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BIRD TOURISM


Is this a thing?


By Paul Fraser


There seems to be a tourism theme for almost every possible human interest, from Space Tourism to Art Tourism, and everything in between.


But is Bird Tourism a thing? Well you may be surprised to learn that it is a thing, and it’s huge, and Queensland punches above its weight in this area.Birding social media and citizen science groups are powerful tools when it comes to inferring interest in birds, and those who travel extensively in pursuit of seeing new bird species. It is obvious that the numbers of birders worldwide have been significantly increasing in recent decades.


Queensland has 23 endemic bird species that do not occur anywhere else in the world. This is six more than our nearest rival Western Australia, and 22 more than our southern neighbour New South Wales. Most of our endemic species occur in North and Far North Queensland, and one (the Kalkadoon Grasswren) occurs around Mount Isa in North-West Queensland.


So for most of those world birders, Queensland would be firmly on their list to see our endemic species. I have met many birders from around Australia, and overseas who have travelled to Queensland (some several times) to see our special birds. 


Some of our endemic species (e.g. the Yellow Honeyeater) are relatively common within their range, but most are difficult to find, and extensive travel to remote areas is sometimes necessary to have any chance of seeing them.


The Atherton Tableland, Daintree and Iron Range areas of Far North Queensland are hotspots for a good number of our endemic species, and bird tourism is very well catered for in these locations. There are accommodation facilities on the Atherton Tableland that cater almost exclusively for birding tourists. 


There are also wildlife cruises on the Daintree River that take regular and significant numbers of birding tourists, and this is one of the best ways to see some of the uncommon species like Black Bittern and Great-billed Heron.


I was in Lockhart River/Iron Range NP in January last year on a small guided tour for four days, and was surprised to see about eight other bird tour groups at the same location. There were tour operators from Queensland New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania. 


These tours operate all year to cater for bird tourists from around the world. In addition to creating employment and injecting revenue into communities, it is likely that birding tourism also instills an awareness of the importance of conservation and biodiversity into those who see it firsthand.


Numbers are not available, however revenue earned from bird tourism would not be insignificant. We can, therefore, only hope that governments and individuals will recognise the long term benefits of this, and do more to preserve the habitats that our beautiful and unique birds need to survive.


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