Budgie boom in outback Central Australia as rain creates perfect breeding conditions

Budgerigar numbers are set to explode for the third consecutive year in outback Central Australia,

Budgerigar numbers are set to explode for the third consecutive year in outback Central Australia, prompting a birdwatcher to call for a targeted tourism campaign to attract twitchers.

Mark Carter, a former bird guide and local, said the booming budgie season was thanks to perfect breeding conditions and Queensland rainfall.

“They had tons of rain which means lots of grass,” he said.

“They’ve followed the weather over here. And Alice Springs is so green at the moment.

“The grass is ramping and so the birds just know that it’s boom time and it is time to party.”

Mr Carter said there were plenty of positive attractions in the Red Centre and this was one of them.

“Everyone’s sick of talking about the social problems. I want to talk about the budgies,” he said.

“There are really amazing things here and we can’t lose sight of that.”

Mr Carter said the birds didn’t always breed after wet weather.

Green and yellow budgies with wings open and tail touching murky water
Budgies are in abundance in the Red Centre thanks to summer rain.(Supplied: Angus Newey, Alice Springs Desert Park)

“They’ll sometimes see it as an opportunity to get fat and survive until spring springs when the most of the breeding happens,” he said.

“But I think they just can’t resist it. This is just too good. So there’s a lot of mating going on.”

Mr Carter said budgies were one of the most popular caged birds worldwide.

“Everyone in every culture, everywhere around the world, knows what our budgie is.”

He said nature tourism was not a priority despite it being the region’s notable attraction.

“I find that we really are on the backfoot was trying to promote it,” he said.

“I think the budgie is probably one of the greatest assets we’ve got and it would be an instant way to connect with so many people.”

Mr Carter said the imminent budgie boom should take flight at the end of March.

“We’re about to have one of the world’s greatest natural wonders happening on our doorsteps, and it’s predictable it is going to happen now,” he said.

“We’re going to start seeing some crazy numbers — tens of thousands of birds coming in to drink.

“You don’t have to be a bird watcher to enjoy this. This is an incredible thing to see.”

Nature’s ‘drone show’

Tourism Central Australia chief executive officer Danial Rochford said he would welcome niche marketing to attract visitors to the region.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for Central Australia to showcase that our region’s coming alive with our bird population,” Mr Rochford said.

“Birdwatching is a perfect example showcasing nature’s drone show.

thousands of budgies flying with their green wings facing the camera with bright blue sky.
Huge flocks of budgies can be seen in Central Australia.(ABC Alice Springs: Emma Haskin)

“[Tour operators] have their particular marketing channels that they use and often niche tourism experiences, like birdwatching, is a little bit easier to market compared to broad-base mass marketing.”

However, Mr Rochford said, despite offering support for the idea, the marketing ultimately laid with Tourism NT — the Northern Territory government agency tasked with promoting the region to domestic and international markets.

Potential gold mine

Tourism Crises and Destination Recovery author David Beirman said nature tourism was a potential gold mine for several factors.

One was that during COVID and the era of social distancing, tourists felt safer being outdoors.

The other, he said, could help deflect the spotlight away from negative issues such as the recent reporting and fall out from the crime wave in Alice Springs.

A flock of budgies in a dam surrounded by red dirt.
Archival image of budgies at a dam in Alice Springs.(ABC Alice Springs: Emma Haskin)

However, Dr Beirman said it was important to acknowledge the crime and let potential tourists know what authorities were doing about it.

“I think along with that, it is also important to let people know how they can minimise their exposure to crime,” he said.

“You can actually do a thing like, ‘Welcome to Alice Springs, we have a wonderful destination, we’ve got an incredible climate, we’ve got great sights to see. To maximise your safety, do A, B, C, D’.”

Dr Beirman said a budgie event coinciding with the blooming of the outback could be a drawcard, if the marketing was right.

“I wouldn’t necessarily think that millions of people are going to go to Alice Springs, just to see budgies.

“But I would think that many 1,000s of people would be really interested about seeing the desert bloom, after rainfall.”