Birdata Species in Focus: Silvereyes

This is our second post in a series where we dig into the habitat features that Birdata analysis reveals will attract birds to your garden. You can read about gardening to support superb fairy-wrens here

Silvereyes are a small bird that feed on insects, fruit and nectar. They occur in every Australian state, and while their plumage may vary slightly in colour in different regions, they are always recognisable by the distinct silver ring around their eye. This is the best way to distinguish silvereyes from other small brown birds that may visit your area. 


Features of garden habitats 

Unfortunately, recent research has shown silvereyes to be on the decline across Australia's urban centres. This is a pattern that’s occurring for many of Australia's small, historically woodland species in response largely to the broad scale ways humans have altered their habitat. This has also led the way for larger, more dominant urban species such as Noisy Miners to increase, they are well adapted to urban environments and outcompete small birds like silvereyes. 


Luckily, our Birds in Backyards data shows us some garden features that are associated with a greater abundance of silvereyes. Silvereyes are more commonly found on bush blocks and in non-urban areas, but you can bring the bush into your suburban garden by planting locally native plants (many councils have lists of local plants). 


Silvereyes were less likely to be found in sites with trees covering less than 25% of the area. They were also less likely to occur in sites with large expanses of lawn (over 50% of the area), and no small plants. So, you can attract small birds like silvereyes by swapping some areas of lawn, if you have it, for plantings including trees and small plants. Go for Australian natives, and if possible choose plants that naturally occur in your area. 


If you are renting, or have a small space like a balcony, you can still do something to help small birds like silvereyes. There are many Australian plants like lomandra varieties and even some wattles are happy to be grown in pots or containers. By having potted natives outside, you are providing shelter for birds that are passing through. You’ll also be supporting pollinators and other insects that may visit those plants, which in turn become food for silvereyes. 


Silvereyes and other species 

When we analysed our Birds in Backyards data, we also looked at how Silvereyes interact with other species. They were more commonly found on sites without dogs, so having some areas of your garden safe from pets may be a good option to support these birds. 


Our analysis showed that Silvereyes often co-occurred with other bird species, they were frequently found in the same sites as Australian Magpies and Red Wattlebirds, as well as the introduced Common Myna. Despite being potential predators of silvereyes, we often found the species co-occurring with Grey Butcherbirds and Pied Currawongs. 


Analysis of thousands of surveys showed that silvereyes were less likely to occur in sites where Noisy Miners are present. Noisy Miners will aggressively outcompete smaller bird species, and unfortunately they are very comfortable in the altered landscapes we have created. The good news is that by reducing your lawn and open spaces, and adding small shrubs that birds like silvereyes can take shelter in, you’ll be taking the best action to bring small birds into your space. 

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