Emus can often be sighted wandering in the
shrublands of Shark Bay

Link to birdwatching guideWildlife Viewing

Shark Bay’s list of wildlife credentials make impressive reading. There are more dugongs here than anywhere else on the planet, it is the best place in the world to view stromatolites and Monkey Mia is unrivalled as a wild dolphin viewing site. On top of all this the bay is home to some of the rarest mammals on the planet making it vitally important for conservation.

As with all wildlife viewing you will need to spend time, and often be very patient, to have good wildlife encounters. Take the time to explore some of the sites below and you should be rewarded.

Dolphin feed at Monkey MiaMonkey Mia

Bottlenose dolphins are the main attraction at Monkey Mia and for over 30 years these wild animals have been delighting visitors when they come to shore to feed. But Monkey Mia is not only about dolphins. Just off shore there are dugongs, rays, turtles and more, so why not jump on a wildlife cruise and get up close and personal with our marine life! See our Monkey Mia page for all the details.
Another wildlife attraction at Monkey Mia is the thick-billed grasswren. Monkey Mia is the best place in the world to observe this threatened species and a patient observer can easily get good views around the resort area (see birdwatching guide below).

Skipjack Point

Perched on top of the cliffs at Skipjack Point are two viewing platforms that give a bird’s eye view of the marine wildlife below. Giant rays, turtles, cormorants, sharks and schools of fish are common right below the viewing platforms and further offshore you occasionally see dugongs and dolphins. A walking track links the point with Cape Peron giving you more chances to spot wildlife.

Eagle BLuff is an excellent site for watching sharks and rays.Eagle Bluff

Sharks, rays, schools of fish and even dugongs can be seen from this perfectly placed boardwalk high above Henri Freycinet Harbour. Offshore are two small islands that are home to breeding seabirds such as rock parrots, cormorants and silver gulls. The warmer summer months attract the greatest concentration of wildlife as many species seek warmer waters further out during winter.

Project Eden and Shark Bay’s endangered species

Probably Shark Bay’s most important animals are actually the ones that most tourists never get to see. Four small mammal species found on Shark Bay’s offshore islands are found nowhere else in the world, largely because introduced feral predators on the mainland never made it there. A major conservation initiative is underway to bring these species back to the mainland. At Shell Beach there is a large electric fence which has isolated Peron Peninsula from the rest of the bay. North of this fence foxes have been eliminated and endangered animals extinct on the Australian mainland are now being reintroduced. Take a drive around the peninsula at night and you may be lucky enough to see a bilby or a malleefowl – species that have been successfully reintroduced to the area. Click here to read the full story of Project Eden.

Bird Watching Guide for Shark Bay

Shark Bay is an excellent bird watching location as it is located at an important crossover for northern and southern birds and an important seabird habitat.

To get a good appreciation of the local birds you will need to seek out some specific habitats. Plan your trip around visiting mangroves, Monkey Mia (for the rare thick-billed grasswren), coastal sites for wading species and some good shrubland habitat.
Thick-billed grasswren
Thick-billed Grasswren
© DEC/ Babs and Bert Wells

Bird Audio Recordings

The sounds of Shark Bay's birdlife can stick with you for a long time! The repetitive "why-did-you-get-drunk" of the chiming wedgebill and "pan-pan-panalla" of the crested bellbird can ring in a birdwatchers ears long after a day's birdwatching. The birds of Australia's arid zone reach the coast in Shark Bay giving birdwatchers an opportunity to endulge in this unique suite of birds in a coastal setting. Get yourself tuned into the sounds of Shark Bay with these recordings.


Shark Bay birdwatching guide

Link to Shark Bay bird species list

Download an expanded
bird watching guide here.
Download a Shark Bay
species list here.

Recommended bird watching sites

Monkey Mia

Highlights include the rare thick-billed grasswren, white-browed babbler, chiming wedgebill, southern scrub-robin and crested bellbird. Along the coastline to the south of the resort are mudflats which attract a good variety of shorebirds in summer.

