Have I imagined this?

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stephendixon@optusnet.com.au's picture
Have I imagined this?

Once, here in Sydney, we used to have a variety of small birds in our garden. Then came the take- over by the native 'noisy' miner which drove out just about everything else, including the wattle birds. This situation has applied for several years. I have  increased the amount of 'bird friendly' plants and this spring there has been a good quantity of grevilleas, callistemons etc in flower. Last Monday, instead of the odd smaller wattlebird nipping in to the garden to grab a feed before being chased away by the 'gang of six' miners a group of four wattlebirds swept in as if they owned the place and have been around and about all week. The native miners have not disappeared but they have certainly made themselves scarce and have not been seen 'hunting in a pack' all week. I did find a dead miner in the middle of the road which did not seem to have been hit by a car so I wonder - is it feasible that the local wattlebirds have 'ganged up' and ousted the miners in a power struggle? Is that the end of miner domination? Or have I got too much time on my hands and a fertile imagination? Do birds act this way?


Woko's picture

Hi Stephen.

Birds will compete with each other for all sorts of resources & some birds will be advantaged by certain kinds of environments. The noisy miner is advantaged by humans replacing natural bushland with its full complement of plant species with open spaces populated by few, large native trees, especially Eucalypts. This is fairly typical of urban environments.

I'm not sure if wattle birds behave in gangs to successfully compete with noisy miners but you could well be observing an interesting phenomenon. Other members may have thoughts on this.

Of course, if you want to see a return of the smaller bird species you'll need to provide their preferred habitat which would include a full complement of indigenous vegetation structured appropriately. There are other posts on this site which contain information about this & books such as Bush Regeneration: Recovering Australian Landscapes by Robin A Buchanan can be very helpful.

Araminta's picture

I don't think you are imagining things. The only question remains, will small birds return? I don't think so. I only have one pair of wattlebirds, but those two have killed & eaten (?) the young of the wrens and are now after some baby New Hollands. Yesterday the wattlebirds chassed a Lewin's Honeyeater into my windows, dead. All you can do is what you have been doing, plant, they also need thick undergrowth to hide and find refuge in. Good luck.


timmo's picture

I agree with the others above Stephen, you're probably not imagining it.

If your plantings have changed to affect the structure or food sources in your garden, then there is a good chance that this will affect its use by bird species.

I'm not sure if wattle birds are aggressive, but as they and noisy miners are both "honeyeaters" they are probably competing for the same food sources.

I know thicker vegetation structure has been shown to be related to lower levels of noisy miners and increased levels of small woodland birds, but this is in connected environments not isolated suburban patches.

A few other points on what you mentioned though (and feel free to ignore if it's unwanted advice): 

- "bird friendly" is very different depending on the species you are talking about. Large flowering plants are great for larger honeyeaters like noisy miners, rainbow lorikeets and wattlebirds; plants offering thick cover and spiky vegetation can be great for smaller birds; fruit and seed bearing plants will be good for other species (like many of the parrots and cockatoos), while grasses and understory that provide seeds and or insect cover will suit yet other species.

I would suggest structure and diversity are likely to have more impact than particular plant species, but starting out with at least natives and preferably local natives is a good start.

I am wondering the same about my own garden as to whether I will get the small birds back if I provide the right cover, but I'm thinking that there is not enough linking vegetation for them to move from where they are currently found. Still, I'll enjoy building a native garden anyway, and see.


Woko's picture

Spot on, timmo.

I'll be very interested to see what happens with smaller birds in your garden after your planting of cover for them. When we began living at our place the nearest cover for superb fairy-wrens was about 1.5 kilometres away. It was about two years before we saw our first fairy-wrens. Interestingly, for the first two or three years they appeared in January, stayed a couple of months & then disappeared. Now we have about 8 families all year round.

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