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Australian bird habitats

On these pages we attempt to illustrate and describe various kinds of habitat in which birds are found, and for which they often have a preference. The aim is to give a general impression, not to be scientifically accurate or to show every possible variety of a certain type of habitat. It is obvious that a certain species will only occur in a given type of habitat within its range (and not in every habitat of a certain kind all across the continent). Note also that a certain kind of habitat can have very different forms across the continent (e.g. various types of woodlands, depending on the dominant tree species). For each type of habitat we list bird species observed by us in that habitat. For details consult the relevant literature (or Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia).

There is now also a set of pages on a number of key plants used by Australian birds.

We distinguish here between natural habitats and manmade habitats. Clickable links are shown in boldface italics font.

NB: When being expelled from their parents' territories, immature birds of various species disperse into a wide range of habitats to find a territory of their own; in this process of dispersal, immature birds can often be seen in habitats that are not typical of those of adult birds of the species.

NATURAL HABITAT Type of habitat Short description
Forest Various Forests are defined as habitats vegetated by trees with an upper canopy height of more than 20 m; includes descriptions of open vs. closed and various types of rainforest
Woodland Various Woodlands are areas vegetated by trees with an upper canopy height of about 8-20 m; includes descriptions of open vs. closed and tall vs. low woodland
Scrub/shrubs Interior Habitats dominated by low growth, with a maximum height of 0.5-4 m; includes open and closed scrubland (2-4 m max. height), low shrubland and low open shrubland (0.5-1 m max. height)
Heath Various Low scrub growing on poor (acidic and/or sandy) soil
Mallee Interior Scrub dominated by plants, mostly eucalypts, with lignum tubers and more than one stem
Open grassland Interior Areas with grass growth, little or no shrubs or taller vegetation
"Spinifex" grassland Interior Open grassland of the interior of the continent dominated by Triodia (called "Spinifex") grass; there is a separate page on coastal spinifex dunes
Desert Interior Sandy and/or salty desert; gibber (stone desert) is presented separately (below)
Gibber plains Interior Stone desert with very sparse, low vegetation
Escarpment Interior Rockfaces in the interior of the continent
Alpine Interior Habitats in high mountain ranges (defined here as >1500 m altitude)
Freshwater lake Interior/fresh water Habitats around permanent freshwater lakes; also contains a description of reeds
Ephemeral lake Interior/fresh water Inland freshwater lakes that are dry for long periods of time and usually shallow
Ephemeral wetland Interior/fresh water Low-lying areas that are inundated temporarily after heavy rain or a flood event
River/creek, waterhole Riverine/fresh water Running waters of any size, also (semi-)permanent waterholes and rockpools (often called "lagoons")
Billabong Riverine/fresh water (Semi-)permanent waterhole of a tropical river, usually covered with waterlilies
Swamp/marsh Various/fresh water Permanently water-logged area with partially submerged vegetation
Floodplain Riverine/fresh water (Tropical) plain that is dry during the dry season, but will be flooded by a swollen river during the rainy season
Mudflat Riverine/fresh or brackish water Area of land with little or no vegetation exposed by receding water
Estuary Coastal/fresh, brackish, saltwater Widening river channel near the sea
Intertidal wetland, mangrove Coastal/saltwater Mud- or sandflat that is underwater at high tide and above the waterline at low tide, often covered with mangrove
Lagoon/saltmarsh Coastal/saltwater Shallow bodies of saline water separated from the sea by a narrow barrier
Coastal spinifex dune Coastal/saltwater Coastal dunes covered with true "Spinifex" grass
Beach Coastal/saltwater Sandy beaches, specifically the area between the waterfront and dunes
Coastal rockface Coastal/saltwater Rock shelves, e.g. at the base of coastal headlands
Cliff Coastal/saltwater Sheer rockfaces on the coastline
Coastal waters Coastal/saltwater Waters just off the coast of the continent
Offshore island Oceanic Islands off the coast of the Australian continent
Pelagic Oceanic/saltwater Offshore habitat; open water on the continental shelf and beyond
Ice Oceanic/continental Antarctic shelf ice, icebergs, etc.; mainly penguins live on ice

Although many bird species suffer from habitat degradation and reduction, others can use manmade landscapes to their advantage. Some manmade habitats can have large numbers of birds in them, but most manmade habitats lack the diversity of natural habitats, with few species being found there.

MANMADE HABITAT Type of habitat Short description
City centre/suburb Urban Built-up areas with little natural habitat left
Urban park Urban Manmade environment with partly natural vegetation
Garden Urban/rural Manmade, partly naturally vegetated environment
Lawn/sportsground Urban Manicured grass surfaces; usually root-, rather than seed-propagating grass varieties
Awning/shed Rural/urban Crevices and other sheltered areas in various types of buildings
Road/roadside Urban/rural Sealed and unsealed roads and roadside vegetation
Farmland with scattered trees Rural Farmland, either around buildings or for stock feed, with remnant growth of scattered trees
Paddock/pasture Rural Grass-dominated manmade landscape
Crop / fallow field Rural Commercial crops and fallow fields
Water reservoir Rural Large artificial water surface
Irrigation dam Rural Medium size artificial water surface, usually without fringe vegetation
Small/farm dam Rural Small to mid-size artificial water surface
Rubbish tip Urban/rural Heaps of food scraps
Sewage works Urban/rural Artificial aquatic, nutrient-enriched environment
Harbour Coastal Harbour, fishing port

These pages are largely based on our own observations and those of our contributors. The structure of these bird pages is explained HERE. For more salient facts on any bird species please refer to a field guide.

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