7 tiny birds to look for in South Australia

You’ll need sharp eyes to spot these species next time you go birdwatching – they all weigh less than 10 grams.

South Australia has about 450 species of birds, 250 of which can be seen in the Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges area.

Some, like emus, magpies and sulphur-crested cockatoos are difficult to miss, but others can be much more difficult to spot because of their size.

If you like a challenge, look out for some of these seven species next time you’re on a bushwalk:

1. Weebill

Average weight: 6g (or one and a half teaspoons of sugar)

Weebills are the smallest birds in Australia, and as the name suggests, they also have very small beaks. They are mostly light brown with darker brown wing tips and pale or yellowish underparts. Weebills live in woodland habitats and feed on small insects.

They are a classic example of what birders refer to as an LBB (little brown bird), so it can be difficult to tell them apart from similar-sized LBBs like thornbills.

They have a distinctive, remarkably loud call that sounds like a whistled version of “I’m a weebill!” Look for them in MonartoKarte and Billiatt conservation parks and Wait Reserve.

(Image courtesy of Patrick Kavanagh in line with Creative Commons licensing)

2. Western gerygone

Average weight: 7g (or one and a half grapes)

Fun fact! This bird’s name isn’t pronounced “geh-ree-gone” as you might expect – it’s “jeh-rig-oh-nee” which is ancient Greek for “the children of song”.

It’s a grey bird with darker grey-brown wings, a black and white tail and a small black bill. Gerygones are rare in SA but you might be lucky enough to spot one on Eyre Peninsula, or in the far north-west of the state near the Northern Territory border.

(Image courtesy of Peter Richman in line with Creative Commons licensing) 

3. Brown thornbill

Average weight: 7g (or one small strawberry)

Brown thornbills have brown backs, wings and heads, pale bellies, blackish streaks on their throats, and small beaks. These curious little birds are found in shrubby woodland, especially the understorey, and pairs can be fiercely territorial.

Like weebills, they feed mainly on small insects. You’ll often hear them before you see them, and they will come quite close to people. Look for them in Cleland and  Morialta conservation parks and Belair National Park

(Image courtesy of Patrick Kavanagh in line with Creative Commons licensing)

4. Spotted pardalote

Average weight: 8g (or three five-cent coins)

These pretty woodland birds have black heads, backs and wings, with a pale eyebrow strip and white spots on the wings. Their underparts are a creamy yellow and their rumps are red. The male birds have brighter markings, while the females are more muted.

They eat insects and can be identified by their distinctive three-note call. Look for them in Black HillMorialta and Hallett Cove conservation parks.

(Image courtesy of Patrick Kavanagh in line with Creative Commons licensing)

5. Southern emu-wren

Average weight: 8g (or half a chocolate frog)

Southern emu-wrens have brown bodies and tails and a sky-blue patch on their throats. They take their names from their long, delicate tail feathers, which are of a similar texture to emu feathers. Though they are minuscule in comparison to a real emu feather, they are almost twice as long as the emu-wren’s tiny body. Like all Australian wrens, southern emu-wrens usually hold their tails upright.

Southern emu-wrens are threatened in some parts of the state and can be difficult to find, but the Mount Lofty subspecies has recently been spotted on the Fleurieu Peninsula, in Stipiturus, the conservation park that bears their scientific name (Stipiturus malachurus).

They are less rare in the South East, so look for them in Coorong National Park and the South East’s coastal scrubs and wetlands.

(Image courtesy of Martin Stokes)

6. Grey fantail

Average weight: 9g (or a $1 coin)

Grey fantails are regular visitors to Adelaide Hills gardens and take their names from the way they spread their tails.

They have light grey bellies and darker grey wings and heads, with a white throat and eyebrow stripe. They have a lovely whistling call, and can also make a repetitive “chp-chp-chp” call when displaying.

Fantails are very inquisitive and will often follow walkers, coming quite close. Look for them in ClelandMorialta and Monarto conservation parks.

(Image courtesy of Patrick Kavanagh in line with Creative Commons licensing)

7. Superb fairy wren

Average weight: 10g (or two A4 sheets of paper)

Fairy wrens regularly make an appearance in the list of Australia’s favourite birds, thanks to their beautiful colouring.

Adult male superb fairy wrens are striking, with pale black hoods, bright blue patches on the head and neck, brown wings and pale bellies. Adult females and juveniles are both a soft brown, but the females have dusky, bluish tails.

They are widespread across the Adelaide Hills, so look for them in almost any park – ClelandMorialta and Para Wirra conservation parks and Belair National Park are  good places to start

(Image courtesy of Chris Botting)

Want to learn more about SA’s birds? Check out our blog about birds of prey, or learn how to attract birds to your backyard.

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