Little Lagoon

The small stand of mangroves at the entrance to the lagoon is an excellent place to spot some of the northern Australian mangrove species that are at the southern limit of their range including mangrove heron, mangrove grey fantail and yellow white-eye. A variety of waders and seabirds are found along the stretch of coast nearby – common species include bar-tailed godwit, red and great knots, fairy, caspian, crested and lesser crested terns. In the surrounding low bushes look for the white-winged fairy-wren and rufous fieldwren.

Bush Bay and New Beach (Wooramel Coast)

A narrow band of mangroves extending along the coastline are home to several mangrove dependent birds and northern species at the southern limit of their range including striated heron, brahminy kite, white-breasted whistler, mangrove grey fantail, dusky gerygone, yellow white-eye and white-breasted woodswallow. In the adjacent samphire flats the slender-billed thornbill can be found.
Wading birds and terns near Little Lagoon
Wading birds frequent the mouth of
Little Lagoon during summer.


Francois Peron National Park

The park’s acacia shrublands are worth some exploration for a variety of bush birds including good populations of the rare thick-billed grasswren. Look for the low scurrying pass of this species between denser clumps of vegetation. Malleefowl are another rare species that are making a comeback in the park and an early morning drive may prove fruitful. Access to areas in the northern part of the park past the homestead is by 4WD only.

Hamelin Pool Telegraph Station

An excellent place for some of the areas bush birds - look for hooded robin, chestnut-rumped thornbill, southern whiteface and varied sittella. Check the salt marsh for white-winged fairy-wren, brown songlark, slender-billed thornbill and perhaps chrimson and orange chats. The amount of recent rainfall will effect what species you see here as after dry spells the birdwatching can be quiet. Species that turn up in good numbers after rain include pied honeyeaters, crimson chats, budgerigars and masked woodswallows.

Crimson chat

Crimson chats can be abundant after good rains around
Hamelin Pool but be almost absent at other times. The bright
red plumage of the male is unmistakeable.
Spiny-cheeked honeyeaters are a large honeyeater
found in the Hamelin Pool area. Look for them feeding
on bushes like the fuschia (Eremophila)

Other areas and comments on Shark Bay’s birdlife

Pied cormorant

Pied cormorants are the most common of the cormorants found in Shark Bay.

Seabirds are a significant component of Shark Bay's birdlife, with 14 species breeding in the area and another 50 species visiting the area. Shark Bay has the largest population of pied cormorants in Western Australia. Most islands in the area are used for breeding by seabirds at some time of the year. Fairy Terns can nest on the mainland beaches and spits.

Pelican Island is a winter breeding site for pelicans and an important pelican breeding area in Western Australia. There are only 9 or 10 pelican breeding sites in Western Australia. Pelican Island has 50 to 100 breeding pairs which are extremely sensitive to disturbance. Boats approaching within one kilometre of the island can disturb the birds. Pelicans can be easily seen on the shore around the Monkey Mia Resort area.

Information on shorebirds in the Shark Bay area is not extensive, however a survey of shorebirds was conducted in1987 recorded an estimated 50 000 birds comprising 53 species which makes Shark Bay 12th nationally in significance as a shorebird site. The Shark Bay area is internationally important for two species of shorebirds (the banded stilt and the eastern curlew), and is nationally important for five species of shorebirds; wood sandpiper, greenshank, grey plover, banded stilt and the eastern curlew. The eastern curlew is the largest of the shorebirds that migrate to Australia and is considered to be a rare species in Western Australia. Shark Bay's eastern curlew population is significant considering that numbers have declined elsewhere in Australia.

Areas in Shark Bay that are particularly important for seabirds and shorebirds include Faure Island, the eastern side of Dirk Hartog Island, Pelican Island and the spit on Salutation Island. Faure and Pelican Islands and flats around them may constitute the most important area for migratory shorebirds in the Bay. The 1987 survey also identified other key roosting areas, being near the mouth of the Gascoyne River, a number of marshes and beaches near Bush Bay and Guichenault Point.

Several local subspecies are also of interest. Click on the links to read more about these species.