In the backyard with… Holly Parsons

Holly is the Program Manager and has been involved in Birds in Backyards on and off since it began back in 1999. She has always had an interest in birds and ecology which led her to the field of avian urban ecology at University. Her Honours research at the University of Wollongong was the first research module undertaken by Birds in Backyards and involved a large community survey of backyard birds in the Greater Sydney region. Since those early days Holly has gone on to complete her PhD looking at the impact of urbanisation on Superb Fairy-wrens and, while she still loves doing ecological research, she has moved into the environmental education field by managing Birds in Backyards.

When did you discover your passion/interest in birds?

Like lots of people, my interest started in childhood. My dad wasn’t strictly a birder but loves birds and wildlife so was always pointing things out to us. We had birds as pets too, my first pet was a canary I named Jenny (after my best friend in kindy). While I had an interest I wouldn’t say it was a full passion until I was at uni, I did some bird surveys as part of my undergrad and stumbled across a bird project in my Honours year. Then I was well and truly hooked. I’m so lucky that my job allows me to revel in my love of birds.

Which Australian bird is your favourite and why?

Everyone who knows me knows about my obsession with Superb Fairy-wrens. I did my PhD on them (and strangely enough am still not sick of them). To me it isn’t the ‘cute’ factor with them – it’s that there is actually more to them than just that. They have such a fascinating social life – playing happy families, all the while the male is out trying to pick up other ladies, and the female is being visited by neighouring males (then she is sneaking out before dawn to find her favourite neighbour). They are what we call socially monogamous. I love that term – it’s all very Bold and the Beautiful!

My slightly newer obsession is with Powerful Owls. They are such an impressive sight – big, of course powerful and they look at you with what I would describe as total disinterest and even disdain. They know they are the top of the food chain. They are also a threatened species – yet one that is living more and more frequently in our east coast cities. Everything about them says that they shouldn’t be an urban bird – yet they are!

Where will you be doing the #AussieBirdCount?

Where ever I can! Definitely at home – my backyard bird list is actually really unexciting – but those unexciting birds are just as important to the count as the rarer ones. I will also sneak in a few counts at the local park while I chase after my toddler. She is turning into quite a little bird watcher so I will rope her in as well.

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