2024 Top End Birding Tour

20 June to 4 July 2024


Pre-tour night
20 June 2024 

Day 1
21 June 2024
Darwin area: Mangroves, rainforest, wetlands and Darwin Botanic Gardens.
We'll cruise around Darwin Harbour in search of the chestnut rail from a comfortable boat. We've never failed to see the rail from the water. Other species we may see include red-headed honeyeater and yellow white-eye. Later we'll visit some patches of monsoon rainforest where target birds will include the spectacular rainbow pitta and rose-crowned fruit-dove. Also, here we should see large-billed and green-backed gerygones and possibly mangrove golden whistler. We should get pied imperial pigeon perched on power lines around Darwin suburbs. We'll lunch at the Darwin Botanic Gardens where we'll have a look for rufous owl. Nearby wetlands and mudflats should get our bird list soaring in the afternoon. Collared kingfisher and beach stone curlew are on the agenda late afternoon.
Overnight: Darwin


Day 2
22 June 2024
Darwin area
More mangroves are on the agenda this morning. We’ll search for the elusive white-breasted whistler, the tide being right. Other species could include mangrove robin, shining flycatcher and the melodic mangrove gerygone. Pied heron and radjah shelduck should be about, and there’s a chance for grey goshawk. We will lunch at Howard Springs where we have a another chance for rufous owl, plus rose-crowned fruit dove and rainbow pitta, and less glamorous species like lemon-bellied flycatcher and spangled drongo. We should also see the silver-backed butcherbird around Palmerston.
Overnight: Darwin

Day 3
23 June 2024
Darwin to Jabiru
We leave Darwin this morning travelling east to Kakadu NP. En route to Kakadu we will visit Fogg Dam where the patch of monsoon rainforest is often alive with birds. It can produce little bronze-cuckoo and brush cuckoo, bar-breasted and rufous-banded honeyeaters as well as rainbow pitta. White-browed crake can often be seen on the wetland; and we could see our first brolgas here, plus a variety of waterbirds. After lunch we will make a stop at Adelaide River for the stunning mangrove golden whistler should we still need it.
Overnight: Jabiru.

Day 4
24 June 2024
Jabiru to Cooinda
The South Alligator floodplain can be an excellent area for raptors such as both spotted and swamp harriers, black-shouldered kite, brown falcon and black-breasted buzzard, and sometimes a surprise or two. It can also be good for zitting and golden-headed cisticolas and Australian pratincole, and occasionally Australian bustard. The patch of monsoon rainforest at South Alligator can be good for Arafura fantail and cicadabird. We will also visit some of Kakadu's famous wetlands where we should see green pygmy-goose and wandering and plumed whistling-duck. The spectacular Arnhem Land escarpment will come into view today. We will be on the lookout for woodland birds including partridge pigeon and black-tailed treecreeper.
Overnight: Gagudgi Lodge, Cooinda

Day 5
25 June 2024
Cooinda area
This morning we will visit the Arnhem Land escarpment where our main goal will be the elusive black-banded pigeon – one of the hardest birds to see in Kakadu NP. Other possibilities here include Top End endemics such as white-lined honeyeater, sandstone shrike-thrush and chestnut-quilled rock-pigeon. The Arnhem Land subspecies (dulcis) of the purple-backed fairy-wren could be seen here. We'll also visit one of Kakadu's major Aboriginal rock art sites. After lunch, we will check out some woodlands for chestnut-backed buttonquail as well as other woodland birds such as varied lorikeet, silver-crowned friarbird, rufous-throated and banded honeyeaters and black-tailed treecreeper.
Overnight: Gagudgi Lodge, Cooinda

Day 6
26 June 2024
Cooinda to Pine Creek
This morning we will bird the swamps and lagoons around Cooinda for two of the Top End's more difficult species, the great-billed heron and little kingfisher. This area is one of the best areas in Kakadu NP for turning up surprises, such as red goshawk and Pacific baza. Other species we could encounter here include black bittern, large-tailed nightjar, buff-sided robin, grey goshawk and bar-breasted honeyeater. We’ll head to Pine Creek after lunch, checking out an area for red goshawk en route.
Overnight: Pine Creek

Day 7
27 June 2024
Pine Creek to Katherine
This is our best chance for hooded parrot as well as northern rosella and great bowerbird, their bowers scattered around Pine Creek. We will also be on the lookout for Gouldian and long-tailed finches. We might also see our first cockatiels today as well as rufous-throated and yellow-tinted honeyeaters and perhaps the beautiful white-winged form of the varied sittella in the dry woodland.
Overnight: Katherine

Start of part 2: Katherine 28 June 2024

Day 8
28 June 2024
Katherine to Victoria River
This morning we will be on the lookout for northern shrike-tit Falcunculus whitei, which lives in the woodland about Katherine as well as the golden-backed subspecies of black-chinned honeyeater laetior. Travelling west, we will have more chances for Gouldian and star finches, as well as chestnut-backed buttonquail. Budgerigars can occasionally be seen in this area and of course, we will be ever alert for raptors.
Overnight: Victoria River Roadhouse

