Australia’s bathing birdies

Australia’s bathing birdies

  • By Verity Swan
  •  May 30, 2016
  •  Tags:  Citizen science

Citizen scientists help uncover the secrets of bird baths across Australia

Dr Gráinne Cleary from Deakin University’s School of Life and Environmental Sciences, recently published Australia’s largest ever study into the use of urban and rural bird baths in private gardens.

The study investigated bird baths in 13 different regions across Australia, from south-eastern Queensland to southern South Australia, and was made possible with the help of almost 1000 citizen scientists and the ALA’s data collection tools.

The study found that native birds such as Superb Fairy Wrens, Grey Fantails, Lewin’s and New Holland Honeyeaters were recorded more frequently at rural bird baths. Whereas introduced species such as Spotted Doves, Common Blackbirds and House Sparrows were seen more frequently at urban bird baths. Overall, the number of different species was greater in rural bird baths compared to urban ones.

This study also demonstrated the valuable contribution that citizen scientists can make to studies that require large amounts of data to be gathered across a large area.

After advertising through local media and Facebook and engaging with ornithological associations across Australia, a total of 992 citizen scientists contributed data to the study. Each person was required to observe their bird bath for 20 minutes, three times per week, for a total of eight weeks over summer 2014 and winter 2015. They then logged their sightings online through the ALA. Participants were given a field guide to help identify species and were also able to email photos and descriptions of birds to ensure correct identification.

The study was published in Avian Assemblages at Bird Baths: A Comparison of Urban and Rural Bird Baths in Australia in Plos One, March 2016.

Since the Bathing Birds project was run, the ALA has updated it’s data collection tools making it easier for people to run their own projects. If you are interested in becoming a citizen scientist or setting up your own citizen science project, visit the ALA’s BioCollect page.

grey fantail Brian Sala rural victoria

Grey fantail visiting a bird bath in rural Victoria.  Image: Brian Sala