Frequently Asked Questions: How to count

How do I take part in the Aussie Backyard Bird Count? 

To complete the Aussie Backyard Bird Count, spend 20 minutes standing or sitting in one spot and noting down the birds that you see. You will need to count the number of each species you spot within the 20 minute period. For example, you might see 4 Australian Magpies, 2 Rainbow Lorikeets and a Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo. If you can identify birds by their calls, please include these in your count, but if you aren’t sure of a bird without seeing it, please exclude it rather than making a guess. The Aussie Bird Count app has a handy field-guide to help you identify birds.  

Once you have completed your count, you can submit it in two different ways: 

  1. You can submit your bird count through the online web form (this form won’t be made live until the 12 October) 

OR 

  1. You can submit your counts through the free Aussie Bird Count app. The app is available for iPhones and Android smartphones, go to the Google Play or iTunes to download the app for free. If you have the Aussie Bird Count app from previous years don’t delete it, it should update automatically with the newest version. In between event dates, the app operates as a field-guide/bird finder. 

I don’t use a smartphone – can I still take part? 

Of course! In addition to being able to count using the app on a smartphone, you can also use the form on the website. You can find the form here: https://aussiebirdcount.org.au/submit-a-count/ 

Please note: that the submission form on this page won’t be live until the 12 October — still giving you plenty of time to get familiar with it before the Aussie Backyard Bird Count officially starts on the 19 October.

Can I submit my count via a paper form? 

Unfortunately for 2020 we cannot provide paper forms due to the pandemic. In past years, we’d have volunteers come into to the office to enter data from paper submissions into the database for us, but this year, we are unable to access our office or host volunteers. As a result, we simply can’t accommodate entries via paper forms, and we request that you share your counts via the app or website.

How do I download the Aussie Bird Count app?  

You can download the Aussie Bird Count app for iPhones, iPads and Android smartphones/tablets. Go to the Google Play or iTunes store to download it for free.  

I don’t know anything about birds – can I still take part? 

Yes of course! The Aussie Backyard Bird Count is open to everyone – from complete beginners to certified birds-nerds! If you aren’t confident identifying local birds, we recommend you download Aussie Bird Count app which has a great field guide function for identifying birds based on their size, colour and key features.  

Do I need binoculars or specialist equipment to take part? 

No – all you need is 20 minutes, your favourite outdoor spot and the Aussie Bird Count app to start counting. See which birds you can spot in the area around you – if they are too far away to identify, then simply exclude them from your count.  

Can I use the app offline?

Yes – you can use the Aussie Bird Count app offline. Once you are connected to the internet again, it’s best to open the app to make sure your count has been submitted.

I don’t have a backyard, can I still take part? 

Yes, of course! There is no defined ‘backyard’. You could count in your actual backyard, local park, school yard or other favourite outdoor space. Your backyard might be along the coast, in the middle of the desert, in a national park or on a farm. You can literally count birds anywhere – as long as you are in Australia. Consider your ‘backyard’ as any place you feel at home and you can see birds. 

Why do I need to count birds for 20-minutes? 

20-minutes is the standard period for a BirdLife Australia bird survey. Keeping in line with other BirdLife Australia bird surveys and having everyone counting for the same time means the data we receive will be more scientifically robust, allowing us to use it in our conservation efforts. If you wanted to count for one-hour, we would like you to submit three consecutive 20-minute counts. 

Do I need to submit a count each day of the Aussie Backyard Bird Count? 

No, if you only have time to submit one count, that’s great. If you have time to submit multiple counts, even better! 

Can I submit more than one count a day? 

Yes, you can participate as many times as you like and we would love you to submit multiple counts. Keep in mind a separate count will need to be submitted for each 20-minute count, and each time you change location. 

Do I have to submit my counts from the same location each time? 

No, we’d love you to submit multiple counts from multiple locations! 

Can I complete my count while I am on a walk? 

The short answer is no! It’s best to count the birds from one spot for 20 minutes – and see how many you can see from where you’re standing or sitting. If you’re going on a long walk, you could always count before and/or after your walk.   

If you want to get technical, we would recommend counting within a (maximum) 80m radius or an area of approximately 100m x 200m.  

What time of day can I count birds? 

There is never a bad time to count birds; you can count at any time of day or night. However, birds are more active at dawn and dusk, so if you choose to do your count then, you may see more birds. 

