Birdwatching in Sydney

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Make your knowledge count

Atlassing in the Cumberland County
by Dr Tony Saunders & Dean Portelli

Cumberland Bird Observers Club

Sydney's human population is set to expand by another million people in the next few decades, with inevitable impact on the area's diverse birdlife. Hence there is a need for accurate knowledge of the birds of the Sydney area and their key habitat areas. This knowledge should be used to direct any future development.

Much information about our Australian birds is locked away in the heads of many birdwatchers and doesn't appear in literature; yet this information may provide great assistance to bird conservation. There are enormous gaps in knowledge about even our common birds.

As a group, CBOC members share a love of birds and they provide us with much enjoyment in our leisure time. Atlassing is a very simple and fun way to give something back to birds. It can take you to new areas and lead to exciting discoveries. Many atlas contributors often report that they are learning many new things about birds. For example, finding interesting birds in unexpected places, like Pacific Baza in remnant grey box in Glenmore Park, Speckled Warblers in previously unknown locations and a whole host of interesting sightings resulting from atlassing alone. By adopting a 2 hectare search area, other atlassers have been able to notice characteristics of bird communities, how they change, new arrivals, transient members, dominant and repeatedly observed species, seasonal patterns, etc. These 2 hectare/20 minute searches are our most reliable method of assessing bird abundance, tracking changes in bird communities over time, and for comparing different habitats.

Cumberland Bird Observers conducting a survey

Data collected for the CBOC database is transferred to the National Birdlife Australia Atlas project, and any data that this group collects within the Cumberland County may also be incorporated into our database. In this way a network of atlas groups with similar conservation goals can help each other. The CBOC database focuses on a relatively small area of Australia, the Cumberland County. Because of this we are able to collect more precise additional information such as habitat use and abundance. The habitat data is tied to individual bird records. This extra information can be used to identify key habitats for bird species and seasonal or annual changes in abundance, which can then be used for conservation of key habitats in Sydney itself. Click here to see how this data can be used to identify key areas for the Rose Robin. Click here to see how the database can be used to compare the habits of Red Wattlebirds and Noisy Friarbirds.

The CBOC bird database gives us a means of actively contributing to bird conservation within our own community. Many government and community groups are recognising the importance of our database. The following groups have been provided with data to help in local bird conservation.

  1. Chipping Norton Lake Authority - Local status of waterbirds and proposed raised wetland.
  2. NPWS - List of birds for the Georges River Catchment Regional Biodiversity Survey and Environment Plan.
  3. Peter Ellmer, Richmond TAFE - List of birds in remnant vegetation on UWS Hawkesbury Campus for Bushland Regeneration Certificate.
  4. Penrith City Council - List of threatened/endangered birds and local species at risk for the State of the Environment Report.
  5. Baulkham Hills Shire Council - List of birds for the Shire, highlighting threatened species and lists for some of their reserves for their Bushland Management Program and the State of the Environment Report.
  6. NSW Scientific Committee - Status of the isolated and endangered population of the Gang Gang Cockatoo in the Pennant Hills/Lane Cove Valley area.
  7. David Craig, Oregon State University - Status of the Caspian Tern.
  8. Cameron's Cove Committee - List of birds for the area.

Most of the data provided for these groups has been supplemented with reports based on local knowledge. The high quality of our data at a local scale is becoming well-recognised. Atlas contributors should be congratulated as this would not have been possible without their effort.

Click here to see the entire list of birds found in the greater Sydney area (ie Cumberland County). How many of them have you seen?

When is the best time to see Spangled Drongos?

Cumberland Bird Observers

The accompanying graph illustrates why February and Autumn are the best times to look for Spangled Drongos in Sydney. There is a dramatic difference from December and January, both of which have almost no sightings, to February and March, which together account for over 30 percent of sightings. April and May account for a further 30 percent. This sudden difference in the number of sightings is due to the birds migrating through Sydney.

How many species did you see in 2016?

Cumberland Bird Observers

In 2016, birdwatchers collectively reported seeing 321 species of birds in the County of Cumberland. This is a similar figure to recent years and confirms Sydney as one of the 'birdiest' places in the country.

The graph shows how the number of species reported to the club's database has increased over the past decade. This is partly due to there being more members contributing their data and partly to more surveys being done. Thank you to all contributors.

And the Top 5 birds for 2016 are...

Once again the Rainbow Lorikeet, Noisy Miner, Australian Raven, Australian Magpie and Superb Fairy-wren have taken out the top five spots as Sydney's most commonly seen birds. These five species were the same top five reported in 2013, 2014 and 2015.

The next five most commonly reported were Pied Currawong, Welcome Swallow, Laughing Kookaburra, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo and Red Wattlebird.

There were almost three dozen species which were only reported once in 2016 including Spotted Quail-thrush, Gang-gang Cockatoo, Pallid Cuckoo, White-fronted Chat, Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater and Red-footed Booby.

Contribute your data

If you would like to learn more about how you can contribute to the CBOC database online,
please send an email to our database manager.

If you have been given a password, click here to enter data.

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