The urban birdwatcher’s guide to Sydney

Some of the birdlife you’ll spot in Sydney.

If you’re interested in conservation and love birds, why not take up birdwatching. This gentle pastime is good for the soul. It also helps us and not-for-profit bird conservation organisation BirdLife Australia create better habitats for local species.

Count your local feathered friends for Aussie Backyard Bird Count on 22-28 October.

You can also enjoy our family friendly workshops. These include breakfast with the birds in Sydney Park, a birdlife walk by night, creating habitat for urban wildlife talk, and a habitat garden guided walk.

Look out for these characters

Sydney is fertile stomping ground for both well-known and harder-to-find species. Want a quick intro to some of the quirkier characters you might encounter? Read on, but ornithophobics beware.

The non-traditional-family-forming wren

Although superb fairy-wrens form pairs for life, both sexes are known to have liaisons with other individuals. They also often assist in raising the young from these unions.

The long-haul travellers

Sharp-tailed sandpipers fly all the way from Siberia to gorge on the banks of inland floodplains in Australia. Latham’s snipe flies directly from Japan to take a holiday from its breeding period in our summer months. The small bird with a grandiose name – the Spectacled monarch – comes from Queensland.

The face-readers

Yes, that magpie you’ve been suspecting for having it in for you actually does. If it’s spring, you’re out of luck, as this is their breeding season. Magpies have great facial recognition and that’s why they mob some of us and not others. If you have threatened or scared them, they won’t forgive easily. Cockatoos have excellent facial recognition too.

Encouraging birds and other wildlife through the community Bushcare program.

Birdwatching know-how

Interested in birdwatching, but don’t know where to start? Passionate birdwatcher Camila De Gregorio from design studio Eggpicnic offers her tips:

  1. You don’t need fancy equipment to get started. Borrow your grandpa’s old explorer binoculars or find some in an op shop.
  2. Use bird guides to identify species. Try BirdLife Australia’s search. Another great app is the Michael Morcombe and David Stewart eGuide to Birds of Australia.
  3. You can start birding from your own backyard. You’d be surprised how many birds we walk past every day without even noticing. The best time for birding is early in the morning.

Sydney Park wetlands. Image: Paul Patterson

Best spots in Sydney

  1. Sydney Park: Thanks to a recent $11.2 million upgrade of the stormwater harvesting system, the park has seen an increase in habitat areas for much of its birdlife. There’ve been recent sightings of a black swan and migratory birds, such as Latham’s snipe and sharp-tailed sandpipers. The wetlands, trees, and gardens attract a wide array of birds.
  2. The Royal Botanic Gardens and Mrs Macquaries Road: This is where you’ll find waterbirds like Australasian darters and cormorants. Also, keep your eyes peeled for a powerful owl.
  3. Alexandra Canal: Interestingly, the Alexandra Canal – a pretty industrial waterway – makes for a good spotting. Walk along the canal and keep your eyes and ears open. You’ll be able to spot or hear something.

Residential balconies and office windows can be surprisingly rewarding lookouts too. “There have been a few sightings of peregrine falcons near Chifley Square in the city centre,” says Sophie Golding, Urban Ecology Coordinator for the City of Sydney.

Spotted Pardalote. Image: Jeff Byron

Record your sightings and help conservation efforts

Bird lovers in Sydney can help conservation efforts by joining the Aussie Backyard Bird Count on 22-28 October. It’s one of Australia’s biggest citizen science projects and you can take part from your local park or backyard. All you need to do is download the app and set aside 20 minutes to sticky beak, noting where birds live in our city and what habitat they like. The data collected will assist BirdLife Australia in understanding more about the birds that live where people live.

Red-browed finch. Image: Nevil Lazarus

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