Clifford Brodie Frith

Dr Clifford Brodie Frith (born 1949) is an English-born Australian citizen and ornithologist.



He is a self-employed private, independent, zoological researcher, consultant, natural history author, photographer and publisher.[1]

Frith’s early ornithological positions included the Taronga Park Zoological Gardens, Sydney, The Natural History Museum, London, and the Royal Society of London Research Station, Aldabra Atoll, Indian Ocean where he met his future wife Dawn Whyatt Frith. Their full time partnership began in April 1973.


In 1974, when Dawn took up a four-year appointment as a senior biologist and advisor at Phuket Marine Biological Center in southern Thailand, Clifford studied aspects of invertebrate and vertebrate zoology while working as a freelance zoological photographer, artist, author and advisor. They married at Bangkok Central Police Station, in October 1975. In December 1977, they moved to tropical northern Queensland, Australia, to start decades of field studies of bowerbirds and birds of paradise and other rainforest-dwelling bird species in tropical eastern Australia and in the Papua New Guinea highlands. Together they have published some 150 substantial scientific papers in international peer-reviewed zoological journals. Their studies are largely self-funded by proceeds from their own photography and publishing partnership.

Clifford has written and illustrated many semi-scientific and popular articles in magazines worldwide, has acted as scientific and/or technical advisor and/or associate producer to various feature and television film makers. He has much experience in personal presentations at both popular and scientific levels and has also been a specialist ornithological guest lecturer to specialist tours to the highlands of New Guinea. He also carries out ecological and avifaunal surveys for various environmental agencies in tropical northern Queensland, Australia.

For five years, Clifford was Honorary Book Review Editor of Emu – Austral Ornithology - the international peer-reviewed scientific journal of the Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union, published by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, Canberra, Australia.


Clifford commenced his ornithological career on the ornithological staff at the British Museum of Natural History, London (1967–1970). Most of 1968 was spent in tropical Australia on the Fifth Harold Hall Australian Expedition to the Kimberley and Arnhemland areas. He was resident ornithological staff scientist on Aldabra Atoll, Indian Ocean for the Royal Society of London (1972–73). He then lived on Phuket Island in southern Thailand, until moving the Australia to live.

Since 1977, Clifford, with Dawn W. Frith, has studied various aspects of tropical rainforest avifauna in Australia, New Guinea and elsewhere for over three decades. His studies have resulted in scientific publications (136 to date) on the behaviour, nesting biology, mating systems, and systematics of bowerbirds, birds of paradise, and other rainforest-dwelling bird species. His systematic scientific studies have resulted in two major ‘definitive’ ornithological text books - one titled The Birds of Paradise: Paradisaeidae (1998) and the other The Bowerbirds: Ptilonorhynchidae (2004). In 2002 Clifford obtained his PhD at Griffith University, Brisbane, for his 1200 page thesis on Evolutionary studies of bowerbirds and birds of paradise: affinities and divergence.


Clifford is also a professional natural history photographer whose still photographs have appeared in innumerable general and specialist books and magazines worldwide. Transparencies were taken with 35mm and 6x7cm format cameras but all photography is now 35mm digital. He has been involved in still photography assignments including photographing wildlife, people and scenics for several major projects including the books: Daintree- Where the Rainforest Meets the Reef by Rupert Russell in 1985; A Fragile Paradise by Andrew Mitchell in 1989; The Great Forest by Mark O’Connor in 1989; and Hinchinbrook Island - The Land Time Forgot by Arthur Thosborne and Margaret Thorsborne in 1988. One or more of his photographs also appear in most of Sir David Attenborough’s various natural history titles – such a Life on Earth, Living Planet, Life of Birds etc. His images also illustrate the Frith & Frith self-published books including the two latest lage hardback titles: Bowerbirds: Nature, Art & History published in 2008 and [Birds of Paradise: Nature, Art & History released in 2010.[dated info]


In July 1984 Clifford and Dawn established their small publishing house (initially and briefly called Tropical Australia Graphics and then Frith & Frith books) producing eleven high quality full colour natural history books including the second edition of the large hardback Daintree- Where the Rainforest Meets the Reef by Rupert Russell in 1994; and the second edition of the large hardback Cape York Peninsula: a Natural History by Clifford Frith and Dawn Frith. They also self-published the two large hardback books: Bowerbirds: Nature, Art & History (2008) and Birds of Paradise: Nature, Art & History (2010) written, designed and illustrated by themselves.


