It’s true—fairies do exist. And if you live in an area close to bushland, with a backyard full of dense, preferably native plants, then you’re likely to see fairies at the bottom of your garden if you participate in the Aussie Backyard Bird Count which begins today and runs throughout National Bird Week, 22-28 October.
Among the 1.9 million birds counted in 2017 by 72,000 nature-loving Australians were 578 different species, including all nine species of fairy-wren. These gorgeous little birds have a characteristically long tail that they hold aloft as they hop around on the ground. This year, the aim is to count more than 2 million birds in 7 days using the specially designed app, which can help people identify local birds based on size, colour and location.
Recorded in counts across the country, the two most commonly encountered fairy-wrens were the “blue wrens”: the Superb Fairy-wren in eastern Australia including Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne, Hobart and Adelaide; and the Splendid Fairy-wren which inhabits the dry interior and Western Australia, including Perth.
“Both these species can be found throughout our towns and cities right into the inner city, but our Aussie Bird Count data shows that they are usually only found near large remnant areas of bushland and vegetated areas like creeks and waterways,” said Sean Dooley, BirdLife Australia’s chief bird nerd.
“They need lots of dense shrubs and undergrowth to hide from predators, find food and make safe nests in,” Mr Dooley continued. “But in many urban areas, these remnant patches are becoming cut off from each other so if there are not many bushy gardens to link them, groups of fairy-wrens can’t connect up with each other and we start to see a decline. The situation is made worse by the rise of predatory birds, such as currawongs and butcherbirds, in urban areas.”
Over recent decades Australia has lost many of these brilliant little gems of birds from many built-up inner-city areas, but surveys from the Aussie Bird Count show that the fairies are hanging on in many places. BirdLife Australia needs even more people to get involved this year and count birds in their backyards and local green spaces to help pinpoint whether the downward trend is continuing.
“The information BirdLife Australia gathers from surveys such as the Aussie Bird Count is really helping us to identify strategies to make our cities and towns bird-filled spaces, not lifeless, concrete jungles,” said Mr Dooley.
To get involved, download the Aussie Bird Count app.