Gardening for little birds: Our forest warriors

It’s time to start putting back the flora we’ve taken away and try to bring back little birds to our gardens and grow their numbers in forests. Why?

From little honeyeaters pollinating eucalypts, to tiny fairy-wrens protecting against an overrun of leaf-devouring insects, little birds play a big role in our forests as they help maintain an effective and well-working ecosystem.

Silvereye (Zosterops lateralis) Tamborine Mountain - Guanaba


Creating gardens for little birds

So, how can we ensure little birds have places to go for safety, security, for breeding and to raise their young – away from the bigger birds and other unwelcome threats?

It’s all about Australian native plant layers. Start with an inner circle of bushy, shrubby plants (up to 2.5m tall). Then surround this circle with some spiky plants to keep predators out. Follow this with some lovely native grasses, small shrubs and ground covers for ultimate protection. This combination is especially good for Fairywrens.

Be careful not to use plants that attract large, aggressive Honeyeaters (such as the Noisy Miner), which can push little birds out.

And, of course, maintain the wonderful small bird habitats that already exist in forest habitats.

What kinds of plants help little birds?

White-browed Scrubwren (Sericornis frontalis) Tamborine Mountain - Guanaba


–  For scrubwrens, thornbills and fairy-wrens: Prickly, dense shrubs – hakea, acacia, sweet bursaria, burgan, leptospermum.

–  For robins, wrens and treecreepers who like insects: acacia, bursaria, correa, hardenbergia, melaleuca.

Find out more: Attracting birds to your garden (PDF): BirdLife Australia

Fight Lantana slowly

Fighting Lantana and other weeds must be done slowly and with the greatest of care, as many local little birds are most likely using the weeds as habitat and may be nesting.

Cleared weeds must then be replaced with plant species native to the area as soon as possible so as not to displace the little birds.

Find out more about managing Lantana: Including great native plant replacements for Lantana.

Some other don’ts that will help little birds

Red-backed fairy-wren (Malurus melanocephalus) Tamborine Mountain - Guanaba

Red-backed fairy-wren

Don’t be too enthusiastic about clearing undergrowth. Mess to you is habitat for little birds.
Don’t be too tidy. Little birds love wild gardens.
Don’t prune lower branches of trees and shrubs – little birds use these branches for protection against predators.
Don’t prune in fairy-wren nesting season (between July and March and September to December).
Don’t use pesticides – poison can build up in the bodies of little insectivores as they eat poisoned insects. (Little birds are great insectivores and control overrun anyway, so put that spray gun away.)

The list is from Landscape & Gardening to Attract Superb Fairy-wrens (PDF): The Glebe Society

The Tamborine Mountain Escarpment Protection Precinct is a wonderful place for little birds, from the Red-backed Fairy-wren to the Eastern Spinebill. They are an essential part of our landscape; one we need to maintain in perpetuity.

Find out about our wonderful bird population:

Noisy Friarbirds
Pheasant Coucals: Whoop Whoop birds
Magical birds of the Escarpment

The Escarpment Protection Precinct

Why bother protecting the Escarpment Protection Precinct?

Our  Save Guanaba Facebook page – fighting against out-of-place entertainment park: Guanaba Experience

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Check out Save Guanaba Instagram

Magnificent Glossy Black-Cockatoos of Tamborine Mountain

The Glossy Black-Cockatoo loves the She-oaks of The Forest in the Tamborine Mountain Escarpment Protection Precinct; a good thing considering they’re such picky eaters and prefer so few plants.

Physical features of the Glossy Black-CockatooGlossy Black-Cockatoo in Guanaba Forest

Glossies are the smallest of Australia’s five black-cockatoos and are often confused with the Red-tailed Black Cockatoo (which has more white dots spread across their entire body).

Glossies have a splash of red on the underside of their tails. Adult females have some yellow splashes around their head and neck, while the red on the tails of the adult males tend to be a very bright red.

Threats to the Glossy Black-Cockatoo

Glossy Black-Cockatoos are heavily reliant on a diet of Allocasuarinas for their survival. This very specific requirement may have contributed to their dwindling numbers, as land developments and farming have led to a loss of Allocasuarina tree species. Additionally, land clearing and more frequent and intense fires have led to not only a loss of food, but also a loss of suitable nesting tree hollows. This has further placed Glossy numbers at risk.

Species status of the Glossy Black-Cockatoo

In Queensland, the Calyptorhynchus lathami lathami, which can be found in the south-east corner of the State, north and eastern NSW and a little in Victoria, is considered vulnerable under Queensland’s Nature Conservation Act (NCA). It’s also considered vulnerable in NSW and threatened in Victoria.

