Magnetic Island Visitors Guide

Birdwatching- Iconic Island Birds


Magnetic Islands most iconic bird, They are in large numbers on the Island. When Bush and Beach Stone Curlews are anywhere near, you can  hear their eerie, high-pitched  wailing at night. The call sounds like "weer-lo" and is usually repeated four or five times, sometimes culminating in a trilled, screeching crescendo. It is sometimes also heard during the day, when stone-curlews are usually inactive, standing quietly in the shade with their eyes half-closed, or squatting on the ground where their cryptic plumage makes them difficult to see among the leaf litter. They lay several eggs in unusual and open hround locations. They dislike flying and usually only fly to escape danger.

Food is mainly insects. Curlews breed regularly but chicks have a high mortality rate. 

They are large, slim, mainly nocturnal, ground-dwelling birds. It is mostly grey-brown above, streaked and whitish below with clear, vertical black streaks. The bill is small and black, and the eye is large and yellow, with a prominent white eyebrows.


Abundant on Magnetic Island is this reclusive comedic and clumsy ground bird.  They are a pheasant-like', ground-dwelling cuckoo, with  long tail and short rounded wings. The head and back are a reddish chestnut colour and the under parts are cinnamon brown  streaked  bright white. The eyes are red. Both sexes are similar in plumage, but females are larger than males. When disturbed, Coucals  try first to run rather than fly, or will  fly clumsily, plunging into cover,  and can be seen also running into objects. 


Seen Regularly around the Island the raucous shrieks of Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo is hard to ignore. This cockatoo is an active, mainly arboreal bird , spending much of the day feeding. Seen mostly at Horseshoe Bay and Geoffrey Bay,


The Sulphur Crested Cockatoo is another Island resident, present in large numbers. These loud and social birds love the mango trees in season and feed on seeds, fruit and sometimes insects.  White with yellow crest, they are impossible to mistake for any other bird. 


Brahminy Kites is are prolific in Townsville and around Magnetic Island with populations in all bays. This kite is one of the medium-sized raptors  with a white head and breast. The rest of its body is a striking chestnut brown. The very tip of its tail is white. The wings are broad, with dark 'fingered' wing tips and short  tail. The eye is dark and the lemon yellow coloured bill is strongly hooked. They dine on fish and small creatures, as well as carrion. 


A large Bird of prey common on Magnetic Island. Upswept wings,with head and underparts  with grey back and wings. They eat fish,small birds and animals, and carrion. Nests are visible in Horseshoe Bay, WestPoint, and a prominant one sits atop the communication tower at Cockle Bay. Look up at the hunction of Westpoint Road and Cockle Bay road.


Another one of the Islands Iconic birds, and present in great numbers is the Rainbow Lorikeet.  A very colourful bird with green wings and back, blue head and red chest. They nest in tree limbs and eat fruit nectar and insects. They are fed daily at Picnic Bay Hotel, Horseshoe Bay beachfront and at 4pm at Bungalow bay.  These birds are also extremely noisy and travel in large flocks


The sunbirds are a group of very small birds which feed mainly on nectar, although they will also take insects, especially when feeding  their young. Their flight is fast and direct on their short wings. Most species can take nectar by hovering, but usually perch to feed most of the time. They are small songbirds, at most 12 cm long. The underparts of both male and female are bright yellow and the backs are a dull brown colour. The forehead, throat and upper breast of the adult male is a dark, metallic blue-black. 

They build a distintive nest hanging off windows doors trees and even fishing rods left outside.


Two of Australias Iconic Birds and plentiful on Magnetic Ilsand is the Laughing Kookaburra and the Blue-winged Kookaburra. These large Kingfishers are  common on the Island although the Laughing Kookaburra is the noisy laughing birds heard in the bush. They eat insects and eggs snakes worms and other birds chicks. 

The Blue-Winged is the other large kingfisher and is distinguishable by having no stripe through the  eye like the laughing Kookaburra, and blue wings. 


The masked lapwing (Vanellus miles), also known as a Plover is a large, common, noisy and conspicuous bird It spends most of its time on the ground searching for food such as insects and worms and has several distinctive calls. These brown-black, white and yellow plovers are agressive when breeding and do swooping attacks to warn off possible danger. Be wary.

Ospreys are large fishing hawks and one is resident at Picnic Bay feeding in the waters around the Jetty. Most bays have Ospreys and they nest in Hoop pines and other tall trees. These amazing birds  have dark brown tail and back white head and a black band through they eye. Main diet  fish. 


The book-book noise you can hear at night  is the call of this small owl.  They are brown with greenish eyes and very reclusive, Spot with a torch after quietly tracking their distinctive calls.


Always busy, these ground based unusual birds are seen around most bays in the scrub. A large nest is in the interpretive Center

These birds belong to the Megapodes family. They are unique to the bird world as they are they only Family that do not build a nest and incubate their eggs with their body heat. Instead, most megapodes, including the Orange-footed Scrubfowl, build a large mound, heaped up with organic matter and expertly tended so as to generate heat by the composting process.

Birds are usually seen in pairs.

Wherever you go on the Island you will see this bird, on rocks, beaches and cracking mussels at low tide. It is identified by its striking black-and-white plumage, vivid red bill and piping call, Oystercatchers are typically seen probing the sand or mud with their long bills in search of sandworms, molluscs or crabs, sometimes hammering at their shells.