The Great-billed HeronArdea sumatrana is one of the most elusive of all the herons in Australia and it stands over one metre tall. Although you can’t observe them around Broome itself you can travel north on the bitumen a couple of hours to Derby. You need to head out to the Derby wharf and take careful note of the tides and then it is basically down to luck! In September 2017 we were lucky with a distant view of a Great-billed Heron through our telescope, but this year we have been a little luckier. Arriving at the Derby wharf on August 19th at 11:30am we could see a Great-billed Heron on the edge of the tide feeding. On this occasion the high tide had been 9.95 metres at 06:34 and was receding to 2.59 metres at 13:21. This was not the biggest tide by any stretch, but it is something to consider if you are looking for the elusive Great-billed Heron in Derby. We could watch the Great-billed Heron feed for over 30 minutes and it gradually got closer to the wharf over that time.

Great-billed Heron

The heat haze was not kind, but you can clearly see that this is one very large heron and it could not be mistaken for any other species. The White-faced Herons and Eastern Reef Egrets are only half the height of the Great-billed Heron and even the Great Egret is significantly shorter.

If you are in the Kimberley at any time of year then it is worth a trip to the Derby wharf in search of the Great-billed Heron once you have checked the tides. You can also visit the Derby Poo Ponds, where there is a new viewing platform offering a much better view of the area.

Written by Clare M
Clare and her husband, Grant, have lived permanently in Broome, Western Australia since 1999 after living in various outback locations around Western Australia and Darwin. She has lived in the Middle East and the United States and traveled extensively in Europe. She monitors Pied Oystercatchers breeding along a 23km stretch of Broome's coastline by bicycle and on foot. She chooses not to participate in social media, but rather wander off into the bush for peace and tranquility. Thankfully she can write posts in advance and get away from technology!