagrant to Tasmania.

Ducks, geese and swans

Order: Anseriformes   Family: Anatidae

The family Anatidae includes the ducks and most duck-like waterfowl, such as geese and swans. These are adapted for an aquatic existence, with webbed feet, bills that are flattened to a greater or lesser extent, and feathers that are excellent at shedding water due to special oils. In Tasmania, 15 species have been recorded, of which one has been introduced and three are vagrants.


Order: Podicipediformes   Family: Podicipedidae

Grebes are small to medium-large freshwater diving birds. They have lobed toes and are excellent swimmers and divers. However, they have their feet placed far back on the body, making them quite ungainly on land. Three species have been recorded in Tasmania.

Pigeons and doves

Order: Columbiformes   Family: Columbidae

Pigeons and doves are stout-bodied birds with short necks and short slender bills with a fleshy cere. Seven species have been recorded in Tasmania, two of which have been introduced and another three are vagrants.


Order: Podargiformes   Family: Podargidae

The frogmouths are a distinctive group of small nocturnal birds related to swifts found from India across southern Asia to Australia. One species is found in Tasmania.


Order: Aegotheliformes   Family: Aegothelidae

The owlet-nightjars are a distinctive group of small nocturnal birds related to swifts found from the Maluku Islands and New Guinea to Australia and New Caledonia. There are eleven species, one of which is found in Tasmania.


Order: Apodiformes   Family: Apodidae

Swifts are small birds which spend the majority of their lives flying. These birds have very short legs and never settle voluntarily on the ground, perching instead only on vertical surfaces. Many swifts have long swept-back wings which resemble a crescent or boomerang. There are 98 species worldwide, with one reaching Tasmanuia.

Storm petrels

Order: Procellariiformes   Family: Oceanitidae

The storm petrels are the smallest seabirds, relatives of the petrels, feeding on planktonic crustaceans and small fish picked from the surface, typically while hovering. Their flight is fluttering and sometimes bat-like. One species has been regularly recorded in Tasmania's waters and two more are vagrants.


Shy albatross breed on three Tasmanian offshore islands

Order: Procellariiformes   Family: Diomedeidae

The albatrosses are a family of 21 species of large seabird found across the Southern and North Pacific Oceans. The largest are among the largest flying birds in the world. Ten species are regularly seen in Tasmanian waters, with another three recorded less frequently and one vagrant species.[9]

Fulmars, petrels and shearwaters

Order: Procellariiformes   Family: Procellariidae

The procellariids are the main group of medium-sized "true petrels", characterised by united nostrils with medium nasal septum and a long outer functional primary flight feather. Eleven species have been regularly recorded from Tasmanian waters, while another 20 species are vagrants.


Order: Sphenisciformes   Family: Spheniscidae

A wild little penguin returning to its burrow to feed its chicks on Bruny Island

Penguins are a group of aquatic, flightless birds living almost exclusively in the Southern Hemisphere, especially in Antarctica. One species breeds on the Tasmanian coast, while another ten have been recorded as vagrants.


Order: Phaethontiformes   Family: Phaethontidae

Tropicbirds are slender white birds of tropical oceans, with exceptionally long central tail feathers. Their long wings have black markings, as does the head. One species is a vagrant to Tasmanian waters.

Boobies and gannets

Australasian gannet (Morus serrator), Cheverton Rock, Tasmania, Australia

Order: Suliformes   Family: Sulidae

The sulids comprise the gannets and boobies. Both groups are medium-large coastal seabirds that plunge-dive for fish. A single species has been recorded from Tasmania.


Order: Suliformes   Family: Anhingidae

Darters are cormorant-like water birds with long necks and long, straight bills. They are fish eaters which often swim with only their neck above the water. One species is a vagrant to Tasmania.


Order: Suliformes   Family: Phalacrocoracidae

Cormorants are medium-to-large aquatic birds, usually with mainly dark plumage and areas of coloured skin on the face. The bill is long, thin and sharply hooked. Their feet are four-toed and webbed, a distinguishing feature among the Pelecaniformes order. Four species occur in Tasmania, with a fifth as a vagrant.


Order: Pelecaniformes   Family: Pelecanidae

Pelicans are large water birds with distinctive pouches under their bills. Like other birds in the order Pelecaniformes, they have four webbed toes. One species has been recorded in Tasmania.

