Gang-gang photo

Gang-gang (image credit: Tegan Liston)

In 2014 the Canberra Ornithologists Group (COG) adopted the Gang-gang cockatoo as its ‘Bird of the Year’ to celebrate 50 years of birding in the ACT.

COG developed an exciting citizen science project, the Gang-gang survey, to enlist the help of the community to collect information about the Gang-gang cockatoo. Mr Chris Davey, the survey project manager said COG was keen to introduce a wider audience to the fun of birdwatching and spark their interest in learning more about native birds and their habitat.

“Reaching this audience was greatly enabled by the development of the on-line web portal for the survey by the Atlas of Living Australia (ALA)” Mr Davey said. Members of the public were able to register and log casual sightings of the Gang-gang in the database. “It also helped that the Gang-gang is a charismatic bird, easily-recognised by its squeaky gate call and plumage” Mr Davey said.

The community response to the survey was outstanding with over 4,000 sightings logged in the ALA database and over 300 on-line participants by the end of the 12 month survey in February 2015. Ms Kathy Eyles, the survey communications manager said “Most of the survey participants were not COG members and we are excited that for many local people, this was their first foray into citizen science!”

Positive local media coverage of the survey project and also widespread affection and concern for the Gang-gang Cockatoo provided a focal point for community participation. Ms Eyles said there was plenty of positive feedback from participants. “We asked observers why they got involved in the survey and most said they were keen to help a project to learn more about the Gang-gang and really enjoyed watching out for these gorgeous birds in their gardens and local reserves”.

“I’ve wanted to get involved in citizen science – this is the first time I’ve been involved!”
“Survey made my walks more interesting and an interesting bird”
“I feel I can help protect them by logging them in the survey”
“Gang-gangs are interesting attractive birds and I’m worried about their decline”
“Proud to see them in my garden”


Gang-gang (image credit: Tegan Liston)

“Importantly, we were also able to use the feedback from participants to identify a number of survey design and communication lessons for future citizen science projects” Ms Eyles said.

Mr Chris Davey the survey project manager said, the survey results reveal that the Gang-gang cockatoo has an interesting and non-random distribution within the region. “In urban Canberra for example, you are more likely to see the Gang-gang in suburbs bordering the forested nature reserves of Mt Majura and Mt Ainslie, Gossan Hill, Bruce and O’Connor Ridges, Black Mountain, Aranda Bushland to the north of Lake Burley Griffin and Red Hill and Mt Taylor to the south” Mr Davey said.

While the survey provided much needed information on the distribution and behaviour of Gang-gangs, it was not able to provide information on movement patterns that would help determine the number of Gang-gangs in the local region.

COG is now talking with the ANU Fenner School about a doctoral research project to build on the survey results. This research would track movement, possibly using marked birds, to shed light on their movement patterns in the region, and may also involve a breeding study. This means our budding citizen scientists may well be called upon again to help track the Gang-gang Cockatoo.

Copies of the survey reports are available from the Canberra Birds website: