The Sounds of Australian Birds

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When I was recently overseas in North America visiting family and friends, things were eerily quiet. Sure – there were sounds of traffic, laughter, and the hum of the city, but there was something inexplicable missing. When I returned to Australia, I realized what was missing: the extraordinary lives and sounds of Australian birds.

This post was originally published in 2009. It has since been updated for accuracy of links and content.

This king parrot is one of my fav Australian birds - he comes to my window to say hello every day!
This king parrot taps on my kitchen window every day, waiting for me to come out and say hello (with food of course).

I’ve already written enthusiastically about the king parrots and close encounters with a Rosella or three. And even since moving from Kingbilli, they are still a part of everyday life. They come by en masse for food if we have it, and there are two parrots in particular who stick around all the time. One (which incidentally eats from our hands) actually lands on the windowsill of the kitchen and raps on the window when looking for attention!

And charming as they are, these Australian birds are only a small part of the massive collection of stunningly beautiful winged creatures down under.

It’s not that birds don’t exist in other places; but common North American birds are rarely as colourful, big, gregarious, and frankly, noisy as their Aussie counterparts!

Take the cockatoo, for example. Here is a huge bird (usually white, but sometimes black and other colours too) that only sees non-Australian shores in a cage. Thus many people haven’t actually heard what a cockatoo sounds like when they let loose in the wild. The first time I heard one, I thought I had gone back in time; it sounded like a pterodactyl! Catch them sounding off in flocks and it’s absolutely deafening.

Have a listen for yourself:

Click here to listen to a flock of cockatoos!

And of course, no audio presentation of Australian birds is complete without a good ol’ Kookaburra song. The first time I heard one of these puppies, I actually thought there were monkeys in the area!

Listen here:

Click here to listen to kookaburras: one of my favourite Australian birds

This says nothing of the magpies – known as “maggies” in Australia, (not to be confused with North American magpies which are entirely different), whose garbled call is so pleasant to hear, but whose dive bombs are brutal when you unwittingly walk or ride near a tree with their nest in it…

…or the blue fairy wren, whose tiny iridescent blue body is regularly found flitting near a window…

…or the common ibis, which helped me to fetch some strange looks from locals when I saw one for the first time (thinking “wow! How exotic!“) and shot a picture of it picking through garbage in Brisbane…


…or the owls, who hoot for us nightly and occasionally let us steal a glance…

…or the huge emus, which always give me a smile as I think of the roadrunner cartoon….

Emus - the fastest of all Australian birds

…or the impossibly colourful lorikeet, which whistles loudly for its size and looks like it fell into a pool of rainbow…

…or the graceful black swans, which honk so charmingly…


…or the penguins, which live near Melbourne…

…or even the lyrebird, which is fairly elusive and known for its ability to accurately imitate anything – from other birds, to cell phones, to chainsaws…you name it….(seriously)

So please forgive me if I am distracted when you talk to me; I am probably mesmerized by yet another large and colourful Australian bird, or am listening to a kookaburra settle in for the night with its cackling call.

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11 thoughts on “The Sounds of Australian Birds”

  1. My introduction to Australian Bird sounds was the Bush Stone-curlew that woke us up from a dead sleep our first night there! Fortunately, we were warned beforehand.

  2. @Sunil – Even in the city, Australia sounds different, doesn’t it? Cheers.

    @conrocs – I’m not sure what a bush stone-curlew sounds like? Maybe next time I’m camping I’ll learn….at least I’ve been warned now too!

  3. A few years back, I got to work in Sydney for a while, and one of the joys of being there was the strange and wonderful ambient sound that seemed to come to life as the business day wound down.

    Thank you for evoking a wonderful sense memory.

  4. Wow, such a genuinely interesting post!!

    While Australia’s wildlife is well known, it’s great to get a slant on it via the sounds. Original way of bring a touch of birdlife to the travel web.

    Great pics too! Ibis in the garbage, the real life of wildlife on the front lines!


  5. @Dave – Thanks! I’ve been so taken with the sounds of Aussie bird-life, and when I was visiting people back home in Canada, it just defied explanation! So I figured I may as well let the world listen!

    @Grant – The visit home was terrific. Now it’s great to be back at another little place I’m calling home…for now….this part of Australia is magical!

  6. Very cool, Nora! Sounds a lot better than the birds (pigeons) here in NYC. How is time back home treating you?

  7. @Maya – They’re just enthralling, aren’t they? I also like how many BIG birds are in Australia. Most of the birds back home in Canada are much smaller. Here they can get monstrous!

    • @Acaislim – I haven’t hit WA yet, but am really excited to. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to drive the Nullabor before I leave; it’s apparently quite the journey.

  8. This is my first visit to Australia, and I am constantly amazed at the variety of birds and bird song. A truly amazing thing. My daughter is fed up with me stopping ,staring snd saying look! Everything you say above is true! Love it! X

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