The Cairns Highlands are one of Australia’s key birding destinations, by visiting the wide range of different habitats to be found here it is possible to see all 12 Tropical North Queensland endemics plus a great selection of the birds and mammals of the Tropical North.
The forested slopes behind Cairns rise up onto a dissected plateau, which slopes upwards towards the south where Mt Bellenden Ker, at 1493 metres, is the highest point in Queensland.
The area starts as you head inland across the Kuranda Range, and covers the Atherton/Yungaburra and Ravenshoe areas to the south and extends northwards to the Mt Lewis massif. The Crater Lakes (Eacham and Barrine) are good for Chowchilla, Grey-headed Robin, Tooth-billed Bowerbird and Pied Monarch, whilst the Crater/Mt. Hypipamee NP and Mt. Lewis at the northern end are a centre for the high altitude species like Bridled Honeyeater, Mountain Thornbill, Atherton Scrubwren, Fernwren and Golden Bowerbird and the 12 endemics.
Besides the high altitude forests there are both wet and dry sclerophyll eucalyptus forests which hold dry country species such as Pale-headed Rosella, Red-winged Parrot, Brown Treecreeper and Great Bowerbird.
Wetland areas such as Mareeba Wetlands (open April to January) hold waterfowl, Brolga and Sarus Cranes (winter), Squatter Pigeon and Black-throated Finch, and reserves such as Hastie’s Swamp NP near Atherton are always worth a look with large numbers of ducks and Magpie Geese when the water levels are right. Kingfisher Park Birdwatchers Lodge at Julatten is an easy place to see Buff-breasted Paradise-Kingfisher from November to April, and they often have Papuan Frogmouth and Noisy Pitta in the area.
The Kuranda area, particularly Black Mountain Road, is good for Victoria’s Riflebird, and the far north specials such as Southern Cassowary, Spotted Catbird, Red-necked Crake and Lovely Fairywren, with Cassowary House along Black Mountain Road one of the best places to see Southern Cassowary. A combination of birding and sight-seeing is easily done, with the Kuranda SkyRail one of the major tourist attractions of the Tropical North, with its sensational views over and into the rainforest.
Places to Stay
Cairns Highlands offers a range of birding-friendly accommodation. Click the 'Accommodation' tab for listings and links.