Bitterns, herons and egrets

Order: Pelecaniformes   Family: Ardeidae

The family Ardeidae contains the herons, egrets and bitterns. Herons and egrets are medium to large wading birds with long necks and legs. Bitterns tend to be shorter-necked and more secretive. Members of Ardeidae fly with their necks retracted, unlike other long-necked birds such as storks, ibises and spoonbills. Nine species have been recorded in Tasmania, one of which (the cattle egret) is a recent self-introduction and three others are vagrants.

Ibises and spoonbills

Order: Pelecaniformes   Family: Threskiornithidae

The family Threskiornithidae includes the ibises and spoonbills. They have long, broad wings. Their bodies tend to be elongated, the neck more so, with rather long legs. The bill is also long, decurved in the case of the ibises, straight and distinctively flattened in the spoonbills. All five Australian mainland species have been recorded as vagrants in Tasmania.

Hawks, kites and eagles

Order: Accipitriformes   Family: Accipitridae

Accipitridae is a family of birds of prey, which includes hawks, eagles, kites, harriers and Old World vultures. These birds have large powerful hooked beaks for tearing flesh from their prey, strong legs, powerful talons and keen eyesight. Twelve species have been recorded in Tasmania, while there are no confirmed records of a thirteenth species, the spotted harrier.

Caracaras and falcons

Order: Falconiformes   Family: Falconidae

Falconidae is a family of diurnal birds of prey, notably the falcons and caracaras. They differ from hawks, eagles and kites in that they kill with their beaks instead of their talons. In Tasmania, four species have been recorded.

Rails, gallinules and coots

Order: Gruiformes   Family: Rallidae

Rallidae is a large family of small- to medium-sized birds that includes the rails, crakes, coots and gallinules. The most typical family members occupy dense vegetation in damp environments near lakes, swamps or rivers. In general they are shy and secretive birds, making them difficult to observe. Most species have strong legs and long toes that are well adapted to soft uneven surfaces. They tend to have short, rounded wings and to be weak fliers. In Tasmania, eight species have been recorded, one endemic and another a vagrant.


Order: Charadriiformes   Family: Burhinidae

The stone-curlews are a group of nine species of largely tropical and nocturnal birds. They are characterised by their strong black or yellow-black bills, large yellow eyes and cryptic plumage. One species is a vagrant to Tasmania.


Order: Charadriiformes   Family: Haematopodidae

The oystercatchers are large and noisy plover-like birds, with strong bills used for smashing or prying open molluscs. Two species have been recorded from Tasmania.

Stilts and avocets

Order: Charadriiformes   Family: Recurvirostridae

Recurvirostridae is a family of large wading birds that includes the avocets and stilts. The avocets have long legs and long up-curved bills. The stilts have extremely long legs and long, thin, straight bills. All three mainland species have been recorded in Tasmania, although two are vagrants only.

Lapwings and plovers

Order: Charadriiformes   Family: Charadriidae

The family Charadriidae includes the plovers, dotterels and lapwings. They are small- to medium-sized birds with compact bodies, short, thick necks and long, usually pointed, wings. They are often found in open country worldwide, mostly in habitats near water. In Tasmania, ten species have been recorded, three of which are vagrants.


Order: Charadriiformes   Family: Rostratulidae

The painted-snipes are a family of three snipe-like birds found in South America, Asia and Australia. The Australian species has recently been split from the Asian greater painted-snipe and is a vagrant to Tasmania.

Sandpipers, curlews, stints, godwits, snipes and phalaropes

Order: Charadriiformes   Family: Scolopacidae

Part of a flock of bar-tailed godwit, Orielton Lagoon

Scolopacidae is a large and diverse family of small- to medium-sized shorebirds, including the sandpipers, curlews, godwits, shanks, tattlers, woodcocks, snipes, dowitchers and phalaropes. The majority of these species eat small invertebrates picked out of the mud or soil. Different lengths of legs and bills enable multiple species to feed in the same habitat, particularly on the coast, without direct competition for food. Fourteen species have been recorded in Tasmania, five as vagrants only.

Red-necked stint at Orford, winter plumage


Order: Charadriiformes   Family: Turnicidae

The buttonquail are an ancient lineage of shorebirds which closely resemble true quail in appearance but are unrelated. They are found in Africa, Asia and Australia, with one species reaching Tasmania.


