Summer Survey Results 2019/20

Nearly 800 surveys were conducted at more than 250 locations across Australia during the summer period, demonstrating Birds in Backyards surveyors aren’t to be deterred by seasonal festivities nor challenging weather conditions! A total of 36,797 individual birds were counted, representing 290 species - what a fantastic commitment from all surveyors!

Rainbow Lorikeets were once again the most commonly seen species. Other usual suspects featured in the Top 10 species observed, such as Australian Magpie and Noisy Miner. On the other hand, Laughing Kookaburra, Grey Butcherbird, and Galah were new to the Top 10 compared to Spring survey results. Here’s the full list of summer’s Top 10:

1          Rainbow Lorikeet

2          Australian Magpie

3          Noisy Miner

4          Magpie-lark

5          Crested Pigeon

6          Laughing Kookaburra

7          Pied Currawong

8          Grey Butcherbird

9          Galah

10        Sulphur-crested Cockatoo

Drinking and dunking

Close to 90% of summer surveyors provided a water supply for birds. Most people provided water daily: 85% of people took the time to ensure their bird visitors had access to water daily during the long hot summer. That’s a lot of people looking out for birds on a daily basis!

Summer survey data suggests people providing water for birds may be rewarded with a greater number of birds, yet the number of bird species appears similar regardless of whether or not water is provided. There are so many factors that may influence the number of birds, and species, that visit your bird bath, such as the availability of water elsewhere in your neighbourhood, proximity to other resources such as food and nesting sites, and the presence of predators. Although it is difficult to draw firm conclusions from the survey data, one thing is clear - people are going to a lot of effort to ensure their local birds have access to water!

With a focus on the provision of water during the past couple of months, we were interested to see your survey notes included a number of observation of birds at bird baths, such as: a pair of Magpie-larks arriving for a daily swim, a family of Eastern Whipbirds visiting for water, and a scuffle for water between an Apostlebird and Eastern Rosella! The joy of watching birds bathe is a great reason to provide water to your backyard visitors. Birds bathe to keep their feathers in good condition – a good dunk helps to remove dirt and makes feathers easier to preen. It also looks like a lot of fun!

Thank you for your time in documenting your observations. In addition to their entertainment value, they provide valuable information about bird behaviour. Oh, in case you’re wondering, the Apostlebird chased the Eastern Rosella away from the water…..but the Eastern Rosella came back after the Apostlebird had left!

Why do birds drink?

All birds need an intake of water to survive. Although birds don’t have sweat glands, they lose water through respiration and their droppings, so need a regular water intake to replace what they have lost. How much water they need will vary depending on their food. For example, a diet of insects will generally provide more water than seeds.

How do birds drink?

Many birds drink while standing – dipping their beaks into the water, tossing their heads back, and letting gravity do its work. Some, such as pigeons and doves, fully immerse their beak and drink continuously. Others, such as swifts and swallows, drink on the fly! With such long wings, it’s easier to take an in-flight drink – gliding down to the surface of the water, skimming the top of the water with beak open, scooping up a beakful of water, then flying up again!

Want to help birds after the fires?

Visit our Birds in Backyards webpage for details on how to help birds with water, supplementary food, shade, and more. 

Photo: Mark Rayner

 and   @birdsinbackyards
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