Canberra Ornithologists Group (COG) published Birds of Canberra Gardens in 2000, based on the findings of the Garden Bird Survey which had been running for 17 years. This second edition of Birds of Canberra Gardens now covers 27 years of the survey, which is continuing more strongly than ever. Over the entire survey period many COG members and other interested people recorded the birds observed in their gardens and in the immediate vicinity. They have completed more than 1707 Garden Bird Charts amounting to more than 69701 weeks of observations at 356 different sites.
Since 2000 there have been significant changes to the regional and suburban environment including the disastrous bushfires of January 2003 and prolonged periods of water restrictions, which have had a varying but significant effect on suburban gardens and urban parks and playing fields. Canberra is still the bush capital, and the observation of about 230 bird species in and around Canberra suburban gardens gives testimony to this.
This book is about the birds in and around Canberra gardens or in adjacent Canberra parks and open
spaces. It describes the abundance and distribution of birds, and discusses how the birds are likely to be
found at different times throughout the year, and in different places. The book also provides some ideas on how your garden may be made more attractive to native birds, and some discussion of conservation issues.
Dedicated amateurs, who have different levels of observational skills, have collected the data. Some observers put in more effort than others. However, because this variability among observers is assumed to be uniform over the 27 years of the survey, we believe that valid comparisons between the years’ results can be made.
The survey has picked up changes in bird populations – the times of the year when species are numerous and when they are not, when certain birds are most likely to be seen breeding and feeding their young, and changes over the 27 years. The survey has also helped to record the rarer species that from time to time visit the Canberra region.
Many birds that are migrants to the Australian Capital Territory have similar annual patterns of abundance. Most resident species also display regular annual patterns. This has been clearly demonstrated throughout the survey. The graphs based on the survey observations highlight the months when the populations peak and when they decline during an average year. In some species, such as the Pied Currawong this pattern has changed over the years. The graphs also clearly display the abundance of a species over the life of the survey. Some species have increased, some have decreased, some have remained fairly stable, while others have fluctuated in abundance over the years.
Although migration occurs in spring and autumn, migrant birds generally fall into one of two groups. Some, such as the cuckoo family, are summer migrants. They go north for the winter and return for the summer. Some birds, such as the Rainbow Bee-eater, may travel as far as New Guinea. Others, such as the Pied Currawongs, Golden Whistlers and Scarlet Robins, are altitudinal or winter migrants. They do not travel far but go to higher altitudes for the summer and to mid-altitudes such as Canberra for the winter. Thus Canberra bird species can be divided into those more common in winter, those more common in summer, and those which are generally resident throughout the year. The interplay of these factors gives added interest to urban bird watching in Canberra.
It is important to note that numerical information is derived from the results of a specific survey at specific sites in any given year and should be interpreted as such, and not generalised to include all ACT birds. Statements about specific numbers of breeding records of a species, for example, refer only to the survey results. For example, the species may breed prolifically elsewhere but breeding events are not recorded in the Garden Bird Survey.
To make the book more useful we have combined the information from the Garden Bird Survey showing distribution and abundance with some other information, such as feeding habits, breeding and behaviour to round out the picture. The species are presented in roughly systemic order. However, because the book is about garden birds, birds most likely to be observed in Canberra gardens are more to the front of the book.
New Holland Honeyeaters chat urbanely over a drink in a Canberra garden.