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Backyard birding

By Pat, 20 December 2012 Activity

Yellow cap, sunscreen, pen, exercise book.

You will need these materials.

Learn to identify the birds living in your area. You’ll learn to record your sightings in a way that can even be used by scientists!

outdoor hazard iconSafety: This activity requires you to head outdoors. Ask an adult for permission, and make sure they know where you are. Check the weather forecast and dress for the conditions. Protect yourself from the sun by wearing a hat, shirt, sunglasses and sunscreen. Wear insect repellent to avoid bites.

This activity involves observing wild birds. It is important not to cause any unnecessary distress or disturbance to wild birds. Please read the Ethical Birding Guidelines before doing this activity.

You will need

  • Bird identification guide – you can use this online guide
  • Hat
  • Sunscreen
  • Notebook
  • Pen
  • Camera (optional)
  • Binoculars (optional)
Magpie perched in a tree.

Find a suitable spot outside and observe any birds. If possible, take photos of the birds.

What to do

  1. Choose a time between 7 and 10 am. Make a note of the time you start.
  2. Put on your hat and sunscreen and go outside (backyard, park, nature reserve or wetlands).
  3. Find a quiet spot to sit down.
  4. Staying quiet and still, keep a look out for any birds that may visit.
  5. When you spot a bird, carefully observe it. Using binoculars can make it easier to see any distinguishing markings. If you know what type of bird it is, write down its name and how many you see.
  6. If you don’t know what type of bird it is, write down a description of it. List things like its colour, size, the shape of its beak and its body shape.
  7. If you can, take pictures of the birds you see.
  8. Plush rosella and a kookaburra perched on an office cubicle.

    Write down all the birds you see, and how many of them. Make sure they’re actually birds though!

    Over a 20 minute time period, write down all the types of birds you see. Remember to also record how many of each type of bird you observe. For example, you might see two magpies, a kookaburra and three pigeons.
  9. Use your notes, photos and the bird identification guide to identify any unknown bird species.
  10. With a parent or guardian’s permission, share your sightings with either Birds in Backyards or the Atlas of Living Australia. You will need to register with both websites.

What’s happening?

Birdwatching, or ‘birding’, is both a hobby and an important part of zoological and environmental research. Scientists use bird sightings to determine which bird species live in a particular place and to estimate how common a species is.

It’s hard for bird scientists (or ornithologists) to get all around a big country such as Australia to look for birds. They rely on bird sightings by amateur birdwatchers and members of the public to get a clearer picture. By doing your own backyard birding and reporting your sightings, you contribute valuable data that can be used by scientists.

Real-life science

As human populations grow, towns and cities grow as well. This changes the natural landscape, potentially leading to a decline in local species.

Bird sightings are used to monitor the numbers and distribution of bird species around the world. A drop in bird sightings in a particular place may indicate that numbers of that bird may also be dropping. Human activities can also lead to some bird species increasing in number: currawongs and sea gulls on the east coast of Australia have increased their numbers over the past 200 years.

Birds are also an important part of an ecosystem. If birds are dropping in number, it may also indicate that other species may be in danger as well.

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