Counting on birdwatchers for nation-wide big white bird count

People all over Australia are being asked to help count some of our most loved and misunderstood big white birds in partnership with the Aussie Backyard Bird Count during National Bird Week.

Sulphur crested cockatoo (Cacatua galerita)

From October 17-23 citizen scientists are invited to participate in the annual Australian white ibis and sulphur-crested cockatoo census coordinated by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS).

Dr John Martin, Wildlife Ecologist for the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney, said the survey aims to better understand the numbers of these native birds, where they breed and the habitats they use across Australia.

“People normally have a good knowledge of their local areas so they can help us by reporting the number of ibis and cockies they observe in their favourite outdoor space,” Dr Martin said. 

“Reporting your sightings through the Aussie Backyard Bird Count app is an easy way you can help us determine if current management practices are working.

“Although we are specifically interested to get a more accurate assessment of the ibis and cockatoo populations, the survey asks participants to report all of the species they encounter and the app can assist with bird ID,” Dr Martin said. 

Cockatoos and ibis are native to Australia and have both increased in numbers along the coast over the last 40 years in response to drought and changes to the inland woodlands and wetlands.

“Both species have made an incredible adaptation to living within close proximity to humans and have even altered their diet to include hand-outs such as bread,” Dr Martin said.

“The ibis survey began in 2003, since that time more than 2000 ibis have been colour-banded and wing-tagged to enable us to learn more about their movement behaviour.

“They have been recorded moving 30 kilometres between daily foraging sites, with fledglings found to move from Sydney to as far away as Townsville, 2500 kilometres north.

“Since 2011, a similar study has wing-tagged cockatoos at the Royal Botanic Garden in Sydney and from this it appears that the cockies have only moved within 30 kilometres,” Dr Martin said.

In previous years volunteers have counted birds in wetlands and parks from Tweed to Dubbo to Albury and it is hoped the coverage will increase this year.

Participants can submit their data to aussiebirdcount.org.au, the Aussie Bird Count app or through the white ibis survey and cockatoo survey.

Photos for media: Counting on Birdwatchers

Australian white ibis reports

Contact: Vanessa Fuchs