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.
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. 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.
There is also a nice walk trail around Monkey Mia that is great for bird watching. Here is the best place in the world to observe the thick-billed grasswren, a threatened species. You may also spot a white-browed babbler, chiming wedgebill, southern scrub-robin or crested bellbird. Along the coastline to the south of Monkey Mia resort are mudflats which attract a good variety of shorebirds in summer.
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.
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.
Without leaving the town you can often catch a glimpse of the local bird life. Common species often sited are gulls, wrens, birds of prey, including kestrels and kites, and emus! The emus are often on the look out for food, but please do not approach them as this encourages anti social behaviour and can do more harm than good. Denham is home to a lot of reptile species also. Blue tongue lizards, monitors and thorny devils frequent gardens and the surrounding bushland.
Wading birds frequent the mouth of Little Lagoon (3 minutes from town) during summer.
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.
Top bird watching sites include Francois Peron National Park for bush birds, Monkey Mia for small scrub birds, Little Lagoon for waders and shorebirds, Bush Bay and New Beach (Wooramel coast) for mangrove dependent species such as striated heron, and Hamelin Pool Telegraph Station for bush birds such as the hooded robin and the chestnut-rumped thornbill.
Threatened Species: Thick-billed Grasswren
© DEC/ Babs and Bert Wells
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.
Pied cormorants are the most common of the cormorants found in Shark Bay.
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.
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.
Several local subspecies are also of interest. Click on the links to read more about these species.
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.
Download an expanded
bird watching guide here.
Download a Shark Bay
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)