Australian Bird of the Year

BirdLife Australia's Bird of the Year Picks: Top 7

Tuesday, 26 September 2023

  • Estimated reading time 5 minutes
Don’t know who to vote for in the Guardian/BirdLife Australia Bird of the Year poll? Let us inspire you with our top 7 picks!

It’s one of the country’s most contentious competitions, but with just one vote per day and a not-so-short list of 50 species of birds to choose from, voting for your favourite bird in the Australian Bird of the Year is no easy decision.

In previous years, our more familiar and high-profile species dominated the hotly-contested final rounds of the competition – including crowd-pleasers like the Laughing Kookaburra, Australian Magpie and Superb Fairy-wren. But in 2019, the once obscure Black-throated Finch soared to new heights when it took out the crown with the biggest winning margin in the competition’s history. Threatened by the expansion of the Adani Carmichael coalmine, the Endangered Southern subspecies was backed by a highly-organised online campaign by conservationists to draw attention to its plight.

While the Bird of the Year may be a popularity contest – the bird with the most votes wins – it’s also a celebration of Australia’s remarkable birdlife. But it can be a call to action, too – and a unique opportunity to harness the momentum and raise the profile of our lesser-known and threatened bird species.

So, why not consider voting for a bird few Australians may be familiar with, or a threatened or endangered species? Who knows – nominating an ‘underbird’ might just give that species its own Black-throated Finch moment in the spotlight.

“Bird of the year has played a strong part in celebrating what birds we have in Australia, what we’ve still got left, and therefore, most importantly, what we need to preserve, so it’s still there for future Bird of the Year votes.”

‒ BirdLife Australia’s National Public Affairs Manager, Sean Dooley

Without further ado, here are the seven species we’re backing in the 2023 Bird of the Year competition!

1. Swift Parrot (Critically Endangered)

Don’t pull a swiftie

Swift by name, swift by nature, the Critically Endangered Swift Parrot is one of only a handful of migratory parrots in the world. Twice a year, Swift Parrots brave crossing one of the world’s most dangerous bodies of water – Bass Strait – as they migrate from their Tasmanian breeding grounds to the mainland to feed on flowering gums and lerp in south-eastern Australia.

Sadly, Swifties are rushing towards extinction, and their forest habitat continues to be logged in NSW and Tasmania. With as few as 750 birds remaining in the wild, the Swift Parrot needs all the support it can get – so why not cast your vote for it?

To the left of the frame, a Swift Parrot is perched on a eucalypt against a blurred green background, peering inquisitively toward the camera. Its plumage is mostly green, with red, blue and yellow.
Swift Parrot by Chris Tzaros

Join our campaign against native forest logging and help us fight to protect Swift Parrots forever.

2. Regent Honeyeater (Critically Endangered)

A royal winner

With dazzling black and white chainmail plumage and radiant yellow wings and tail, the Regent Honeyeater is especially striking. But while they were once a common sight along the inland slopes of the Great Dividing Range and in dry coastal valleys, sometimes gathering in flocks of hundreds, today fewer than 350 wild Regents are left across their range, which has been heavily cleared. These Critically Endangered birds are now so rare that they’re losing their song – but voting for them in the Bird of the Year will help give them a voice.

To the right of the frame, a black and yellow Regent Honeyeater faces to the left with its back to us, against a blotched background..
Regent Honeyeater by Andrew Silcocks

Since 2000, the Regent Honeyeater Recovery Team has released over 400 zoo-bred Regent Honeyeaters into the wild. Captive breeding and releases like these mean the difference between extinction and survival for these remarkable birds

3. Carnaby’s Black-Cockatoo (Endangered)

The rock stars of the bird world

Carnaby’s Black-Cockatoos aren’t fussy eaters – their incredibly powerful bills are well-equipped to crunch through pinecones and the nuts and seeds of banksias, gum nuts and grevilleas. Found only in south-western Australia, flocks of Carnaby’s wheeling across the Perth skyline were once a familiar sight (and sound), but they are now in serious trouble. Widespread land clearing, especially in the Wheatbelt, has seen their population plummet by about 50 per cent in the last 50 years – and they are now listed as Endangered, so vote #1 Carnaby’s and help show them some love on a national scale.

