Birds along Ross River

The birds along the Ross River bike paths are a constant pleasure. Every time I ride there, there is something worth stopping to watch and (if possible) photograph. Here are three such highlights, all from the short stretch of river between the Nathan St and Bowen Rd bridges and all within the last month.


We often see one or two pelicans along this stretch of the river but larger groups are not so common. This group on the Annandale bank, opposite the end of Water St, had four or five members when I first saw it, late one afternoon, but more came in as I watched. I caught some of them doing weird things with their enormous beaks.

Pelicans on Ross River
Coming in to land

Pelicans on Ross River
Just landed
Pelicans on Ross River
One way to make sure it’s empty?
Pelicans on Ross River
Pelicans on Ross River
The whole group at dusk


A dead tree on the Annandale bank just above Aplin’s Weir was an ideal perch for a flock of Little Black Cormorants (Phalacrocorax sulcirostris). When I first saw them, there were two egrets on the lower branch but one of them soon left and the other moved up to join the cormorants.

Little Black Cormorants and an Egret
Little Black Cormorants and an Egret

Rainbow Bee-eaters

Rainbow Bee-eaters (Merops ornatus) roost communally overnight except during the nesting season. Riding down the Annandale side of the river between Aplin’s Weir and the Bowen Rd bridge late one afternoon I saw large numbers of them in the air. They are one of my favourite birds so I stopped to watch.

They were coming in to roost in a dense tree (a fig, I think, but I was more interested in the birds) right beside the bike path, often settling briefly in  straggly smaller trees nearby while (apparently) making up their minds that it was indeed bedtime.

Rainbow-bee-eaters in flight
Circling in
Rainbow-bee-eaters perched
Resting for a minute
Rainbow-bee-eaters roosting

I saw larger groups of them shoulder to shoulder when I caught them roosting beside Ross Creek in South Townsville a few years ago; you may like to visit that post for more photos and information.

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