Melbourne’s Yarra Bend Park

Site Location: Melbourne, Australia

The Yarra Bend Park is the largest green space in Melbourne. Although it is urban, you can find quite a lot of fascinating things there.

Not just for birds!

Having once lived only a few minutes walk from it, we quickly became the eBirders with the highest number of submitted checklists for the park. I suspect that will change in the next year or so. Given that we’ve been so many times (far more tha indicated on eBird), this location post will be a little more detailed than the typical one. Due to where we walked, I will be talking about the following areas indicated by numbers on this map:


Before going to this park, I must emphasise that this park is a little seedy at times, with graffiti artists doing their thing and other odd elements. This is also a dog-friendly park, and sometimes there can be a lot of dogs, including many poorly-trained ones. The best times to avoid the dogs is definitely in the morning. However, many dog owners in this park also don’t pick up their dog feces, and we’ve stepped in it more than once despite trying to be careful.

Despite that huge warning, this park is definitely worth a look. You can minimise the weird stuff by going on weekdays, early in the mornings, during colder months, not during school holidays and definitely not around christmas.

Grey Butcherbird is one of four butcherbirds that can be seen in Australia, and it is the only one that can be seen in Melbourne.


Let’s start out with Area 0 on the map, labeled there as ‘Kanes Bridge’. It’s called that because you can cross a bridge into the golf course.

Kanes Bridge crosses the Yarra River into the golf course.

This area is one of the more popular ones because there is a boathouse and a carpark. That being said, the trail to the east of the carpark is not nearly as popular and some interesting birds can be seen there like cuckoos. Nankeen Night heron and Australasian Darter is sometimes around as well. Check out the views of the river for ducks and the commonly-seen Dusky Moorhen. Occasionally Eurasian Coot can be seen as well.

I found this Australasian Darter right next to the bridge.

If you actually cross Kanes Bridge, there is a grass oval there and is a great place to see Red-rumped Parrots.

Red-rumped Parrots are a common but very beautiful feature of Yarra Bend Park.

You can walk from Area 0 to Area 1, though you might need to use the road for some of that walk because part of the connecting path is sometimes closed due to ‘unstable ground’. It is worth trying as much of this path as possible as we’ve seen some more unusual species here like Australian King Parrot (best in winter) and Little Black Cormorant.

Little Pied Cormorant seen while walking on the path connecting Area 0 and Area 1.

Flying Foxes?

It’s Area 1 that has the amazing Grey-Headed Flying Fox colony.

Two Grey-headed Flying Foxes trying to stay cool

There are thousands of Grey-headed Flying foxes (a kind of fruit-bat) roosting in the trees all year round. The population’s peak corresponds to the peak days of summer. These creatures are in a fragile habitat so be sure to be quiet and not disturb these wonderful Flying Foxes.

The Bellbird picnic area at the start of the Flying Fox colony is not the best spot for birds. However, you’ll still probably see Noisy Miner, Rainbow Lorikeet, Dusky Moorhen, Australian Magpie, Red Wattlebird, Laughing Kookaburra, and Common Mynah.

Noisy Miner
:

Rainbow Lorikeet

The Pipe Bridge

Area 2 on the map I labeled above contains a very interesting trail. It’s best done in the morning, as in the later afternoon, there are many cyclists that are using this trail, and it can make watching birds a bit difficult. On this trail you can either go east towards Kew Billabong or West towards the pipe bridge (area 3). Both areas are interesting and should be explored.

Pied Currawong is not too uncommon and can be seen everywhere, but especially Area 2.

Area 2 contains quite a nice variety of birds. First, I once saw an Australian White Ibis feeding right in the forest! Even if you don’t see that, chances are you will see Australian White Ibis or even Straw-necked Ibis flying overhead. It is also a good place to see Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike. Right before entering the path is also a place where a bunch of small birds are often feeding in the Eucalypts by the road, such as Golden Whistler and Spotted Pardalote.

The path leads to the pipe bridge, which goes across the Yarra River. Before crossing the bridge (if you’re on the east side), you may notice that there are two parallel paths, one going closer to the river. This area is one of the most interesting.

Eastern Spinebill

I’ve seen fairly unusual species here such as Flame Robin, Yellow-faced Honeyeater, and Eastern Spinebill, which are definitely not as common in this park.

In the winter especially, it’s a good idea to look out for migrating cockatoos. Both Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo (more common) and Gang-gang Cockatoo (less common) can be seen here. In fact, in 2018, we saw the Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo pretty much every time we took a walk in Yarra Bend Park.

Listen for their creaky calls, as you might find Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos feeding in the trees!

At the pipe bridge itself (Area 3), look out for ducks in the water. Pacific Black Duck and Australian Wood Duck are fairly common. It’s also pretty much guaranteed to see some feral domestic ducks. Ducks like this area because there is a little boathouse here and people feed the ducks, a practice I don’t encourage.

Once you cross the pipe bridge onto the west side of the park, walk towards Area 4. Along the way, look out for Welcome Swallows and Masked Lapwings.

This welcome swallow was seen on the path along the river on the west side of the park (after crossing the pipe bridge). Be sure to check this path out as well, as an alternative to going to Westfield Picnic Area.
Red-browed Finch can also be seen on that west side path (River Circuit Trail). This is actually one of my favourites…shhh, it’s a secret.

Westfield Picnic Area

Westfield Picnic Area (Area 4) is a little more tame with trimmed grass. However, it is surrounded by forest and is a good place for parrots and cockatoos. Galahs are common here and like to feed in the grass. It can also be good for Little and Long-billed Corella on occasion.

A Galah feeding in the field at Westfield Picnic Area.
Although not as common as Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo, Long-billed Corella visits Yarra Bend Park regularly.

Rarities

Here are some rarer birds to look out for that we’ve personally seen in the park:

  1. Gang-gang Cockatoo
  2. Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo
  3. Tawny Frogmouth
  4. Sacred Kingfisher
  5. Little Eagle
  6. Scarlet Robin
  7. Water Rat (not a bird actually, but it’s cool!)
Tawny Frogmouth

Conclusion

Yarra Bend Park might not have been the coolest birding site we’ve ever been to in Australia, but as we spent so much time there, it occupies a significant portion of our sensory experience of this amazing country.

Where would a discussion of Australia be without Sulphur-crested Cockatoos? Goodbye, my friends.

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