Iron Range Birdwatching Tour

over 60 tours have taken place since 1992

8 Day Tours
6 birdwatchers maximum
Cairns – Musgrave – Lakefield National Park – Iron Range – Cairns (fly / drive)

6 Day Tours
6 birdwatchers maximum
Cairns – Iron Range – Cairns (fly / fly)

The Iron Range National Park is one of the important birding locations in Australia. Eclectus Parrots, Red-cheeked Parrots and Green-backed Honeyeaters are only found in this region, plus the other endemic birds of upper Cape York, which also occur in New Guinea. It’s a must for every birdwatcher at least once.

The Iron Range Tour starts and ends in Cairns, and it is usually a drive in / fly out tour in winter and spring, while in December guests fly in, stay for 5 nights at Portland Roads and fly out on day 6. Depending on the road condition and rain it might be possible to drive out and spend 2 nights at Musgrave. Please check the program for this option.

The best time for a visit is summer, when all migrants are present. The last arrival at the end of November / early December is the Red-bellied Pitta, a truly beautiful highlight of the tour. Birdwatchers in winter haven’t much of a chance of seeing the Pitta, Black-winged Monarch or Buff-breasted Paradise-Kingfisher, but it is the cooler, more pleasant time of the year.

Our clean and comfortable accommodation at Iron Range is a house on a hill at Portland Roads, overlooking Weymouth Bay and the mangroves. It’s a solar powered house with generator back-up, four rooms, sea breezes and a million-dollar view.

Transport is in a 6 (forward-facing) seater Toyota 4WD troop carrier, and we carry a satellite phone and a First-Aid Kit. We are in the outback, where the roads are unsealed and rugged. Travelling times can therefore vary, depending on the conditions. Iron Range N.P. is in a remote area of Australia.

The drive in / fly out tour starts in Cairns, and we stay two nights at Musgrave to look for the Golden-shouldered Parrot, which is present all year around, plus other birds of that area such as Black- backed Butcherbirds, Masked and Black-throated Finches. Musgrave Station, a roadhouse on the unsealed road to the Tip of Cape York, is our base for two nights.

It is a comfortable place to stay, basic, but clean rooms with ceiling fans and air-con, two single beds per room and shared amenities. We visit parts of Lakefield National Park with its numerous lagoons and rivers in woodland habitats, which add a different variety of birds to the tour list, as the habitat at Iron Range is mainly rainforest.

During our four night stay at Iron Range we’ll visit the rainforest, woodland, seashore and mangroves. We go spotlighting for nocturnal birds like Papuan- and Marbled Frogmouth, Nightjars and Rufous Owls. Quite frequently we encounter other wildlife including the Spotted Cuscus and Southern Common Cuscus (formerly Grey Cuscus).

This tour can also run as a fly-in/drive out tour. Please check the program for these details.

We usually find all the present endemic birds of this region several times and generally have great views of them, but of course we also enjoy watching all the other birds.


Drive in / Fly out

Day 1

Departure from Cairns (pick-up at your accommodation) at about 7.30 am, and we drive via Mareeba towards Musgrave Station. This first leg is about 450 km, and we stop several times to stretch our legs and do some birdwatching. Arrival time at Musgrave is about 5.30 pm.

Day 2

Early morning birdwatching, main target species is the Golden-shouldered Parrot, but of course other birds are also present. We return to Musgrave for the main meal of the day and a short rest/siesta, before leaving for Lakefield Nat. Park. Several stops are made on the way to see the resident finch species and other birds. At twilight we have a light dinner and drive slowly back towards Musgrave, spotlighting for nocturnal birds on the way. Return time is about 9.00 pm.

Day 3

In the morning we visit an area where the Red Goshawk is known to live and nest. We depart Musgrave around lunchtime and travel the 180 km to Archer River. We spend one night at the Archer River Roadhouse.

Day 4

After breakfast in the morning we depart for Iron Range, again with stops on the way. It’s only 180 km, but this part of the trip may take us about 5 hours, including stops. By about lunchtime we arrive in the rainforest of Iron Range, where we do some birdwatching and arrive at our accommodation at Portland Roads in the late afternoon.

Day 5 – 7

Depending on the weather conditions, tide times and other factors we spend the next days in the local woodland, rainforests, mangroves and at the shore, always looking for the endemic birds and the highest number of bird species at the same time.

On most days we go birdwatching in the early morning and return to the guest house for lunch. We often take a break in the heat of the day, then it’s on again with afternoon birdwatching and sometimes spotlighting at night.

Day 8

We pack-up and drive to the airstrip, again birdwatching on the way. On most days the flight departure time is either 10.00 am or noon.