CIE Spotlight: Avian Assemblages at Bird Baths: A Comparison of Urban and Rural Bird Baths in Australia

Gráinne C., Kelly M. and Mike W.

Gráinne C., Kelly M. and Mike W.

Title: Avian Assemblages at Bird Baths: A Comparison of Urban and Rural Bird Baths in Australia

Authors: Gráinne P. Cleary, Holly Parsons, Adrian Davis, Bill R. Coleman, Darryl N. Jones, Kelly K. Miller, Michael A. Weston

Source: PLoS ONE 11(3), March 10, 2016

Brief summary of the paper: Private gardens provide habitat and resources for many birds living in human-dominated landscapes. While wild bird feeding is recognised as one of the most popular forms of human-wildlife interaction, almost nothing is known about the use of bird baths.

This citizen science initiative explores avian assemblages at bird baths in private gardens in south-eastern Australia and how this differs with respect to levels of urbanisation and bioregion.

Overall, 992 citizen scientists collected data over two, four-week survey periods during winter 2014 and summer 2015 (43% participated in both years). Avian assemblages at urban and rural bird baths differed between bioregions with aggressive nectar-eating species influenced the avian assemblages visiting urban bird baths in South Eastern Queensland, NSW North Coast and Sydney Basin while introduced birds contributed to differences in South Western Slopes, Southern Volcanic Plains and Victorian Midlands.

Small honeyeaters and other small native birds occurred less often at urban bird baths compared to rural bird baths.

Our results suggest that differences between urban versus rural areas, as well as bioregion, significantly influence the composition of avian assemblages visiting bird baths in private gardens.

We also demonstrate that citizen science monitoring of fixed survey sites such as bird baths is a useful tool in understanding large-scale patterns in avian assemblages which

requires a vast amount of data to be collected across broad areas.