If birds are coming and going, how do I count them? 

We want to know the actual number of birds not the number of visits. Record only the highest number of individual birds of each species that you see together at any one time. For example, three magpies might pop into the garden, head next door and then two come back again – that is three birds, not five. 

How do I count large flocks of birds? 

It can be difficult to count birds when there’s a flock of hundreds or even thousands! We suggest counting a group of ten birds from the flock, by using that grouping size as a guide over the rest of the flock and counting in tens you’ll be able to get your best estimate. It can be a challenge, but it definitely gets easier the more you practise. 

How do I submit a count if I am counting with a group? 

If you are counting in a group please only submit one count per group. There will be an option on the website form and on the app for you to let us know how many people were in your group counting at that particular time. If members of your group then decide to do another count by themselves at a different time, then they can submit those counts separately. 

What if I can’t identify some of the birds? 

There is a Field Guide/Bird Finder built into the app and on the website to help you identify birds. When looking at the bird try to note its size, shape and colour. This will allow the app to give you the most accurate choices. 

We don’t have every single bird in Australia in there, but there are 400 available – and these are the more common ones, so your bird should be in there. 

There are many wonderful field guides available as books or apps – try your local bookstore or even library to get a hold of one. 

If you are still unsure after referring to a field guide, please leave the bird out. 

What if I don’t see many/any birds? 

Don’t worry, we still want to hear from you. We want all counts submitted, even if you didn’t see many birds. This will be the best way for us to get a true representation of the birds around Australia. 

What if I hear a bird but don’t see it? 

If you can accurately ID the bird/s calling, you can include it in your count, even if you don’t see it. If you are unsure, leave it out. 

Can I count birds that fly overhead? 

Yes, but you don’t have to. If you can accurately identify the bird/s that is flying overhead, you can include it in your count. A single bird may be easy to identify, but a flock may have mixed species in it, so be sure that you are able to make a correct ID. Again, if you are unsure leave it out. 

What if I make a mistake when entering my count? 

You can easily fix any mistakes before you submit your counts. Please refer to FAQ ‘How do I delete birds from my count?’ (below). 

Once you have submitted your counts you cannot go back and amend it. Please ensure you double check all your details before you submit your final count. The data is vetted before it is used and any big mistakes will easily stand out and will be corrected before we analyse it. 

How do I delete birds from my counts? 

App – If you are submitting your counts via the app and you wish to delete a bird on your list, just tap the minus button until a pop-up screen appears, this screen will ask if you want to remove that species from your list. 

Website – If you are submitting your counts via the website and you wish to delete a bird on your list, there is a little grey cross next to the bird name; simply click on it to delete. 

Once you have submitted your counts there is no way to amend this data – at the end of the Count we will be vetting the data, and any obvious mistakes will be amended at this time. 

What if I know the name of the bird and I can’t find it in the field guide? 

When selecting the colours of the bird you’ve seen in the field guide, please keep in mind that males, females and juveniles can look very different within a single bird species and are not necessarily represented by the images. Sometimes the colour you have selected is in the text rather than the image of the bird. 

The app Field Guide features just under 400 species even though there are around 800 species of birds in Australia. Be as general as possible when searching. There are some birds that are known colloquially by a different name that may not be their common name. 

  • There is a bird called a Topknot Pigeon – it is white and lives up in the tree-tops. However, a much more common backyard visitor is also called a ‘Topknot but its actual name is the Crested Pigeon 
  • Blue Wren and Jenny Wren= Superb Fairy-wren (east coast) or a Splendid Fairy-wren (WA) 
  • Soldier Birds = Noisy Miners 
  • Ravens are often mistaken for crows and vice versa; be sure to check the field guide to get your ID correct 
  • Fairy Penguin = Little Penguin 
  • Shag = Cormorant (various species) 
  • Fork-tailed Kite = Black Kite 
  • Topknot Pigeon = Crested Pigeon 
  • Cocky = Sulphur-crested Cockatoo 
  • Mopoke or Boobook Owl = Southern Boobook 
  • Mopoke = Tawny Frogmouth 
  • Greeny = White-plumed Honeyeater 
  • Robin Redbreast = Flame Robin, Scarlet Robin 
  • Cranky Fan = Grey Fantail 

I can’t find the answer to my question

If still have a question that hasn’t been answered on this page, please contact us.

Download the Aussie Bird Count app