Look Up - migration time is upon us

In our backyards its tempting to think that we have 'our' birds, ones that are a regular sight in our garden day in day out. And in some cases that is true, a lot of Australian birds are sedentary or at least nomadic (moving around the landscape in response to what resources e.g. flowering Eucalypts are available). However as we head into Autumn there are a lot of native birds on the move and if you simply look up you may witness something extraordinary!

Some birds on the move at this time of year include:

  • Migratory waders - these birds aren't just ducking up to their holiday house in Noosa, there are 37 species of migratory waders that are heading to their breeding grounds around 8000km away in places like Siberia. All along their flyway (Australia and through SE Asia), birds like the Eastern Curlew and Bar-tailed Godwit face threats like habitat destruction for port expansions and development and populations of these birds are down by up to 70%. Now is a critical time for these birds, they are feeding frantically trying to put on weight for their epic trip. If you do see shorebirds along your local river or lake, don't approach them or let dogs chase them. Allow them to forage undisturbed. They have a long way to go!
  • Eastern Koels and Channel-billed Cuckoos - they are not particularly popular summer visitors along the east coast of Australia, but these noisy cuckoos are now leaving our towns and cities and heading north, going up towards Indonesia and New Guinea for the winter and giving our ears (and their host birds) a rest for a few months.
  • Rainbow Bee-eaters - these gorgeous birds are found throughout much of Australia (excluding Tasmania). Over summer they are found across the southern states, but Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney aare about to say goodbye to them as they make their trip up to northern Australia, New Guinea and the southern parts of Indonesia.
  • Yellow-faced honeyeaters (amongst others) - a huge number of nectar feeders, honeyeaters and insectivores are about to form a big movement! After finishing breeding in the southern parts of the country, Yellow-faced honeyeaters, White-naped honeyeaters and birds such as Silvereyes, Pardalotes and Wattlebirds head along the east coast, particularly following the Great Dividing Range on their way to wintering grounds throughout South East Queensland. It is a spectacular event to witness in the Blue Mountains of NSW where up to 50000 birds have been counted flying overhead. You don't need to be in the bush though to witness this. In the suburbs of our towns and cities along the east coast (and even in the middle of the CBD in Sydney), large numbers of birds can be seen hopscotching from tree to tree (at my place in Wollongong I have seen groups of up to 100 honeyeaters at a time). This event will be starting shortly, and continues throughout April and into May. Keep an ear out for contact calls or pipping (especially mid to late morning) and look up, you may get a pleasant surprise!

So keep watch and take note of how the birds visiting you changes throughout the year. Better yet - tell us too! Complete a Birds in Backyards survey once a season to share your sightings with us.

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