An example – Listening and Watching

Both our local Pardalotes are beautiful birds, often heard but not often seen since they are tiny and usually call from high in trees. Being loud in call and distinctive in shape and plumage makes them ideal identification practice for beginning birders.  Both are widespread in the bush around Canberra, and can even be found at times in suburban gardens (more often the Spotted, often nesting in banks and pots) and streetscapes (the Striated).

Both these species have similar behaviour, feeding on lerp and nesting in banks, although the Striated Pardalote also uses tree hollows for nesting. Once you get to know their calls you may be surprised how often you hear and possibly see them in and around Canberra.

Spotted Pardalote

A jewel-like SPotted Pardalote

Occasionally Spotted Pardalotes will come down out of the trees and appear quite curious and confiding

 The Spotted Pardalote is about 9 cm from beak to tail.With an idea of the call, the size and shape, and where to look (especially if you have binoculars), you may see the Spotted Pardalote’s distinctive plumage – a colourful throat and rump, spotted head, back and wings and a bold plain white eyebrow.

Striated Pardalote

Striated Pardalotes courting

 Although similar in size and shape, the Striated Pardalote is quite different from the Spotted Pardalote in its head and wing pattern. Notice that like its Spotted cousins it has a bold white eyebrow, but with a bright yellow patch at the front on the forehead.  Unlike Spotteds they have no white spots, but do have a distinctive red dot on each wing. Their call is also quite different – listen here,  on the eBird page.


Identification aids


Useful free online aids to identifying birds include:

Birds in Backyards is a BirdLife Australia research, education and conservation program focusing on the birds that live where people live.The Bird Finder allows you to search, browse or find information about individual Australian birds.


There are two apps that can be purchased for use on a phone or tablet.  These are basically electronic versions of the field guides, but more portable and have the great advantage that they include calls.

Physical Books – Field Guides

Some field guides that COG members use:


Binoculars are the most useful item of equipment. There’s lots of info on the web, but to help you choose a pair, have a look at the following.


Join a COG trip. Members are usually happy to both tell you about their binoculars and let you try them. Members will be using several different brands, sizes and styles of binoculars, so you are likely to get a fairly good idea as to what might best suit you. And you’ll have a fun birding outing!