Birder's Guide

MAR 2016

Birder's Guide is the American Birding Association's newest publication. Each issue focuses on a key subject, providing tips from experienced birders on a wide variety of topics like Travel, Listing & Taxonomy, Gear, and Conservation & Community.

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20 Best Birds in Australia 14 Birder's Guide to Travel | March 2016 families and many species are restricted to the Australo-Papuan region, which is biogeographically a cohesive unit, I tried to choose true country-level endemics but ended up making one exception. This still left nearly 350 species to choose from. Indeed, Australia is second in the world in terms of country endemics, being sur- passed only by Indonesia. The 20 species I selected showcase the country's endemic bird families and pro- vide some breadth of ecology and behavior. The fnal choices also reveal my penchant for hard-to-fnd and secretive species of the remote Australian outback. I hope readers will enjoy this all-too-brief list, and if you have not birded Down Under, there is no time like the present. Good birding, mate! #1 • Plains-wanderer (Pedionomus torquatus) This is a high-priority species for the ma- jority of birders visiting Australia. A myste- rious bird, it is exceedingly diffcult to see, range restricted, and of uncertain affnities. For family listers, its monotypic status only adds to the allure—its closest relatives are the South American seedsnipes! While it superfcially shares similarities with but- tonquails, it is allied with shorebirds. The female is larger with a broad necklace of speckled black and white offset by a chest- nut breast patch. The male is streaked in basic browns. The Plains-wanderer breeds on endless plains and prefers cropped grass such as that found in sheep pad- docks. How it evades detection is a mys- tery to me, but it is nearly impossible to see during the day. In order to catch a glimpse, it is necessary to venture out at night. With the help of expert Phil Maher, it is possible to spotlight one or two out on the plains near Deniliquin in south-central New South Wales. Phil frst discovered that it is possible to see the species at night and has taken hundreds of birders to see it over the past three decades. He can be contacted at philipmaher.com. Driving at night in widening circles through empty sheep paddocks is memorable in itself. When a bird fnally appears and freezes in the headlights, it is immediately apparent one has laid eyes on a one-of-a-kind bird only Australia could harbor. #2 • Emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae) Decidedly easy to see compared to other species on this list, the Emu stands out by size alone. These fightless birds stretch up to six feet tall and thankfully are relatively # 1 # 2 Photo © Michael L. P. Retter Photo © Stephan Lorenz

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