In 1996 Clifford was awarded the D. L. Serventy Medal for Ornithology, jointly with his wife Dawn W. Frith, by the Royal Australasian Ornithologists' Union - for original contributions to Australasian ornithology of international significance. They were also jointly awarded the 2006 Cassowary Award by the Australian Wet Tropics Authority – for the Arts Category 'for an outstanding contribution to aesthetic appreciation of the Wet Tropics of Queensland World Heritage Area'. In 2008 they were awarded the prestigious Whitley Book Award for in the Field Natural History section for their book Bowerbirds: Nature, Art & History. In 2011 they were awarded the prestigious Whitley Book Award for in the Popular Zoology section for their book Birds of Paradise: Nature, Art & History

Bibliography of books and major book chapters

Frith, C.B. & Frith, D.W. 1983*. Australian Tropical Rainforest Life. Speciality Education Supplies, Townsville, 72 pp. softback. Second edition 1986 (reprinted 1987) Frith&Frith

Frith, C.B. & Frith, D.W. 1985*. Australian Tropical Birds. Tropical Australia Graphics, Paluma. 72 pp. softback. Reprinted 1986, 1989.

Frith, D. & Frith, C. 1985. A Walk in the Rain'forest. Tropical Australia Graphics, Paluma. 52 pp. softback. Reprinted 1987.

Frith, C.B. 1986. Garden Birds - Attracting Birds to Australian and New Zealand Gardens. Doubleday, Sydney. 160 pp. hardback.

Frith, C.B. & Frith, D.W. 1987*. Australian Tropical Reptiles and Frogs. Tropical Australia Graphics, Paluma. 72 pp. softback. Reprinted.

Frith, C.B. & Frith, D.W. 1987. Australian Tropical Reef Life. Tropical Australia Graphics, Paluma. 72 pp. softback. Reprinted.

Frith, D.W. & Frith, C.B. 1991*. Australia's Cape York Peninsula. Frith&Frith, Malanda. 72 pp. softback.

Frith, C.B. & Frith, D.W. 1992*. Australia's Wet Tropics Rainforest Life. Frith&Frith 72 pp. softback. Reprinted.

Frith, D. & Frith, C. 1993. A Guide to Rainforest Ecology of Karawari Lodge & the Sepik and Ambua Lodge & Tari Gap, Papua New Guinea. Pata Foundation, California and Trans Niugini Tours, Papua New Guinea (joint funding). 58 pp. softback.

Frith, D.W. & Frith, C.B. 1995*. Cape York Peninsula - a Natural History. Reed, Sydney. 256 pp., > 500 colour photos, hardback. Reprinted 2006 with amendments by Frith&Frith, Malanda. ISBN 0-7301-0469-9

Frith, C.B. & Beehler, B.M. 1998. The Birds of Paradise: Paradisaeidae. Oxford University Press, Oxford. 630 pp. hardback. ISBN 0-19-854853-2

Frith, C.B. & Frith, D.W. 2006. Editors to and major authors of Chapters Paradisaeidae (33 pp.) and Ptilonorhynchidae (127 pp.) in P. J. Higgins, J.M. Peter, and S.J. Cowling (eds.) Handbook of Australian, New Zealand & Antarctic Birds Volume 7, Part A, Boatbills to Larks. Oxford University press, Melbourne.

Frith, C.B. & Frith, D.W. 2004. The Bowerbirds: Ptilonorhynchidae. Oxford University Press, Oxford. 508 pp. hardback. ISBN 0-19-854844-3

Frith, C.B., with Erritzoe, J. et al. 2007. The Ornithologist’s Dictionary. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. 290 pp. softback

Frith, C.B. & Frith, D.W. 2008.* Bowerbirds: Nature, Art & History. 305 pp, 270 colour 50 monochrome illustrations. hardbook. Frith&Frith, Malanda. ISBN 978-1-876473-63-1

Frith, C.B. & Frith, D.W. 2009. Chapters The Bowerbirds and The Birds of Paradise In The Handbook to the Birds of the World. Volume 12. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. 2008.

Frith, C.B. & Frith, D.W. 2010.* Birds of Paradise: Nature, Art & History, 370 pp, 350 colour & 120 monochrome illustrations. Frith&Frith, Malanda. hardback. 2010. ISBN 978-0-646-53298-1

(* = those works also illustrated by Clifford's photography)


  1. ^ Biographical entry at the Encyclopedia of Australian Science

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