Order: Charadriiformes   Family: Stercorariidae

The skuas are in general medium to large birds, typically with grey or brown plumage, often with white markings on the wings. They have longish bills with hooked tips and webbed feet with sharp claws. They look like large dark gulls, but have a fleshy cere above the upper mandible. They are strong, acrobatic fliers. A single species is regularly found in Tasmanian waters, while two others are vagrants.

Gulls and terns

Order: Charadriiformes   Family: Laridae

Pacific gull on the beach at Bruny Island

Gulls are typically medium to large birds, usually grey or white, often with black markings on the head or wings. They have stout, longish bills and webbed feet. The large species take up to four years to attain full adult plumage, but two years is typical for small gulls. In Tasmania, three species have been recorded. Terns are in general medium-to-large birds, typically with grey or white plumage, often with black markings on the head. They have longish bills and webbed feet. They are lighter-bodied and more streamlined than gulls and look elegant in flight with long tails and long narrow wings. In Tasmania, thirteen species of gulls and terns have been recorded, five of which are vagrants. The two groups have been considered separate families, but some findings that the noddies and white tern are offshoots to the combined group have led the two to be classified as a single family for the time being.


Yellow-tailed black cockatoo, Calyptorhynchus funereus xanthanotus

Order: Psittaciformes   Family: Cacatuidae

Cockatoos are a distinctive lineage of parrots notable for their crests and lack of colour in their plumage. Generally large and noisy, they are a familiar part of the Australian (and Tasmanian) landscape. Six species are found in Tasmania, two of which are considered to be aviary escapees and hence introduced and one a vagrant.

True parrots

Order: Psittaciformes   Family: Psittaculidae


Order: Cuculiformes   Family: Cuculidae

The family Cuculidae includes cuckoos, roadrunners and anis. These birds are of variable size with slender bodies, long tails and strong legs. There are 138 species worldwide and 4 species which occur in Tasmania, all of which are parasitic.

Typical owls

Order: Strigiformes   Family: Strigidae

The typical owls are small to large solitary nocturnal birds of prey. They have large forward-facing eyes and ears, a hawk-like beak and a conspicuous circle of feathers around each eye called a facial disk. One species has been recorded in Tasmania.

Barn owls

Order: Strigiformes   Family: Tytonidae

Barn owls are medium to large owls with large heads and characteristic heart-shaped faces. They have long strong legs with powerful talons. One species is found in Tasmania.


Order: Coraciiformes   Family: Alcedinidae

Kingfishers are medium-sized birds with large heads, long pointed bills, short legs and stubby tails.


Order: Passeriformes   Family: Menuridae

The lyrebirds are two species of ground-dwelling Australian birds, notable for their accomplished mimicry. One species has been introduced to Tasmania.


Superb fairywren, Malurus cyaneus cyaneus

Order: Passeriformes   Family: Maluridae

The fairywrens are a family of small, insectivorous passerine birds endemic to Australia and New Guinea. Most closely related to honeyeaters and pardalotes, they are more closely related to crows than to true wrens of the Northern Hemisphere. Two species are native to Tasmania.


Order: Passeriformes   Family: Pardalotidae

The pardalotes are a small family of very small, brightly coloured birds native to Australia, with short tails, strong legs and stubby blunt beaks. They feed on insects, generally in the canopy of eucalypts and nest in burrows. Three species are found in Tasmania, of which one is endemic and endangered.

Thornbills and scrubwrens

Order: Passeriformes   Family: Acanthizidae

The Acanthizidae are a group of 35 species of small to medium mostly insectivorous passerine birds found in Australia, Indonesia, New Zealand and the south-west Pacific. They have short rounded wings, slender bills, long legs and a short tail. Most species have olive, grey or brown plumage, although some have patches of a brighter yellow. Six species are found in Tasmania, of which three are endemic.


Order: Passeriformes   Family: Meliphagidae

Honeyeaters are a diverse and widespread group of nectar and insect-eating birds found across Australia and surrounding regions. Eleven species are found in Tasmania, of which four are endemic, including Australia's largest honeyeater, the yellow wattlebird.

