It’s time for Australia’s largest citizen science event, the Aussie Backyard Bird Count.
Last year, 88,000 Australians spotted almost 3.4 million birds for BirdLife Australia’s annual avian* survey.
BirdLife Australia’s Sean Dooley said the work of the count’s citizen scientists — including tens of thousands of kids — helps track and protect birdlife for the future.
“Every sighting is valuable, that is why we treat them seriously,” said Mr Dooley, who has been recording his birdwatching results for about 40 years since he was 10 years old.
“Every sighting gets checked and goes into a scientific database.
“The idea that you can contribute something important scientifically is quite empowering*.”
The detailed information from citizens allows professional scientists to see what is happening to Australia’s bird populations in real time and, where necessary, begin more detailed research or act to protect a species as soon as possible.
He said this year’s count is shaping up to be the biggest yet, with signups already topping 2019.
“That’s a reflection partly because of the bushfires and the coronavirus. People have become really aware of nature where they live.”
Mr Dooley said during last summer’s bushfires, bird habitat was being burnt.
“People saw birds coming into their area because they (the birds) were escaping the fires and (for a long time after) they were still hanging out in people’s gardens because they have nowhere else to go.”
And when coronavirus restrictions began, it wasn’t the birds’ behaviour that changed, but humans’ behaviour.
“During lockdown, birds are the one bit of nature we see every day. The world got quieter, there was not as much traffic, people weren’t rushing around. We were getting flooded with calls (about bird sightings). Whenever we investigated, turns out that the birds were doing what they had always done, it’s just that we hadn’t noticed before.”
A species of crimson chat attracted a lot of attention in last year’s count.
“It’s normally a desert bird (but) we had something like 14 times the number of crimson chats than normal.”
Crimson chats usually spend most of their time where there are few people to see them but because of climatic conditions, they had moved to southern Victoria in time for last year’s count, most likely for better access to food and water.
HOW TO TAKE PART
You can join the Aussie Backyard Bird Count wherever you are in Australia and whether you are learning at school or at home. Both kids and adults can take part individually or teachers can register a class.
You don’t need to be a bird expert to record valuable sightings — the Aussie Bird Count field guide app by BirdLife Australia will help you identify what you’ve seen.
All you have to do is stand or sit in the one spot at home, at school, at the park, in your town, at the beach or in the bush — anywhere outdoors — for 20 minutes between October 19-25 and record what you see, which you can then submit in an online form or by using the app.
- avian: to do with birds
- empowering: make someone more confident or able to do something
- What is the Aussie Backyard Bird Count?
- Why did birds behave differently during the bushfires?
- Why did people see more birds during the pandemic?
- How will you know what species you’ve seen?
- Where do you have to be to complete the count?
LISTEN TO THIS STORY
1. Design a Poster
Design a poster about the Aussie Backyard Bird Count. The purpose of your poster is to encourage teachers to get their students involved in the project.
Time: allow 30 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Science, Visual Communication Design
The Great Aussie Bird Count is a great citizen science event. Can you think of something else that could get kids involved to do something that can help scientists? Write a description of your own citizen science event. Include what is going to be studied, why this is important, what kids and do and how this can help us. Don’t forget to give it a catchy name!
Time: allow at least 30 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Science
Proper Noun Police
A proper noun is a noun that names a particular person, place or thing. It always has a capital letter.
How many proper nouns can you find within this article? Find them all and sort them into the category of name, place, time (date/month).
Can you find any proper nouns included in your writing?
What are they?
Can you sort them into their categories?
HAVE YOUR SAY: Which is the most interesting bird you’ve ever seen? Where were you?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No comments will be published until approved by editors.