Sydney's spring bird migration is here

Spring has arrived in the Australian Botanic Garden Mount Annan, a quick drive south west of Sydney. Just like clockwork the migratory bird species that call the Garden home in spring and summer all arrive.

Shining Bronze Cuckoo (Chalcites lucidus) at the Australian Botanic Garden.

Spring has arrived in the Australian Botanic Garden Mount Annan, a quick drive South west of Sydney. Just like clockwork the migratory bird species that call the Garden home in spring and summer all arrive. Within about two weeks the changeover takes place with the cold weather birds leaving and the warm weather birds arriving.

Spring in the Garden brings out the paper daises and bright native flowers that awash the landscape with colour. The plants are not the only colour in the garden, with many of the birds looking their best to attract a mate.

One of the brightest is the Scarlet Honeyeater (Myzomela sanguinolenta). Apart from the Scarlet head on the male, you will normally hear these before you see them unless you see a flash of red darting around high up in the tree tops.

You’ll find them in Casuarina trees near the bird hide at the edge of Lake Nadungamba, in gum trees throughout the Cumberland Plain Woodland and across the Connections Garden and Banksia Garden at Mount Annan.

Scarlet Honeyeater Myzomela sanguinolenta

Scarlet Honeyeater (Myzomela sanguinolenta)

While you are near any of the main lakes at the Garden keep an eye out for the Latham’s Snipe (Gallinago hardwickii) these will be found hiding in the reeds or on the mud flats. At first glance you might think you have spotted a duck because of their body shape but they have long slender bill.

The Latham’s Snipe birds are one of the more well-travelled visitors to the Garden, in winter they migrate to Japan and return to Australia in time for summer.

Latham’s Snipe Gallinago hardwickii

Latham’s Snipe (Gallinago hardwickii)

Kookaburra cousins

The Garden also becomes home to the Sacred Kingfisher (Todiramphus sanctus). These are like a smaller cousin of the well know Kookaburra but much smaller and a lot more colourful.

You’ll find these near the bird hide along the lake, in the woodland near the Australian PlantBank by the Stolen Generations Walk, and around the small creek near the Banksia Garden.

Sacred Kingfisher (Todiramphus sanctus)

Sacred Kingfisher (Todiramphus sanctus)

Birds from New Guinea

The Dollarbird (Eurystomus orientalis) is another warm weather visitor this one coming from New Guinea each spring. These are usually found in the woodland areas and the Wattle Garden

The last few years a pair have been nesting in a large tree just off the car park in the Wattle Garden - a reminder of the importance logs, hollows and dead trees play in our eco-system.

Dollarbird (Eurystomus orientalis)

Dollarbird (Eurystomus orientalis)

Birds from Indonesia

The Channel-billed Cuckoo (Scythrops novaehollandiae) is another long distance traveller also coming from New Guinea and also Indonesia. These birds have slow wing beats so when you see them fly you wonder how they stay up in the air making them very interesting to watch.

Their call is probably one of the more unattractive bird calls, loud and echoing through the woodland. They use Currawongs, Ravens Magpies and Magpie-larks as their host - meaning that they lay their eggs in the nests of other bird species. You can often find these by the noise the other birds make trying to chase these off.

Channel-billed Cuckoo (Scythrops novaehollandiae)

Channel-billed Cuckoo (Scythrops novaehollandiae)

Native host birds

The Shining Bronze Cuckoo also makes an appearance in the Garden during spring for similar reasons to the Channel-billed Cuckoo. They use Thornbills and Fairy-wrens as the host bird, so you’ll find them in the same locations. 

Shining Bronze-Cuckoo (Chalcites lucidus)

Channel-billed Cuckoo (Scythrops novaehollandiae)


The Bailon’s Crake (Porzana pusilla) is one of the smaller wetland birds that visit the Garden's lakes and can be found in the reeds. These birds are quite small so easily missed but they are in fact one of the more colourful birds - even if it's different shades of brown.

Bailon’s Crake (Porzana pusilla)

Bailon’s Crake (Porzana pusilla)

Surprise spottings

This is just a small snapshot of the wildlife that can be found in the Garden - you never know what you might spot during your next visit.

On a recent Bird Photography workshop we were lucky enough to catch site of a Powerful Owl in the thick canopy of the the Connections Garden. In another workshop we spotted a tiny Australian Owlet-nightjar peering out of a hollow.

Australian Owlet-nightjar (Aegotheles cristatus)

Australian Owlet-nightjar (Aegotheles cristatus)

Look up - the birds are here

Why not venture into the Australian Botanic Garden Mount Annan and see for yourself the abundance of birdlife all year round. Find a place to sit for a while and you’ll be surprised by how many birds you will see.  

Get bird watching

You can see more of the wildlife that visit the Garden on nature photographer Glenn Smith's website and Instagram. Or pack your camera and book into one of Glenn's photography workshops at the Garden.