Quail-thrushes and allies

Order: Passeriformes   Family: Psophodidae

The quail-thrushes are medium-sized songbirds found in open forest and scrub. Adapted for ground living, they have strong legs and beaks. They are sometimes classified in the family Cinclosomatidae along with jewel-babblers, or united with the family Psophodidae, containing the wedgebills and whipbirds. One species reaches Tasmania.


Order: Passeriformes   Family: Campephagidae

The cuckooshrikes are a family of predominantly drab-coloured insectivorous birds from Australia and southeast Asia that are related to neither cuckoos nor shrikes. One species reaches Tasmania.

Whistlers and shrikethrushes

Order: Passeriformes   Family: Pachycephalidae

The whistlers and shrikethrushes are a large group of stocky passerines found in Australia and surrounding regions. Primarily insectivorous, larger species may also eat small vertebrates such as frogs or nestling birds. Most have drab plumage, the golden whistler a notable exception, and several are accomplished songsters. Three species are found in Tasmania.

Woodswallows, butcherbirds, Australian magpie and currawongs

Order: Passeriformes   Family: Artamidae

Now known to be related to the Vangidae of Madagascar, the Artamidae are a collection of crow-like birds as well as the smaller woodswallows. They include some of the most familiar and most accomplished songbirds of the Australian (and Tasmanian) landscape. Six species are found in Tasmania. One is endemic and two more are endemic subspecies.


Order: Passeriformes   Family: Rhipiduridae

Fantails are a family of small insectivorous birds of southern Asia and Australasia related to monarchs and drongos (all three are sometimes combined in the one family). One species is resident while another is a vagrant.

Crows, ravens, true magpies and jays

Order: Passeriformes   Family: Corvidae

The family Corvidae includes crows, ravens, jays, choughs, magpies, treepies, nutcrackers and ground jays. Corvids are above average in size among the Passeriformes, and some of the larger species show high levels of intelligence. Two black-plumaged ravens are found in Tasmania.

Monarchs and magpie-lark

Order: Passeriformes   Family: Monarchidae

The monarch flycatchers are a diverse family of around 140 species of passerine birds found from Africa to Australia. Closely related to the drongo family Dicruridae, they are sometimes classified as a subfamily within it. Monarchs generally live in the canopy or understory in forest habitats, although one species is ground-dwelling. One species is found in Tasmania.

Australian robins

Order: Passeriformes   Family: Petroicidae

Australian robins are a group of small insectivorous birds, whose exact position in the bird family tree is unclear. Named after a superficial resemblance to the European robin, the males of many species sport bright red or pink on their plumage. Four species are found in Tasmania, of which one is endemic.


Order: Passeriformes   Family: Alaudidae

Larks are small terrestrial birds with often extravagant songs and display flights. Most larks are fairly dull in appearance. They feed on insects and seeds. One species has been introduced to Tasmania.


Order: Passeriformes   Family: Cisticolidae

The cisticolas and allies are family of about 110 small passerine birds found mainly in warmer southern regions of the Old World. They are often included within the Old World warbler family Sylviidae. One species reaches Tasmania.

Grassbirds and songlarks

Order: Passeriformes   Family: Locustellidae

Locustellidae, commonly known as grassbirds, songlarks and megalurid warblers, is a newly recognized family of small insectivorous songbirds related to the Old World warblers. One species reaches Tasmania.


Order: Passeriformes   Family: Zosteropidae

The white-eyes are a large family of mostly Old World passerine birds. They are rather diverse in size and colouration, but are characterised by soft fluffy plumage. These are birds of tropical areas, with the greatest variety in Southeast Asia. One species reaches Tasmania.

Swallows and martins

Order: Passeriformes   Family: Hirundinidae

The family Hirundinidae is adapted to aerial feeding. They have a slender streamlined body, long pointed wings and a short bill with a wide gape. The feet are adapted to perching rather than walking and the front toes are partially joined at the base. Two species have been recorded in Tasmania.


Order: Passeriformes   Family: Turdidae

The true thrushes are a group of passerine birds that occur mainly but not exclusively in the Old World. Two species, one native and one introduced, occur in Tasmania.


Order: Passeriformes   Family: Sturnidae

Starlings are small- to medium-sized Old World passerine birds with strong feet. Their flight is strong and direct and most are gregarious. Their preferred habitat is fairly open country, and they eat insects and fruit. The plumage of several species is dark with a metallic sheen. One species has been introduced into Tasmania.