In the centre of the frame, two black and white Carnaby's Black-Cockatoos are perched in a shrub, The male (right, with pink eye-ring) is preening the female.
A pair of Carnaby’s Black-Cockatoos by Raeline Smith

Our annual Great Cocky Count shows that Carnaby’s numbers are still declining due to clearing from urbanisation, forestry and mining – an indictment on our failing nature laws.

4. Gang-gang Cockatoo (Endangered)

Join the Gang-gang gang!

One of Australia’s 56 species of parrots, the Gang-gang Cockatoo is the bird emblem of the ACT and known for its distinctive creaky-doorlike call. Despite being readily seen across much of south-eastern Australia, these small and charismatic cockies are in actually trouble – they were recently uplisted to Endangered after the Black Summer Bushfires burnt 30% of their habitat. Join the Gang-gang gang and vote for Gang-gangs today!

A close-up of a young male (left) Gang-gang Cockatoo with a red crest and a female (right) against a blotched green background. Both have their backs to us, showing their grey scalloped plumage.
A pair of Gang-gang Cockatoos by David Simon

Participants in our free, online Gang-gang Cockatoo Edu-Action course learn how to collect important data on Gang-gangs across their range – while developing their own Action Plan to help their local Gang-gang population recover.

5. Bar-tailed Godwit (Endangered)

A long-distance world champion

Foraging at the edge of mudflats or in shallow mangrove swamps, the Bar-tailed Godwit feeds by rapidly plunging its bill into the mud to find worms, molluscs and crustaceans to eat.

In the best Aussie backpacking tradition, these large shorebirds are also permanent sunseekers, migrating between Australia and its Arctic nesting grounds. In 2022, one bird was tracked flying non-stop between Alaska and Tasmania: a staggering 13,560km in just 11 days! These world record holders are winners in our eyes.

In the middle of the frame, a brown and white Bar-tailed Godwit lands on the shore with wings and one leg outstretched.
Bar-tailed Godwit by Heather Thorning

To make their long journey across the globe, migratory shorebirds like the Bar-tailed Godwit need safe refuges, such as Queensland’s Toondah Harbour, to rest and refuel. But this internationally significant wetland could soon be destroyed to build marinas and apartments. Join us in the fight to save the bay today.

6. Hooded Plover (Vulnerable)

Birdz N the Hood

While most of Australia’s shorebirds are migratory, Hooded Plovers are one of our few resident species, spending their entire lives on our shores. Not to be confused with the swooping Masked Lapwing, these plucky little plovers raise their chicks on the popular surf beaches of southern Australia. While their nests and chicks are well-camouflaged to protect against predators, they’re vulnerable to disturbance by people and predation by cats, dogs and foxes – making them one of Australia’s most threatened shorebirds. If you’re a plover lover, vote for the Hooded Plover today!

To the left of the frame, two Hooded Plovers are running across the sand, their orange legs outstretched.
Hooded Plovers by Hamish Burrell

Since 2006, BirdLife Australia’s Beach-nesting Birds Project has been protecting and improving the breeding success of some of our most vulnerable, beach-dependent birds –  especially Hooded Plovers!

7. Powerful Owl (Vulnerable at State level)

A powerful contender

With an impressive wingspan of up to 1.4 metres, the Powerful Owl is Australia’s largest species of owl. They’re found across eastern and south-eastern Australia, including in metropolitan Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne – but our cities can be dangerous places for these remarkable nocturnal raptors.

Like most other species of owls, they rely on tree hollows for breeding, which take hundreds of years to form – and widespread logging and land-clearing means these old-growth, hollow-bearing trees are becoming a rarity. Some rodent poisons are also deadly for birds of prey like Powerful Owls, and researchers estimate that only around 5,000 of these birds remain in the wild. Take a powerful stance and vote #1 Powerful Owl today!

An adult Powerful Owl (left) and chick (right) perched on a eucalypt branch. Both birds are facing away from the camera but looking towards us. The chick is smaller and has more white plumage.
Powerful Owl adult and chick by Andrew Silcocks

Our Powerful Owl Project is a citizen science project and a huge collaborative effort – helping us find out more about the ecology of our urban Powerful Owl populations and how best we can protect them.


You can vote in the bird of the year poll until 11.59PM on Thursday 5 October. Help spread the bird word by using the hashtag #BirdoftheYear on socials – and may the best bird win!