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1. Know Your Birds
We have a huge variety of different birds who use our gardens in Australia, these different types of birds will use different parts of your garden and feed on different types of plants. Get familiar with your local bird life by keeping a record of what birds visit your garden already and take a regular walk around your neighbourhood. It will be easier to attract birds to your garden that are already in your suburb but not impossible to attract new visitors. Your local council will be able to provide you with a list of bird species in your council area. Your local bird club will also be able to help. Remember you can complete a survey of the birds in your garden here on Birds in Backyards and see what birds others in your area are recording in their surveys.
Tips for Identifying Birds
Identifying birds can be challenging, birds can move quickly, sometimes very high up in the canopy, the sun can be in your eyes or the bird can dart into a bush in the shade. Bird-watching takes practice, so get out there and start investigating the birds in your neighbourhood, your parks and local bushland. Here are some tips to help you work out what you are seeing:
- Get a feel for the bird - watch it for as long as you can before flipping through a field guide. Look at what jumps out at you about the bird - size, shape, colour, movement, location...
- Size and shape - compare it to something you already know. Is it the size of a magpie or tiny like a wren? What sort of silhouette does it have? Is it shaped like a duck or like a bird of prey?
- Distinguishing features - once you have a general outline of the bird, take notice of finer details. Look for colours and markings - check the tummy, head, back, chest, outer tail feathers, legs, eyes and feathers around the eyes for different colors and markings like stripes or spots. Look for anything unusual such as a crest or wattles on the side of the face.
- Beak - the shape of a bill can tell you alot about the type of bird. For example, honeyeaters generally have those long curved bills, birds of prey have short hooked bills, seed-eaters have short stocky bills for cracking seed and insect-eaters often have short, narrow beaks, sometimes with whiskers.
- Where is it? In what part of the habitat are you seeing the bird and is it alone or in a flock? Identifying the behaviour and location of the bird (on the ground, in the canopy) can yield big clues to its identity.
- Listen - is it making a noise? What sort of call is it making, it is melodic, harsh or repetitive? Calls can be tricky but you can compare using the calls on many of our bird fact sheets and there are numerous bird call CDs you can play.
- Record your observations - once you have noticed all you can, jot down some notes so then you can sit down with the Birds in Backyards website or a field guide and try to identify your mystery bird.
If you are having trouble with identifying any birds then visit our Bird Finder and/or use a field guide. The Bird Finder will also allow you to look up fact sheets for many bird species and will allow you to find out more about the birds you are seeing. You can also head over to our Bird Forum and ask any of the helpful members there for assistance or email us via our Contact Us page.
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