Birds in Backyards Winter Survey 2019: Results

Birds in Backyards winter survey results tell us the Australia’s birding community won’t let a bit of cold weather get in the way of their commitment to Australia’s birds!

A big thank you to everyone that contributed towards 157 hours of bird surveys during June and July! During this period, 471 surveys were submitted – an increase of almost 10% from last winter! Surveys were conducted in 141 places and 18,786 birds were observed, representing 206 species!

Although most surveys (90%) were submitted by a single surveyor, 36 (8%) were undertaken by pairs and we’re excited to report the contribution of several groups to the 2019 winter count. Thank you to students and staff from three primary schools involved in BirdLife Australia’s Birds in Schools project, participants of Birds Queensland Garden Bird Survey, and members of Safe Cat, Safe Wildlife for their part in making this year’s survey such a success!

Top 10

The top 10 birds counted by number of surveys were:


Common Name

Number of surveys observed

Total number of individuals counted


Rainbow Lorikeet




Australian Magpie




Noisy Miner




Crested Pigeon








Pied Currawong




Sulphur-crested Cockatoo




Spotted Dove




Laughing Kookaburra




Common Myna




The top 10 is very similar to last winter except for the Spotted Dove, Laughing Kookaburra, and Common Myna, which moved up into the top 10 this year. Dropping out of the top 10 from last winter were the Red Wattlebird, Galah, and Willie Wagtail. Long-term data generated from Birds in Backyards surveys will help us investigate trends like these over time.


Grand designs

Entering information in the Sightings Notes section of the survey is a great way to share your bird observation experience and provides valuable insights into bird behaviour. For example, it is a great document of the nest design diversity in Australia!

A winter surveyor in northern Sydney reported an Australian Brush-turkey “raking up leaves”. Brush-turkeys use leaf litter, rotten logs, and other organic matter to create a mound in which to incubate its eggs. Mounds are usually 4m wide and 1m high – that’s a lot of leaves!

Another surveyor, from Queensland’s central coast, reported an Australian Magpie “walking in garden with long piece of nesting material”. Magpie nests are a platform of sticks and twigs with a small interior bowl lined with grass and hair, constructed in the outer branches of a tree, up to 15m above ground!

Imagine the delight of the surveyor from western Sydney that observed a Spotted Pardalote “visiting the stringy bark firewood, and taking strips of bark off it back to a nest somewhere in the distance”. The Spotted Pardalote’s nest is usually an enlarged, lined chamber at the end of narrow tunnel, excavated in an earth bank. However, they have been found to nest in tree hollows and, sometimes, unexpected places such as a roll of carpet!

Bickering birds

Birds in Backyards surveys also provide great insights into the many social interactions birds have on a daily basis. Winter surveyors reported 32 species interacting with others – 15% of all species reported!

Observations indicate size is no barrier! It is common for small birds to mob bigger birds to chase them away, particularly bigger birds of prey. Our surveyors spotted a number of small birds with a big attitude! Records include a Blue-Faced Honeyeater mobbing a Whistling Kite, a Magpie-Lark going for an Australian Pelican, and a Willie Wagtail having a go at a Brown Goshawk!

Capturing your unique observations during Birds in Backyards surveys provides valuable information about how birds co-exist. Such information is essential for an understanding of how birds cope when under pressure to share limited resources. Thank you for taking the time to note these observations!


Important Birdata privacy update

We are constantly looking at ways Birdata can be improved – how to make it easier for you to record, store and explore our bird life, and how to best collect the information needed to protect our native birds and their habitats.

From the next update, in the Explore section of the web portal, you will be able to click on individual survey points to see what has been recorded there and when. This provides a more convenient way for you to explore the birdwatching locations near you.

However, the flipside of this is that it will change the way your data is displayed on Birdata, and what elements of it are visible to others. We take your privacy very seriously, which is part of the reason why we are notifying you of these changes.

 You will notice that when you Record Surveys on the web portal, when on the Details page, you now have the option to make surveys private. This will hide both the survey location and species list from other users. For example, you might want to make a survey private when you are on private land or conducting surveys as part of your work or research. If you have existing surveys that you prefer be private, you can also use the Edit function on the My Data to make those changes.

Most things won’t change - information from private surveys will remain stored on the Birdata platform. They will still be accessible to you like the rest of your data and most definitely still be valuable to us as we work to monitor and protect our birds. But the specifics of these private surveys just won’t be visible to other users.

Note that surveys that already contain sensitive data – observations of endangered species and breeding birds will still have the same protections they always have.

If you have any questions about these or any other changes, please contact


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