21 May 2019


When I was five, my favourite place in the world was Blackbutt Reserve. 
Minutes from my Newcastle home, it had the best koala exhibit in Australia.
Blackbutt koalas are still the best, but they also have brilliant birds.
The Noisy Pitta has exquisite feathering; a bird dusted with turquoise and pale ice-blue plumage.
It scrabbled around on the rough ground at the base of the bird cage. 
This one reminded me of an old backyard chicken scratching in dirt.

Maybe the Noisy Pitta is searching out its fave food - snails.

This Powerful Owl was half asleep and wouldn’t look my way. 

Huge, it’s big enough to eat possums, rabbits and roosting birds in the wild.

One look at that soft, dotty plumage and you would not think it was capable of it. 

With an olive green beak, the Buff-banded Rail has a creaky, squeaky call.  

This speckled bird can even bray like a donkey if it wants to.

When I reached this aviary, the White-cheeked Honeyeater was drinking nectar from a bird feeder. 

I could see its long, thin tongue lapping and it was darling to watch.


These fluffy white cheeked birds are inquisitive and can catch insects on the fly.  

Normally, they have a yapping call, but during the breeding season make a musical display flight to impress a mate.  I guess all that song and dance means they hope to make a few new Honeyeaters.

Watching so many Gouldian Finches in different colour morphs was the highlight of my visit to Blackbutt Reserve. 

These colourful finches birds have violet breasts, red or black caps and yellow bellies. They flit and cheep constantly, catching termites in mid air.

Gouldian Finches, who are only 11 cm long, are sadly in rapid decline.  

These dear little fellas occupy half of their former territory.  It may be due to bush fires, diseases or being captured for their innate beauty. 

Endangered in the wild, I don’t know if I’ll ever see flocks in their natural habitat. 

Maybe the captive breeding they have in this huge enclosure might help keep these birds on the planet.  
Over 100 Gouldian Finches seemed happy to share an aviary with Bourke’s Parrots.

These rose breasted birds have dark violet-blue wings, light blue underparts and small, squashed beaks. 

Dainty  and petite these are another bird I have never seen outside birding books. Smaller than most other Aussie parrots, they are pretty as can be in powder pink and blue.
Sleepy Red-tailed Black Cockatoos.

These birds have a wheezy voice when they’re active and awake, stretching out their deep, dark long-fingered wings. 

Their call is a loud ‘creeeiiik-careeik’. I didn’t get to hear it, but I did see them preening their glossy plumage which is speckled with white dots.

If anyone can strut elegantly, apart from a peacock, the Black-winged Stilt can. It looks like a water bird on top of two pink straws.

Long, spindly legs mean they can head into deeper water to forage for food without wetting their pristine feathers.

The strangest thing is that a stilt’s stick legs bend backwards. It means they look weird while walking. 

Their call is like a yelp.
I used to drop hints to my parents about wanting to live in Blackbutt, or at least visit every weekend. I would have settled for staying in one of the rich, multi-storey houses next door to 182 km of the reserve.

We visited Blackbutt a lot when I was a kid; I loved it then and love it now. I took my new husband there early in our marriage. I took our children on picnics, barbecues and bush walks in just about every school holiday, just as I was taken when I was small. 
Where else could you see quolls, kangaroos and spy wombats in burrows beneath the ground? Other Koala cuddle opportunities and critter encounters charge hefty entrance fees, but Blackbutt is free.

The reserve has remnants of native vegetation with giant eucalypts covering a whole mountain. I don’t love the idea of birds in cages, but if it’s done well it can give birdwatchers an opportunity to see things up close they would never get in the wild. That I watched heaps of birds trying to break into the enclosures for food makes it a great place for wildlife; a piece of paradise in the middle of a city.
Blackbutt Reserve has plenty more birds, even the 2nd biggest ones in the world: the sandwich-stealing Emus... but that might be a story for another blog.


  1. There are some ring-necked parakeets around London and apparently they are very noisy, so I'm not too keen on having any of your parrots or cockatoos, despite your attractive photos. We have our own versions of your stilt too, so no need. Your koalas though - could you tell me how much it would cost to post a family to the UK?

  2. Hush your mouth DDS, I could never take a koala out of its fab Blackbutt habitat. And the cost of buying a family for a zoo would be astronomical. I hear pandas taken out of China cost a million dollars per year each. I think koalas are much sweeter...say 2 million a pop. And not by postage either, they would not like your UK winters!