Pigeons and rodents on the menu for hungry raptors

You may want to look to the skies before letting your pet rabbit or guinea pig out of its hutch for a stroll around the backyard.

A surprising number of Powerful Owls, Black Kites, Wedge-tailed Eagles, and other birds of prey (known as raptors), have been recorded in urban spaces by participants in BirdLife Australia’s Aussie Backyard Bird Count over the past four years.

BirdLife Australia is anticipating a rise in reports of raptors in this year’s Aussie Bird Count -  from October 22-28 - due to the impact of the drought driving birds from the parched countryside into our cities and suburbs.

Over the past four years 27 out of Australia’s 34 raptor species have been spotted in capital cities. 

BirdLife Australia is encouraging all Australians to “look up” when they are doing their bird counts because you never know what you might see. 

“We expect it to be a really interesting year for bird watchers in urban areas with the drought driving raptors and other inland birds into our cities and towns in search of food,”  BirdLife Australia’s chief bird nerd Sean Dooley said. 

“We have already had reports of higher than usual numbers of raptors such as Barn Owls and Black-shouldered Kites moving towards the coast this winter. 

‘‘It will be fascinating to see how much of a drought refuge our urban areas will become for birds that can no longer successfully hunt out in the countryside due to the ravages the drought has inflicted on their prey.

‘‘This year it’s more important than ever for people to look up into the sky and see what unusual birds are making homes in the city”.

Data collected by citizen scientists for BirdLife Australia’s State of Our Birds Report shows that nearly all our raptor species are on the decline in rural areas across most of Australia with some of our formerly most common species such as the Southern Boobook Owl and the Brown Goshawk showing a disturbing drop in numbers.

“On the one hand our urban areas can provide a refuge for hungry raptors as they are better watered and have a higher number of the birds’ prey such as rodents and pigeons, but on the other hand city life can be far more dangerous as they face the threats of vehicle strike, collisions with buildings, overhead powerlines and poisoning from pesticides,” Mr Dooley said.

In order to count more than two million birds in seven days, BirdLife Australia is calling on all Australians to join the count during National Bird Week and to encourage their friends and family to join in and discover the birds in their backyards too.

In 2017, Australian birdwatchers recorded more than 578 species, with the Rainbow Lorikeet, Noisy Miner and Australian Magpie remaining Australia’s most counted birds. 

The count saw more than 72,000 nature-loving Australians taking time out from their busy schedules to count more than 1.9 million birds. 

The new, updated Aussie Bird Count app (available now from aussiebirdcount.org.au) allows you to take part anywhere—not just backyards, but in local parks, botanical gardens, schoolyards or beaches—wherever you might see birds.

The national total will be updated in real time, and the app allows you to see which species are being seen in your local area.

Start spreading the word with #AussieBirdCount