You’ve seen kangaroos, koalas and even snakes, but if you’re seeking more colour in your wildlife watching, look no further than the humble little budgie. You’re probably used to seeing them in cages but in the wild, they’re really something else. Appearing in the hundreds (thousands even), they create somewhat of a green and yellow tornado around the waterholes and seeding grasses of Central Australia and it’s nothing short of spectacular.
Thanks to the rain, these sassy birds are about to experience another budgie boom. So strap on your binoculars, let some air out of your tyres and let’s go budgie hunting.
Note: no actual budgie hunting will occur, we just want to look at them.
Here are some top spots to find the green and gold in the red
Around 80 kilometres from Alice Springs along the Ross Highway, you’ll find Trephina Gorge in the East MacDonnell Ranges. Although most of the road is sealed, the last five kilometres into the gorge is recommended as 4WD only.
Take a 20-minute stroll to the semi-permanent waterhole for a chance to see budgies in the wild. There are some fine examples of indigenous rock art here at Trephina Gorge. Then, take the rough 4WD track through to John Hayes Rockhole. You can swim here if there has been recent rain and remote camping is also available. Hopefully, you’ll wake up to a chorus of budgies here.
Finke 2 Mile
Fink 2 Mile in the West MacDonnell (Tjoritja) National Park is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream come true. This 4WD accessible-only camping area can be found around 130 kilometres west of Alice Springs alongside the ancient Finke River.
Campers will wake up to the sound of the budgerigars in and around the ghost gums that line the sandy riverbed alongside various other birds. Given that you can set up camp wherever you please, it’s unlikely your neighbours will wake you up, but the budgies sure as heck will.
N’Dhala Gorge Nature Park
Not only is N’Dhala Gorge Nature Park a fascinating site that protects thousands of prehistoric rock carvings, but it’s also a lot of fun getting there. Located in the East MacDonnell Ranges around 90 kilometres east of Alice Springs, once you pass Ross River Homestead, it’s 4WD only. Expect shallow water and sandy creek bed crossings. A campsite with a drop loo is available here but the track can become impassible after a lot of rain.
If you do make it in, the gorge is considered a twitchers paradise, budgies included.
Finke Gorge National Park
Back in Season 14, Pat took us on a 4WD adventure through the Fink Gorge National Park, around 140 kilometres west of Alice Springs. While he showed us Palm Valley and some great remote campsites and 4WD tracks, you may not know that the Finke Gorge National Park is wild budgie heaven. Why? The Finke River supplies a permanent waterhole and after the rains, the valley areas provide seeded grasses.
Only 28 kilometres from Alice Springs along Larapinta Drive, you’ll find Simpsons Gap in the West MacDonnell Ranges. With towering cliffs and a permanent waterhole, it’s a top spot to seek out flocks of green and gold in the red.
Although you won’t need a 4WD to visit them, there are several spots around Alice Springs to spot budgies in the wild.
Try the Alice Springs Telegraph Station, just three kilometres north of the centre of town. Walk along the Todd River and around the reserve, and keep your eyes peeled for the flocks of green and yellow among the red landscape. For a bit of easy 4WD action, take the dirt track to Wigley Waterhole, where the Charles River winds through some rock holes. There’s a good chance of spotting birds if there is water from the recent rain. Although located on the Telegraph Station Historical Reserve, the access track departs from the iconic ‘Welcome to Alice Springs’ sign on the way into town.
Excellent birdwatching can also be found at the Olive Pink Botanic Gardens. Stroll around and sit in one of the many shelters to spot the budgies and other bird life.
Have you seen a green and gold tornado in the wild yet?
They often look like a tornado of insects from a distance, particularly when they’re swooping down to drink from a waterhole. But once they fly overhead in the hundreds, it’s hard not to feel excited to see the humble budgerigar in the wild.
Of course, they can be found in many places in the Outback, particularly around Boulia in Outback Queensland. For your best chance of spotting wild budgies, find an outback campsite with abundant seeding grass and a water hole. You certainly don’t have to be an avid twitcher to enjoy this natural drone show.