What Glossy Black-Cockatoos eat

As mentioned, Glossies have a very specific diet, with the Black She-oak (Allocasuarina littoralis) and the Forest She-oak (Allocasuarina torulosa) being their preferred food. They also have a tendency of returning to the same food tree time and again, ignoring trees of the same kind around them.

The Tamborine Mountain Escarpment Protection Precinct is home to both the Black and Forest She-oaks and supports a small population of Glossy Black Cockatoos (including the two pictured – a father and daughter).

How Glossy Black-Cockatoos live

Glossies are tree hollow dwellers, liking large trees with decently sized hollows for breeding and general habitat. They form monogamous pairs to breed every two years, laying a single egg that they incubate for up to 90 days.

The Glossy Black-Cockatoo count

In the October 2014, the Glossy Black Conservancy held its annual birding day to count Glossy numbers. Observers recorded 4 birds in the Scenic Rim. These results were markedly lower than those from the previous year, where observers recorded 55 birds. (Note: The drop in the number of recorded birds may be the result of a decline in spotters from 40 in 2013 to 8 in 2014.

The need to protect remnant forest to retain both food and shelter for Glossy Black-Cockatoos is essential for the survival of these beautiful birds. The Forest of the Tamborine Mountain Escarpment Protection Precinct is one such place able to sustain Glossies, which is one of the many reasons why we’re fighting for its protection against an out-of-place development.

More information:

Terrific online resource dedicated to Glossies: Glossy Black Conservancy

Seeking volunteers to monitor Glossy Black-Cockatoo numbers

Birds in Backyards: Glossy Black-Cockatoo

NSW Government Office of Environment & Heritage: Glossy black-cockatoo

Find out about this out-of-place development

See our Save Guanaba Facebook page for more about our wildlife

The Whoop Whoop Bird of the Escarpment: The Pheasant Coucal

Pheasant CoucalShe might look like a big chicken (maybe a Rhode Island Red), but the Pheasant Coucal is a fascinating bird that does something quite different to other cuckoos.

The Pheasant Coucal (Centropus phasianinus) is unlike other cuckoos in two ways:

1. They make their nest on the ground.
2. They make their own nest, care for their own eggs and raise their own young.

Other cuckoos don’t make their own nests. They, instead, lay their eggs in the nests of other bird species. By the time the young cuckoos are born, the non-cuckoo mum thinks the young baby cuckoo is hers and rears them as her own.


Pheasant Coucal plumage is a beautiful red-brown colour, with dramatic black and red wings with white stripes; they look distinctive even when unextended. Their very long black and white tail, making up the rest of their 50cm to 70 cm frame, make them look like a pheasant.

During breeding season, Coucals’ head and neck feathers colour turn a dramatic dark brown / black colour.

Habit & habitat

The Pheasant Coucal tends to run along the ground. They can fly, but aren’t the most elegant in the air, preferring to fly-jump from tree to tree before reaching their destination.

Sclerophyll Forest with CycadsCoucals to use low-growing shrubs and dead trees to move from one place to the next. They like thicker lower shrubs for ground protection from exposure to threats.

Coucals love forests with understory vegetation, such as bracken, grasses and rushes. They go well in wet sclerophyll forests, which offer a variety of low-growing plants to help them move from one place to another and to rear their young.

Where are they found?

Pheasant Coucals can be found in northern and eastern Australia. They are also found in Western Australia’s Pilbara region and south-eastern NSW. They’re sedentary animals, meaning they stay in the place they find adequate food and shelter. Our Coucals have been nesting in the Tamborine Mountain Escarpment for years, always returning to the same nesting site.

Breeding & feeding

Pheasant Coucals pair for life. The male Coucal incubates the eggs – from one to five in a single nest. Both the male and female Coucals take turns feeding their young, but the male does most of the work.

Pheasant Coucals live on lizards, frogs and insects (and sometimes small mammals).

The sound of the Pheasant CoucalPheasant Coucal

Pheasant Coucals are also called the Whoop Whoop Bird, or, to residents in the Escarpment “Whoopies”. They are called this for a very good reason; they have a very distinctive call, where they whoop several times to communicate with their partner Coucals.

The Pheasant Coucal is a beautiful ground-dwelling bird; just one of the many amazing animals of the Escarpment.

More information:

Birds in Backyards: Pheasant Coucal
BirdLife Australia: Pheasant Coucal
Graeme Chapman: Read about the Pheasant Coucal
Graeme Chapman: Hear the Pheasant Coucal

Magical birds of the Escarpment

There are some amazing birds of Guanaba Forest in the Tamborine Mountain Escarpment, some vulnerable, threatened and endangered.

