The summer of surveys is over - how did your birds fare?

Summer has that unusual mix of being both incredibly busy as we celebrate Christmas and the holidays (as much as we could this last year due to COVID) - and also quiet as we seek time to relax and recharge for another year ahead. As we often see, our Birds in Backyards surveys are a little quieter during this period (with 1498 surveys recorded this past Dec/Jan). That's not to say there were not some great sightings to share.

Once again, the Australian Magpie reigned supreme - seen in over half the surveys recorded. What is it about this bird that sees it come out on top (or close to it) every single survey season? Well they really are the quintessential urban bird, found in almost every major town and city across Australia. While for the most part you might not get them in your garden in large numbers (of course there are always exceptions), they are a constant presence right around the country. Their love of tall trees and open lawn space (which the data we analyse from your surveys supports), means they have an abundance of gardens and parks to choose from.

SpeciesReporting rate (%)

Australian Magpie

Rainbow Lorikeet

Noisy Miner

Crested Pigeon


Spotted Dove*

Grey Butcherbird


Sulphur-crested Cockatoo

Laughing Kookaburra











The summer season saw a few changes in the Top 10 - Red Wattlebirds and Pied Currawongs dropped out of favour while Laughing Kookaburras were seen in the top 10 for the first time in 2020. This is encouraging as the decline of Laughing Kookaburras is a real concern (outside of WA where they are introduced) coming out of the last State of Australia's Birds Report in 2015.

The summer surveys also saw some wonderful observations of species that many of us would only dream of having in our gardens or other urban spaces. We had single records of an Emu, Latham's Snipe and even a Swift Parrot. There were also great records of nocturnal birds including a whopping 58 records of Southern Boobooks from across 3 states, a couple of Powerful Owls, an Australian Owlet-nightjar, a Barn Owl and a Masked Owl.  Remember you don't have to do your 20 min count during the day - report those nocturnals too!

We also saw a surprising diversity of diurnal (or daytime) raptors. Everything from small Nankeen Kestrels, Australian Hobby's and Peregrine Falcons through to our largest birds of prey - the White-bellied Sea-Eagle and Wedge-tailed Eagles. See the map below to show what showed up where.

The breeding season also continued throughout summer for many of our birds - with 37 species observed in some stage of breeding. There were 10 different Willie Wagtail nests - a couple of them also documenting aggressive behaviour towards other birds as they did their best to protect their young. Olive-backed Orioles in a garden in Mareeba managed to hatch young during the survey period, a Brown Goshawk nest with one adult sitting and the other tending to them and a Sacred Kingfisher pair observed excavating a termite mound 10m up a Eucalypt. 

These observations are not only exciting and inspiring (even making us a little jealous at times) but also incredibly important in looking at the role that our parks and gardens play for so many of our birds. Excitedly, your Birds in Backyards data will, for the first time, feature in an Urban Bird Index for the next State of Australia's Birds Report, due out later this year - this will give us a great opportunity to look closely at some of those birds we are concerned about - Laughing Kookaburra (outside of WA of course), included. Please continue to submit your surveys and if you haven't done a survey before, 2021 might be the time to dive in! Find out about what is involved here and join a free webinar to learn more.


Do you follow us on social media? If not, you would have missed the opportunity to win a set of bird pins over the summer period. The only requirement was doing a survey. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and see how you can be in the running this Autumn.


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