Your data put to work: Bird declines in urban centres

This month, PhD candidate Carly Campbell from Queensland's Griffith University published a study looking at the long-term changes of bird species that are found in Australia's most populous urban centres of Perth, Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. The analysis included surveys conducted by our Birds in Backyards participants as well as other data collected from BirdLife Australia's Birdata platform - which spans back as far as 1954, and data from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's eBird project.

There were some striking findings. Since the 50s, introduced species like House Sparrows and Common Mynas have declined in abundance in Australia’s major cities. This may sound like good news for our Aussie natives, however researchers found that most native birds were in decline, and there was a very small, very particular group of native birds that are on the increase. Species such as Noisy Miners and Rainbow Lorikeets showed a strong increase in abundance. These species can be aggressive with the way they compete with other native species, and can drive them out in competition for habitat and other resources. The decline of so many of our natives should ring alarm bells, with iconic Aussie species in urban areas such as Laughing Kookaburras (although this will be welcome news to Perth residents where it is an introduced species), Eastern Rosellas and Galahs decreasing. 

As our cities continue to expand and become more densely populated, habitats that are available for urban birds to use are becoming more restricted. To help support those Australian natives that are less dominant in urban environments, one of the most effective actions we can take is to implement habitat gardening at every level- from an urban balcony to suburban parkland. Diverse plants and habitats that are connected across our populous centres will promote diverse wildlife. This study also serves as a timely reminder of the importance of Citizen Science in the monitoring our bird species: monitoring is a hugely important resource for informing conservation practices.


You can read the paper here, it is free to access, or head to the ABC News Website to read some media coverage of the research.



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