European settlers moved into the area in the 1870’s, looking for minerals and grazing land for cattle. Birdsville was established as a centre for stock routes for the cattle country and as a Customs collection point. In the days before federation in 1901, a toll was payable on all stock and supplies entering South Australia from Queensland.
Birdsville was formerly known as Diamantina Crossing. Later the name Birdsville was adopted believing to be on account of the prolific bird life in the district.
Many of Australia's pioneering European explorers travelled through the Birdsville district well before the town was gazetted. Monuments to acknowledge the feats of Captain Charles Sturt, Burke & Wills, Madigan and others are located throughout the town.
Birdsville supported a population of over 300 at the turn of the century. The town boasted 3 hotels, a cordial factory, blacksmith store, market gardens, police and customs facilities. However following Federation in 1901 the customs depot was closed and the population slowly dwindled to approximately 50 throughout the 1950's. Livestock trade has kept the region alive and in recent times tourism has joined cattle as the major industry in the area.