Australia is home to one in 10 of the world’s unique bird species – and most of the world’s birds can trace their lineage to the continent
Friday 1 December 2017 02.05 GMTLast modified on Friday 1 December 2017 06.19 GMT
If you live in Australia, you may not realise how unique and special the birds around you are. Our continent was perhaps the most important for the evolution of modern birds, with a majority of the world’s species tracing their ancestry here.
Long ecologically adrift as an island continent, Australia benefited through the evolution of a remarkable diversity of fascinating, colourful, noisy, clever, innovative species of bird.
Australia is home to about 830 species – more if you include neighbouring islands – nearly one in 10 of the world’s 10,000 or so living bird species. About 45% of these are endemics, found nowhere else.
We are lucky to have two of the world’s largest and heaviest birds – the flightless cassowary (which I’m backing in the Bird of the Year poll#teamcassowary!) and the emu – which are perhaps the most superficially similar to birds’ dinosaur ancestors. And related flightless ratites were probably already common across the ancient supercontinent of Gondwana long before Australia split from Antarctica and South America.