Who's using the data? Urban bird feeding station study - Melbourne


My name is Chanaka Ruwandeniya and I am a current honours student at Monash University. My supervisor Alan Lill and I are about to conduct a project on urban bird feeding stations in backyards of Melbourne. 

Supplementary feeding of wild birds by the general public is extremely prevalent in Australia, as it is in the northern hemisphere. However, attitudes to this practice differ markedly in the two locations, with active promotion by conservation bodies in the USA and UK but unofficial discouragement in Australia. There are potential benefits from this practice for both the birds (e.g. enhanced overwinter survival, bolstering threatened populations) and the people providing the food (e.g. contact with nature, enhanced environmental awareness for city-dwellers). However, there are also potentially negative effects, such as the spread of disease, generating nutritional imbalances and dependency, fostering the welfare of exotic species and enhancing aggression. Currently it is difficult to work out how these potential benefits and costs balance out because there is a lack of reliable empirical data, particularly for Australia. One thing is certain, the motivation to feed wild birds is strong and people will not easily be discouraged from this practice. Therefore we need to conduct more research that will help us to weigh up the benefits and costs more realistically. Conceivably people could be educated to feed wild birds in a manner that results in an optimal trade-off between the positive and negative aspects of this behaviour.

We aim to determine what species occur at feeding stations and observe the nature of any interactions which go on in order to gain an understanding of how important these stations may be to biodiversity and the local bird populations in general. We will be using data collected from the Backyard Birds surveys over the past 8 years and we are also looking for people in the Melbourne region who feed birds regularly who will allow us to access their gardens to observe birds at the feeder several times over a few months. The research will begin in April and conclude in August 2012. If you have a bird feeding station in your garden, or feed birds in your backyard on a regular basis we would love for you to get involved. If you are interested in allowing me to observe your birds please contact me on my details given below.

Chanaka Ruwandeniya

Mobile: 0432693455

Email Address: c.ruwandeniya@gmail.com

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