South Australian Ornithological Association

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The chestnut-breasted whiteface is emblematic of the SAOA

The South Australian Ornithological Association (SAOA), also known as Birds SA, is an Australian birding organisation based in Adelaide, South Australia. The SAOA publishes a journal, the South Australian Ornithologist as well as the Birds SA Newsletter. It holds regular monthly meetings and conducts field trips for members. The logo of the SAOA is the chestnut-breasted whiteface, a rare and localised species which is endemic to South Australia.


The SAOA was founded in Adelaide in 1899 and is the oldest birding association in Australasia, pre-dating the founding of the Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union by two years.

1960 schism[edit]

A period of uncertainty occurred in the association in the late 1950s when issues relating to the taking of birds from the wild became a matter of concern to many members. This concern led ultimately to a split in the membership and the formation of the Adelaide Ornithologists which remains as a separate group in Adelaide although the original reason for the schism has long been forgotten. On one side were those who urged for greater legislative protection for rare avicultural species, such as parrots and finches. On the other were people, including many aviculturists, who felt threatened by a proposal they saw would bring greater control over their hobby - and for those in the avicultural trade, their livelihoods. Eventually, after three stacked meetings in which control of the association swung between one side and the other, a poll of the membership reflected the mood for enhanced protection and the avicultural lobby was defeated. Consequently, some members broke away from the SAOA and formed the Adelaide Ornithologists Club in 1960.


The SAOA has over 500 members and holds monthly meetings at the Hawker Centre in the Waite Institute of the University of Adelaide. It also organises regular excursions to birding sites in South Australia and holds campouts at least twice a year. Many of Australia's leading ornithologists, including Richard Schodde, Leo Joseph and David Paton, started their careers with the SAOA and continue as important contributors to its work and interests. SAOA is a member group of the Conservation Council of South Australia.


  • Collier, Roger; Hatch, John; Matheson, Bill; & Russell, Tony. (Eds). (2000). Birds, Birders and Birdwatching. A celebration of one hundred years of the South Australian Ornithological Association. SAOA: Adelaide. ISBN 0-9595142-2-8
  • Robin, Libby. (2001). The Flight of the Emu: a hundred years of Australian ornithology 1901-2001. Melbourne University Press: Carlton. ISBN 0-522-84987-3

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