Bird Watching

Bird Watching Cairns

Trinity Inlet in Cairns is home to some of the rarest birds in Australia. With over half of Australia’s bird species found locally, Cairns Harbour Cruises is great for avid bird watchers.

There have been over 46 species of birds reported from Trinity Inlet. The special mangrove lined waterways is a ‘refuelling stop’ for shorebirds migrating between grounds in the north including Siberia, China and Alaska during the northern winter. An estimated 2 million birds follow this migratory pathway.

Birds to watch for…

Great Billed Heron

  • Third rarest bird in Australia.
  • Very reclusive, will feed on the mudflats, but retreat into the tangle of mangrove roots as anyone approaches.


  • Osprey feed by soaring and hovering over the water, watching for fish to swim near the surface and then plunging down to grab it with their specially adapted feet. Always caught by the head. There are records of Osprey being dragged underwater and drowned by fish that are too big for them to carry.
  • When flying, Osprey wings lie flat and form a V shape.
  • Both eyes are located in the front of the head, which allows overlapping vision from each eye, creating ‘binocular vision’ which allows birds to judge distances.

White-bellied Sea-Eagle

  • Similar to Osprey, but larger and more distinctive (very clean) black and white markings.
  • Have similar characteristics to Osprey.

Eastern Reef Egret

  • Lurk motionless on the shore and with its dagger-like beak, swoops in a split second at its prey.
  • A Heron’s bill is like a spear. It is long and pointed and very sharp. A Reef Egret sticks
    its sharp bill into fish, lifts them out of the water, flips them off the bill and swallows them head first.
  • Stilt like legs carry the bird high above the water.
  • Long necks permit them to reach down to capture food beneath the water’s surface.
  • The 6th vertebra forms a spring which propels the head and beak forward at very fast speeds to surprise its prey.

Forest Kingfisher

  • Feeds on insects and small reptiles.
  • Sit on roots or branches studying the surroundings and suddenly swoop down and pounce on its prey, normally a beetle or insect.
  • Despite the name, the prime food source is not fish.

Other birds to watch out for…

  • Brahminy Kite
  • Buff-banded Rail
  • Australasian Darter
  • Black-necked Stork
  • Little Pied Cormorant
  • Rainbow Bee-Eater
  • Black-winged Stilt
  • Spectacled Monarch
  • Olive-backed Sunbird
  • Australian Pelican
  • Whimbrel
  • Striated Heron
  • Forest Kingfisher

bird watching cairns

bird watching cairns

Bird watching cairns

Crocodile and Bird wild on the banks of Trinity Inlet Cairns seen from Crocodile Explorer vessel great bird watching

Bird wild on Trinity Inlet Cairns seen during Cairns Harbour Cruises half day tour great bird watching