Meet the Crew

Luke Paterson and Sarah Burgess of NT Bird Specialists

Luke Paterson and Sarah Burgess of NT Bird Specialists

NT Bird Specialists are an award-winning birding and photography tour operation, owned and operated by Luke Paterson and Sarah Burgess. We are based in Darwin and Kakadu, Northern Territory, Australia, where the majority of our tours depart form.

“We have a united passion and experience in working for sustainable tourism businesses and conservation projects, which has led us to work across Southern, Central, Western and Northern Australia and South East Asia. We believe the best way to show case the rich natural and cultural diversity of the ‘Top End’, is to deliver high quality observation skills, service and interpretation during exceptionally guided tours of the environments we love.

Rest assured travelling with our Australian Accredited Tourism Business. We hold all current permits, licences and insurances required to operate tours in the Northern Territory, so we can conduct safe, ethical and memorable tours for you.

We look forward to welcoming you as our guest to the Northern Territory and to share the passion that our fine selection of feathered friends bring”


Luke Paterson – Specialist Bird and Photography Guide, Tour Director and Owner

Specialist Bird Guide, Luke Paterson Photo Credit: Don Fuchs, Australian Geographic

Specialist Bird & Photography Guide, Luke Paterson
Photo Credit: Don Fuchs, Australian Geographic

Luke is one of the most well-known bird guides in Australia. Luke has built his reputation and tourism industry experience over 17 dedicated years, the majority from guiding exceptional tours in remote outback Northern Territory and Western Australia, (Kimberley Region) locations.
Luke has an in depth knowledge of the natural and cultural environments of these areas. His attention to detail and amazing ability to spot wildlife from a far has earned him a reputation for having ‘hawk eyes’. Guests and past employees commend his professionalism, reliability and great company on tour.
Luke loves a challenge and will not give up looking for birds easily. One of his favourite birds is the Gouldian Finch. They will win any birder over, sometimes seen in flocks of over 800. We can’t promise this sighting but when it does happen, it’s marvellous!!

Luke’s passion for birds and wildlife developed as a child, during family camping trips around Victoria in Australia’s south east. After graduating with a Diploma in Natural Resource Management, Luke flew the coop north west to Broome. Luke spent a year at the magnificent Roebuck Bay, employed as the Assistant Warden at the Birds Australia Broome Bird Observatory. He led bird watching tours and assisted in the capture, banding and research of various bird species (mist and cannon netting). This is how Luke developed his sharp identification skills for shorebirds.
Luke’s next move was a one-way migration to Darwin, where he has based himself as a nature tourism guide for the past 15 years. Spending countless hours exploring the bush has only made his passion for birds and wildlife grow stronger and his wildlife photography collection expanded extensively.


Sarah Burgess – Tour Director, Chef and Owner

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Sarah has a professional background in Ecotourism Development, Biological Sciences, Interpretation, Tour Guiding and Environmental Education.
Sarah has worked in World Heritage national parks in Sarawak (Malaysian Borneo), Sumatra (Indonesia) and the Northern Territory (Australia) for the past decade.

Sarah’s projects have included:

  • Developing sustainable orangutan tourism communities
  • Tour guide and ranger training
  • Tourism experience development
  • Visitor experience programs and event management
  • Environmental and cultural interpretative projects and guiding
  • Community waste management programs
  • Batchelor of Ecotourism (Biological Sciences) Flinders University, SA 2006
  • Certificate 4 Tourism Guiding, Ecotourism Australia/Charles Darwin University 2010


Professional Services and Achievements:

Luke’s efforts in delivering excellent tours and contributing to reputable tourism development have not gone unnoticed. Luke is a well-know face of the birding and tourism scene in the Northern Territory, and his guiding services are often booked to provide specialist and luxury nature tours, as well as media and film crew familiarisations and tours, radio and televisions shows and guide training.
NT Bird Specialists is acquiring an international as well as Australian following for our work in the Northern Territory and the Kimberley.

November 2016
NT Bird Specialists won a First Time Entrant’ Brolga Northern Territory Tourism Award. Winning a Brolga Award is the highest tourism accolade in the Northern Territory.

October 2015, 2016 and 2017
NT Bird Specialists and Luke Paterson guided tours, activities and lectures during Kakadu Bird Week.
Read Australian Geographic Article by Gemma Chilton here: Images by Don Fuchs and Luke Paterson.

Yellow Waters Credit: Don Fuchs

Yellow Waters Credit: Don Fuchs

IMG-116.Kakadu NP.NT.Yellow Water Cruise with Luke Paterson

Yellow Waters, Credit: Don Fuchs



See more Kakadu Bird Week 2016 photos by Don Fuchs, Australian Geographic here:



August 2015, 2016 and 2017
Luke was been sponsored by Tourism NT to represent the birdwatching industry in the Northern Territory at the British BirdFair at the ‘Australia’ Outback Northern Territory’ stand and lecture hall.

November 2014 an d 2017
NT Bird Specialists was sponsored by Tourism NT to represent Northern Territory bird watching tourism in Sydney at the Australasian Bird Fair.

April 2016
Leica Optics, Singapore Airlines and Tourism NT  
birding documentary in Darwin and Kakadu National Park, hosted by ‘The Urban Birder’ (David Lindo and crew) and captured by the “Young BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year’ and travel writer, Luke Massey and Katie Stacey

Watch video
Read Birdwatch Magazine Article by David Lindo here: 
Read Sunday Territorian Article by Katie Stacey here: Page 1 and Page 2

April 2016
Guiding the Channel 9 Getaway travel show and host Kathy Lette for ‘Scenic Tours’.

April 2013
Luke was featured on the Channel 9 ‘Today Show’ in the ‘Best Job In the World’ and again in May 2015 on the Today Show for a morning shoot at Kakadu National Park.

Luke has also been nominated by his guests and won multiple Tourism Top End ‘Super Deeds Awards for Going the extra mile in tourism’.

May 2011
Luke Paterson guided a 2 week Ken Duncan Landscape Photography tour’ through the Kimberley (Broome – Broome).

November 2010
Luke won the prestigious Brolga Northern Territory Tourism Award for ‘Most Outstanding Interpretive Guide 2010’.


 NT Bird Specialists’ Accreditations:

  • Licensed Commercial Tour Operator of the Northern Territory
  • Licensed Commercial Passenger Vehicle operators (x2) of the Northern Territory
  • H Endorsement Licence to Carry Paying Passengers in the Northern Territory
  • $20 Million Public Liability Insurance
  • Commercial Vehicle Insurance
  • Kakadu National Park Tour Operator Permits
  • Parks and Wildlife Commission Northern Territory Tour Operator Permits
  • Australian Tourism Accreditation Program Tick of Approval
  • Kakadu Knowledge for Tour Guides Accreditation
  • Tourism Top End Membership
  • Tourism Tribe Mmebership
  • Working with Children in the Northern Territory Ochre Card
  • Australian Federal Police Check
  • Registered Australian Business ABN: 85 233 609 185