November Meeting

Wed 09 November 2016 07:30pm

Liam Bailey - Love thy neighbour: Importance of nest density in a mobbing bird
Grainne Cleary - Citizen science study into bird feeding and watering in Australia

The short presentation will be by Liam Bailey of the Research School of Biology at the ANU on “Love thy neighbour: Importance of nest density in a mobbing bird”.

Many bird species are known to mob as a method of reducing nest depredation.  It is likely that these species will benefit from nesting at higher densities, potentially increasing both the size and aggression of mobbing groups.  With widespread bird declines, the nesting densities of many mobbing species may be greatly reduced potentially undermining the effectiveness of anti-predator mobbing defences and increasing nest loss. In this talk, Liam will discuss a project investigating the relationship between nest density and nest depredation in the Eurasian oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus), conducted as a portion of his Ph D thesis. Understanding this relationship will not only provide important information for the conservation of H. ostralegus but will also have widespread implications for a number of well known Australian species.

The main presentation, “Citizen science study into bird feeding and watering in Australia” will be by Dr Grainne Cleary of Deakin University.

Bird baths are a familiar sight in Australian gardens but surprisingly little is known about the precise role they play in the lives of birds.  In a dry continent such as Australia, bird baths may be vital to supporting an otherwise stressed bird population.  Researchers at Deakin University and Griffith University wanted to find out more, so they enlisted the help of thousands of citizen scientists across Australia to gather as much data as they could on how birds use bird baths.   And so the Bathing Birds Study was started in 2014.  This study involved collecting data online from 2,500 citizen scientists on bathing birds all over Australia.  The study has revealed so far that bird baths are much more than just ornamental splash pools for feathered visitors. They’re also a site where animals socialise and intense rivalries play out.  Human choices – such as the design of the bird bath, where it is located and how often it is cleaned – can have a big impact on birds.

A bird feeding study component has recently been added to the research.  Bird feeding is a major issue that cannot be ignored and the absence of any real evidence based research means we don’t know the effect bird feeding is having on the environment.  The study will help fill this information gap to inform principles around bird feeding.

In her presentation Grainne, who is leading the Australian Bird Feeding and Watering Study, will discuss the design, methodology and results to date for both aspects.   She is extremely passionate about getting the best results for our birds and communicating these results and outcomes to participants to ensure they get the fully understanding of how important they are to citizen science studies. By doing so citizen scientists can see how their data is used and gain an understanding and information from studies like this one about what they can do to improve their gardens for birds.  She is a wildlife ecologist from Ireland and her area of interest is working with the public through citizen science to gain the best outcomes for urban wildlife.  She is especially interested in how people interact with wildlife in their own back gardens and what resources are provided, both intentionally and unintentionally.  She finds this of great interest as our behaviour can have a huge influence on urban wildlife and how wildlife can use gardens in otherwise inhospitable environments.

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