Day 9
29 June 2024
Victoria River to Timber Creek
Birding the canegrass along the Victoria River should deliver purple-crowned fairy-wren, yellow-rumped mannikin and star finch. These species have declined in number and have a restricted distribution. Freshwater crocodiles are also common in the Victoria River. We then head west to bird the dry woodland for species such as red-browed pardalote and red-backed kingfisher. If the bloodwoods are flowering, the varied lorikeets should be about.
Overnight: Timber Creek Motel

Day 10
30 June 2024
Timber Creek to Kununurra
We have another chance this morning for Gouldian finch — seen in good numbers around Timber Creek in recent years. Black-chinned (golden-backed), yellow-tinted, rufous-throated, grey-fronted and banded honeyeaters are some of the species that are seen in the flowering eucalypts and grevilleas in the area. We will keep an eye out for pictorella manikin, masked, double-barred, crimson and star finches and the yellow-billed form of long-tailed finch, as well as raptors, such as square-tailed kite and black-breasted buzzard. Ground cuckoo-shrike and hooded robin are sometimes seen south of Timber Creek. In the afternoon we’ll head across the border into Western Australia.
Overnight: Kununurra

Day 11
1 July 2024
A good bird list is on the cards when we take a boat trip on Lake Argyle this morning. Our primary target is yellow chat. This chat breeds out on swampy islands in the lake if water levels are suitable. Other species possible here include white-quilled rock-pigeon and sandstone shrike-thrush. Short-eared rock wallaby may also be seen here. We'll head back into Kununurra in the afternoon and check out the reedbeds round Lake Kununurra where black-backed bittern (Aust little bittern) is a possibility, as are Baillon's spotless and white-browed crakes. There is usually an abundance of waterbirds and finches about the lake.
Overnight: Kununurra

Day 12
2 July 2024
Driving northwest this morning to Wyndham, we check out areas for spinifex pigeon and finches, including pictorella mannikin and Gouldian finch—if we still need them. In Wyndham we will explore the mangroves for white-breasted whistler, mangrove grey fantail and the Kimberley form of lemon-breasted flycatcher. Later we will visit Parry's Lagoon, which consists of vast grassy plains and freshwater swamps, where we have a chance for Australian pratincole and red-chested and red-backed buttonquails, yellow chat and zitting cisticola. Black-breasted buzzard, spotted harrier and black falcon frequent this area; and there is always the chance of shorebirds.
Overnight: Kununurra


The end of part 2 of the Top End tour. Those participants choosing not to do the Mitchell Plateau excursion can fly back to Darwin or elsewhere, or alternatively, they are welcome to spend the day in Kununurra and travel back with us to Darwin setting off on 4 July.

Part 3: Mitchell Falls option
Day 13
3 July 2024
Kununurra—Mitchell Falls
Today will see us up early for our charter to the Mitchell Plateau and then our transfer by helicopter to the Mitchell Falls campground area. Our chief purpose is to seek out the black grasswren, the most isolated of the grasswrens, which inhabits the boulders and spinifex around Mitchell Falls. The Kimberley honeyeater, a Kimberley endemic recently split from white-lined honeyeater, will be another of our targets today. Distinctive subspecies we may see in this area are the rare yellow-eyed form of the partridge pigeon — the Mitchell Plateau is the last stronghold for that race; the Kimberley race of the grey butcherbird and the Kimberley race of the variegated fairywren. We return to Kununurra mid-afternoon, taking in the spectacular view across the Kimberley.
Overnight: Kununurra

4 & 5 July 2024
Part 2 tour participants are welcome to catch a ride back to Darwin with us. We'll overnight in Katherine on 4 July and arrive 5 July in Darwin around lunchtime. Alternatively, participants can fly out of Kununurra. http://www.airnorth.com.au/

2024 tour costs: AUD

Total for parts 1 & 2 combined is $11,200.00
Single supplement for parts 1 & 2 combined: $1,998.00.

Part 1. Darwin to Katherine (day 1 to 7 inclusive and includes pre-tour night):

Single supplement for part 1: $1,336.00


Part 2 Katherine to Kununurra (includes dinner and accommodation in Katherine day 7 and then day 8 to day 12 inclusive): $5,045.00. This amount also includes the accommodation and food on 3 July for those participants doing the Mitchell Plateau excursion. It does not include the Mitchell Plateau excursion (see below). If planning on not doing the Mitchell Plateau excursion and wish to fly out of Kunnunurra on the 3rd July, we will deduct the food and accommodation costs for the 3rd and also the single supplement for that evening.
Single supplement for part 2: $775.00


Part 3 Mitchell Plateau — 3 July 2024
Australian Ornithological Services Pty Ltd does not charge a guiding fee for the Mitchell Plateau excursion. The cost of the charter is simply split among those participating in the excursion. Cost of the fixed wing & helicopter charter in 2021 was $1,033 per passenger with nine participants onboard. The 2024 costs will be confirmed at a later date.


Tour participants catching a ride back to Darwin with us pay for their own accommodation in Katherine on 4 July. We will arrive back in Darwin at about 12.30 pm on 5 July 2024.


NOTE: Birders not on the Top End tour are welcome to put their names down for the Mitchell Plateau excursion.