Australia is home to about 830 wonderful and unique species of birds – but over 200 are considered threatened
Do you know how many different species of birds live around you? Let’s do a bird count to find out! By observing and recording data, we can start to build a picture of the different bird species that live locally, and their habitat.
A habitat is the environment in which an animal lives. It provides all the necessary food, water and shelter. Every animal has an important role to help keep their habitat healthy.
Australia is home to about 830 wonderful and unique species of birds – but over 200 are considered threatened.
Different birds need different sources of water and food. Some birds are ground feeders, feeding on insects, grasses, nuts or seeds. Others feed on the nectar from flowers. Some birds even feed on small animals such as fish or amphibians.
All birds need shelter from the weather and possible predators. Thick understory vegetation provides valuable protection from predators such as cats and larger birds.
In general, bird numbers increase within highly diverse habitats made up of a mix of different species of trees, shrubs, grasses and ground cover. Native vegetation is best for birds as it provides a supply of natural food.
Bird droppings are also an important part of encouraging the growth of new vegetation as they provide a strong dose of nitrogen which acts as fertiliser.
Predator birds like the Tawny Frogmouth help keep the ecosystem stay in balance by keeping the number of small animals and insects under control. It’s estimated that globally, birds eat around 400 to 500 million tonnes of insects every year.
Despite their importance, many native bird species are endangered due to habitat loss. All of us can help address this problem by protecting and growing native vegetation to provide food and shelter for native birds.
You can check these Birdlife Australia Bird Guides to find which species are found in local areas across Perth and Western Australia. Find out which birds live near you and plant native species that will support their habitat.
Activity 1: Let’s investigate
The first step is to do some observation and gather your data.
What you’ll need
about one hour
hats and sunscreen, or umbrellas
pen and paper
a sense of adventure!
camera or binoculars (optional)
What you’ll do
It’s time to go out on a field trip! Head out to your garden, a local park, the beach or any other open area to do your bird count.
Birds are a good indicator of health for an ecosystem. This is because different types of birds feed on different things in the food chain, so if there’s food available, they will be easily seen flying around.
Things to think about while you’re planning your field trip
What do birds need to survive? Why?
Where do they eat, drink, sleep, nest and stay safe?
Where do you think you’ll find the most birds? Why?
Once you’re out ‘in the field’, remember to move slowly and quietly so you don’t scare the birds away. You might also like to take photos to help you identify the birds.
Decide on the best way to record the results of your bird count. You could use a chart, a table or even a map. Can you think of another way? How will you show the different birds?
When you’ve finished the bird count, see if you can answer these questions:
How many birds did you see altogether?
How many different types were there?
How would you describe their habitat?
You can use your data to do any of the following activities!
Want to take this activity further?
Let your kids be creative and design their own birdwatching binoculars! These can be as customised as they like.
What you’ll need
colourful paper tape or duct tape
ribbon or wool
scissors or a hole punch
stickers, paint, wrapping paper or foil, for decoration
What you’ll do
Let your children decorate the cardboard tubes however they like.
Step in with glue or duct tape to stick the 2 tubes together. To make it more comfortable, you might want to include a third, thinner tube as a nose piece.
Using the scissors or hole punch, poke a hole on one side of each of the cardboard rolls.
Attach the string through the holes to create a strap.
Check what the vision is like (and that they’re safe to use). Now you’re ready to start exploring!
Tip: Take a moment to stand still and quiet for 30 seconds to tune in to the outdoor environment. Listen for bird calls – then you’ll know where to look!
If you have a budding artist in the family, they could create a portrait of a bird you saw or researched. Capture any special characteristics you noted in your survey.
For a stronger science focus, you could set out to produce a detailed diagram. Use labels to highlight which characteristics tell us about what the bird eats, where they like to live and if they are native to your local area.
You can ask:
where do birds eat, drink, sleep, nest and stay safe?
what would happen if no birds lived in your area?
Using the data from your field trip, design a map that shows the area you visited and where you spotted different birds. Your map could be drawn on paper or a computer, or modelled in 3D. Do you have Lego, plasticine or cardboard you can use?
Describe the trees you saw (how tall they are, what kind of branches they have), add any waterways, and note any other animals you spotted.
You can decide:
how you show where the different birds were spotted
how to show the scale.
Use your map to compare data at the same time each day or week. Can you count the same number every time? Are they always the same species?Why do you think this is?
Do you think the time of day would affect the bird count? Why?
Using local bird species, start a chart that captures the type of habitat they like to live in. Make note of plants or trees they need, or what they eat as food.
Use this research to design an area or object that will attract a native bird species. Do some investigation to see if you can answer these questions:
What do you think was there before your house was built?
Where do you think the birds moved to after your house was built? Where would they nest or find shelter?
Where do you think they had to go to find food or water?
If you can, work together to bring their design to life. You could make a birdbath or a bird feeder. Or you could support the habitat by planting trees or designing an insect hotel to offer them shelter and food.
Together, talk about:
what you have you designed
why you chose this design
how your design will attract birds.
You might be able to share your data with a bird count community or Citizen Science project. Check out iNaturalist or Birdlife Australia to see other projects that are underway, or if there’s anyone local you can team up with.