Frequently Asked Questions
How do I take part in the Aussie Backyard Bird Count (ABBC)?
There are two ways to take part in the ABBC:
1. You can submit your bird count through the online web form, just click on ‘Submit a Count’ at the top of this page. Please note: the form will be available to view and use from Monday, October 15; giving you time to get familiar with it before the event officially starts on Monday, 22 October.
2. You can submit your checklists through the Aussie Bird Count app. If you have the Aussie Bird Count app from previous years don’t delete it, it should update automatically with the newest version (on October 1). If you haven’t downloaded the app and you have an iPhone/iPad or Android, head to the Google Play or iTunes app store and download the app for free. The full version of the app will be available from 1 October – November 5. In between events, the app operates as a field-guide/bird finder.
I am unable to download the app
You can only download the Aussie Bird Count app to your smartphone or tablet and only on Apple or Android, you can’t download the app to your computer or windows phone. If you would like to participate in the Aussie Backyard Bird Count via your computer you can submit your counts directly through the website, just click on ‘Submit a Count’ at the top of this page.
The website won’t display properly?
The website will not display properly on the website browser Internet Explorer 8 or older. We suggest trying a different browser or updating your current browser.
Who’s behind the ABBC?
BirdLife Australia and its Birds in Backyards Program have come together to create the Aussie Backyard Bird Count. BirdLife Australia has been Australia’s voice for birds since 1901. We are the country’s largest, independent, not-for-profit bird conservation organisation. With our specialised knowledge and the commitment of our extensive network of members, volunteers and supporters we are creating a bright future for Australia’s native birds.
How will the information from the ABBC be used?
By participating in the Aussie Backyard Bird Count, you will be helping BirdLife Australia find out about the common species that live where people live. Providing us with a snapshot of Australian birds at the same time each year allows us to look at the trends in our bird communities from year to year. This is important because it’s these more common species that give us the best indication of the health of the environment – think of birds as a barometer for nature!
Why is the ABBC in October?
Spring is the season when birds are more lively and visible. They begin nesting, breeding and flocking and generally appear more playful. Thousands of migrant birds return to our shores in spring as well. For these reasons it is also National Bird Week, a tradition that started back in the early 1900s when 28 October was first designated by our predecessor, the Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union, as the first ‘Bird Day’.
I don’t have a backyard, can I still take part?
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.
How long should I count birds?
Ideally, we would like you 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. However, we want everyone to have a chance to participate, so if you can’t count for 20 minutes you will still be able to submit a checklist. Naturally, we want everyone to head outside, enjoy the birds and take part.
Can I complete my count while I am on a walk?
People can walk quite a distance in 20 minutes! We would prefer that each 20-minute count is done from a central point and all birds counted are within a (maximum) 80m radius or an area of approximately 100m x 200m. If you are going on a long walk you could always do a count before you start your walk and another at the end of your walk.
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.
Can I submit more than one checklist?
Yes, you can participate as many times as you like and we would love you to submit multiple checklists. Keep in mind a separate checklist will need to be submitted for each 20-minute count, and each time you change location.
How do I submit a checklist if I am counting with a group?
If you are counting in a group please only submit one checklist 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, we would like them to submit checklists for any additional counts.
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 checklists 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 checklist?
You can easily fix any mistakes before you submit your checklist. Please refer to FAQ ‘How do I delete birds from my checklist’ (below).
Once you have submitted your checklist 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 checklist?
App – If you are submitting your checklist 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 checklist 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 checklist 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