Estrildid finches

Order: Passeriformes   Family: Estrildidae

Estrildid finches are small finch- or sparrow-like birds of the Old World tropics and Australasia. One species reaches Tasmania.

Old World sparrows

Order: Passeriformes   Family: Passeridae

Old World sparrows are small passerine birds. These sparrows tend to be small plump brownish or greyish birds with short tails and short powerful beaks. Sparrows are seed eaters, but they also consume small insects. One species has been introduced to Tasmania.

Wagtails and pipits

Order: Passeriformes   Family: Motacillidae

Motacillidae is a family of small passerine birds with medium to long tails. They include the wagtails, longclaws and pipits. They are slender, ground-feeding insectivores of open country. One species have been recorded in Tasmania.


Order: Passeriformes   Family: Fringillidae

Finches are seed-eating passerine birds that are small to moderately large and have a strong beak, usually conical and in some species very large. All have twelve tail feathers and nine primaries. These birds have a bouncing flight with alternating bouts of flapping and gliding on closed wings, and most sing well. Two species have been introduced to Tasmania.

See also

Species footnotes

  1. ^ HANZAB 2, p. 373.
  2. ^ HANZAB 2, p. 377.
  3. ^ HANZAB 2, p. 355.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Subspecies is endemic to Tasmania
  5. ^ One record on Curtis Island in Bass Strait
  6. ^ a b One of only two species of migratory parrot, both of which breed only in Tasmania
  7. ^ a b Although native to eastern Australia, introduced to Tasmania
  8. ^ Sharland (1981), p 122
  9. ^ HANZAB 7, p. 402.
  10. ^ HANZAB 7, p. 228.


  • "Birds of Tasmania: Tasmanian Bird List". Parks & Wildlife Service, Tasmania. Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment, Government of Tasmania. 22 June 2009. Retrieved 26 May 2010.  (for all birds on list unless otherwise indicated)
  • Christidis, Les; Boles, Walter E. (2008). Systematics and Taxonomy of Australian Birds. Canberra: CSIRO Publishing. ISBN 978-0-643-06511-6.  (for current classification of birds listed)
  • Higgins, Peter Jeffrey; Peter, John M.; Cowling, Sid J. (eds.) (2006). Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds. Volume 7: Boatbill to Starlings. Melbourne: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-553996-7. 
  • Marchant, Stephen; Higgins, Peter Jeffrey (eds.) (1990). Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds. Volume 1: Ratites to Ducks. Melbourne: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-553244-9. 
  • Marchant, Stephen; Higgins, Peter Jeffrey (eds.) (1993). Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds. Volume 2: Raptors to Lapwings. Melbourne: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-553069-1. 
  • Sharland, Michael (1981). A Guide To The Birds of Tasmania. Hobart: Drinkwater Publishing. 
  1. ^ a b "Tasmania". Birds Australia website. Birds Australia. Archived from the original on 20 June 2010. Retrieved 27 May 2010. 
  2. ^ Dooley, Sean (11 May 2010). "World's only migratory parrots in peril". Australian Geographic. Archived from the original on 15 May 2010. Retrieved 27 May 2010. 
  3. ^ "BirdLife EBA Factsheet 185: Tasmania". BirdLife's online World Bird Database: the site for bird conservation. Cambridge, UK: BirdLife International. 2003. Retrieved 27 May 2010. 
  4. ^ "Endemic Bird Areas". BirdLife's online World Bird Database: the site for bird conservation. Cambridge, UK: BirdLife International. 2003. Archived from the original on 7 July 2010. Retrieved 27 May 2010. 
  5. ^ Watts, Dave (2006) [1999]. Field Guide to Tasmanian Birds (2nd ed.). Frenchs Forest, NSW: New Holland Press. pp. vi–viii. ISBN 1-876334-60-6. 
  6. ^ Christidis, Leslie; Boles, Walter (1994). The Taxonomy and Species of Birds of Australia and its Territories. Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union. ISBN 978-1-875122-06-6. 
  7. ^ Brasil, L. (1914). "The Emu of King Island". Emu. 14 (2): 88–97. doi:10.1071/MU914088. 
  8. ^ HANZAB 1, p. 49.
  9. ^ "Eaglehawk Pelagic". Eremaea. Archived from the original on 2 December 2013. Retrieved 22 November 2013. 
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