Survey demonstrates importance of retaining natural habitat for bird diversity 

An ambitious citizen science survey has reconfirmed previous research demonstrating the importance of urban natural habitat in supporting bird diversity in suburban areas.

Over a thousand people from across Australia participated in the summer Bathing Birds survey developed by the National Parks Association of NSW, in partnership with Birds in Backyards and the University of Sydney.

The aim of the project, a follow-on from the 2015 survey, was to investigate which species use birdbaths, how these may change with season and if garden habitats and behaviours influence which birds appear. A significant 225 different species were recorded across Australia during 7,449 surveys. All of the data will be made available on the publically accessible Atlas of Living Australia.

The study found that the types of birds that visit our gardens and birdbaths are largely due to the richness and diversity of the habitat surrounding them.”

“This study clearly highlights the importance of retaining pockets of natural habitat in rural areas and especially suburbs for our bird-life,” said Dr Grainne Cleary, NPA Wildlife Ecologist.

“In rural areas, small honeyeaters were the most common birds sighted in four of the five states examined, whilst in suburban areas, large aggressive nectar-feeders, such as Noisy Miners and introduced species made up the bulk of the sightings. Our findings agree with what existing literature tells us – that suburban habitats favor these species.”

According to Dr Cleary the plants promoted to gardeners as a way to attract native birds into our backyards may ironically be part of the reason. “Suburban areas are often characterized by a high number of hybrid grevilleas, which provide nectar year round. Literature suggests that this relatively consistent supply of nectar is favoring an increase in aggressive honeyeaters.”

“To attract more species of native birds, especially smaller ones, to your backyard there are some steps that you can take, such as creating a multi-layered habitat of vegetation, and planting trees that provide food and shelter for many different species.”

The top three birds recorded at birdbaths included the Noisy Miner, Australian Magpie and New Holland Honeyeater, whilst the plucky Superb Fairy-wren made it into 6th spot. Introduced species that were most frequently recorded were the House Sparrow, Spotted Dove and Common Blackbird.

NPA would like to thank everyone who participated in Bathing Birds and contributed to the successful survey.

The organisation runs a number of other citizen science programs each year to connect people with nature. For more information visit

Additional information: Download the full Bathing Birds 2015 summer report at 

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