Supporting urban birds

21st December, 2022

"What if we were as proud and invested in our native gardens as we are in our Christmas lights?" This was just one of the questions posed at the BirdLife 'Birds in the Burbs' symposium last week.

On 15 December 2022, more than 80 bird scientists and enthusiasts gathered to learn and discuss the ways our urban birds could be better supported.

Local Elder Gail Fitzgerald started the morning with a lovely Welcome to Country, sharing her personal and cultural connection to the birds of her childhood. Eight speakers then took to the stage with a range of topics, all on the theme of ‘every bit counts’, in the face of Perth’s urban development and its impact on native birds and habitat.

Perth NRM’s ReWild Program Manager, Hannah Gulliver, gave a presentation on developing urban vegetation and how planting native species can support wildlife in backyards, no matter the size, and create safe habitat corridors.

Other presentations included:

  • ‘Using citizen science to better understand the current state of Perth’s birds’ – Dr Tegan Douglas (presenting on behalf of Kaarissa Harring-Harris from Urban Birds Project Officer, BirdLife Australia) spoke about using citizen scientists to gather data on the changes to the composition of urban bird communities and research underway to analyse data collected over a 20 year period.
  • ‘The Superb City Wrens Project: working together for our precious urban birds’ – Dr Holly Kirk (Urban Ecologist, from the Interdisciplinary Conservation Science Group, RMIT University), shared the learning from from the Superb City Wrens Project, where they are working with large city councils, residents and ecological researchers to find strategic ways to support Superb Fairy-Wrens in the urban landscape.
  • ‘What is habitat?’ – Dr Jane Chambers (Director of NatureLink Perth, and Senior Lecturer in Environmental and Conservation Sciences, Murdoch University) shared their ten-week science program developed for primary school students that aims to increase student and teacher awareness of birds and habitat in their schools.
  • ‘Every backyard counts for birds’ – Mandy Bamford (Bamford Consulting and President of WA Gould League) discussed how simple changes and features in any garden can support your local birds, based on their own experiences swapping their traditional garden for native plants over the past 30 years.
  • ‘Rat poison is wildlife poison’ – Dr Boyd Wykes (Coordinator from Rodenticide Action Group Margaret River Region) is part of a group that supports the educational campaign to reduce the use of rat poisons in the South-West, therefore reducing the food chain poisoning of local owls and other rodent predators.
  • ‘Bringing back the swans’ – Paul Reed (Natural Areas Supervisor, City of South Perth) shared the project to bring swans back to the Swan River, including why they left in the first place, and the newly completed Black Swan island completed in 2021.
  • ‘Conserving and protecting black cockatoos in urban landscapes’ – Merryn Pryor (WA Black Cockatoo Project Coordinator, BirdLife Australia) outlined the habitat loss and other challenges faced by the urban populations of the three black cockatoos endemic to the South West of WA and the ways these populations could be supported with mindful development planning.
  • A panel discussion on the challenges and successes of urban conservation completed the day, facilitated by Dr Annie Naimo, Urban Birds Program Coordinator at BirdLife Australia.

While the day was full of insight, with some concerning findings, the event created a sense of optimism, knowing there are dedicated groups doing amazing work. It highlighted that every individual can make helpful changes to support our birdlife – every native plant and garden, no matter the size, creates stepping stones for birds across the urban landscape. Every little bit counts.

Want to learn more about how to support birds in your backyard? Click here to ReWild your garden.

Thank you to Birdlife Australia WA for the invitation, and Lotterywest for supporting the event.

ReWild Perth acknowledges the support of the Water Corporation, and major supporter Lotterywest.


We acknowledge and appreciate the support of all our partners, supporters, funding bodies and sponsors.

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