A place of many different forest types, the Escarpment provides an array of habitat for a variety of bird species as well as other significant fauna within the South East Queensland region.

Some of the bird species in the Escarpment face regional population decline, while some face national population decline. Recognition of the need to protect their habitat to secure their numbers is needed. Turning recognition into action is vital.

Here are some of the bird species facing population decline living within the Escarpment.

Grey Goshawk (Accipiter novaehollandiae)Grey Goshawk

1. IUCN report: Population decreasing.

The Grey Goshawk is a medium-sized raptor who comes in two different colour morphs.

They’re found in coastal areas in Australia’s northern and eastern spaces. The grey morph is more commonly found along the east coast in thick, sub-tropical forests.

Glossy Black-cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus lathami)

1. Queensland species status: Vulnerable.
2. Federal species status: Endangered.
3. IUCN report: Population decreasing.

The Glossy Black-Cockatoo is the smallest of the 5 black cockatoos. Its colours are brown-black head and body, with red or orange in their tail.

Glossy Black-Cockatoos love Allocasuarina, relying on the fruit of this tree for food. They also nest and breed in tree hollows.

Land clearance has affected their habitat, which threatens the numbers of this beautiful bird.

Black-necked Stork (Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus)

1. IUCN species status: Near-threatened.
2. IUCN report: Population decreasing.

The Black-necked Stork (also called the Jabiru) is the only stork found in Australia. They have black and white plumage, a glossy dark green and purple neck and black bill … a very distinctive bird.

The Jabiru is found in wetlands, swamps, water pools and more permanent bodies of water.

Albert’s Lyrebird (Menura alberti)Albert's Lyrebird

1. Queensland species status: Near-threatened.
2. IUCN species status: Near-threatened.
3. IUCN report: Decreasing.

The Albert’s Lyrebird is the smaller of the two Lyrebirds (the other being the Superb Lyrebird).

They’re found in a very small area of sub-tropical rainforest near the NSW and Queensland state border.

They don’t have the vocal range of the Superb Lyrebird, but their songs are still quite beautiful and recognisable.

Plumed Frogmouth (Podargus ocellatus plumiferus)

1. Queensland species status: Vulnerable.

The Plumed Frogmouth is found in Australia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.

They live in sub-topical and moist lowland and mountain forests.

They’re considered a difficult bird to study because of their elusive nature. Numbers are threatened by land clearing, timber harvesting and fire.

Black-breasted Button-quail (Turnix melanogaster)Black Breasted Button Quail

1. Queensland species status: Vulnerable.
2. IUCN species status: Near-threatened.
3. IUCN report: Population decreasing.

The Black-breasted Button-quail is a rare Button-quail found only in Australia. It is not a true quail.

This little ground dweller is found in areas that see rainfall of between 770 and 1200 mm per year. Fragmentation of habitat has impacted seriously on their numbers.

Protecting the habitat of these amazing Australian birds is vital to their future.

More information:

Australian bird species reference: Birds in Backyards

Australia’s birds: Birdlife Australia

IUCN Threatened Species List: IUCN Red List

Search lists:

Department of Environment: Species Profile and Threats Database

Queensland Government: Species profile search

Our shy little Albert’s Lyrebird

Albert’s Lyrebird is a shy and timid bird and has been spotted in and around the Guanaba area for years.

They are a ground-dwelling bird, living in the rain forests of NSW and South East Queensland.

They are pheasant-sized – around 75cm long for a female and 90cm long for a male.

The Albert’s Lyrebird, similar to the superb lyrebird, can mimic other animals (sometimes, you think you’re hearing a whipbird, but you’re actually listening to the Alberts’s Lyrebird).

Albert’s Lyrebird & Guanaba

People in and around the Guanaba area have undertaken surveys to record Albert’s Lyrebird numbers (and have fallen in love with this delicate little bird along the way).

The Tamborine Mountain Natural History Association (an enthusiastic and passionate group of bird watchers and bushwalkers) conduct a survey of the Albert’s Lyrebird every year, and have recorded 4 to 6 active males in the Guanaba area.

Alberts Lyrebird in Guanaba

Protection & preservation of the Albert’s Lyrebird

The Albert’s Lyrebird is listed as a rare species in Queensland (under the Nature Conservation Act 1992).

There aren’t many left in the wild.

It’s vital to protect this precious little animal from human interference. Human traffic in their area (foot, bike and vehicle) can greatly upset their nesting habits and put them in danger.

They must be given the best chance of survival through protection of habitat and ensuring less, not more, contact with humans. That’s our responsibility to uphold.

Want more information about the Albert’s Lyrebird? See the Australian Government’s Department of Environment website.