Who rules Australian skies? Millions of birds counted in attempt to halt extinctions

What bird is that? Myna versus miner

Source: Birdlife Australia

When you think of Australian birds, kookaburras or cockatoos are likely the first to come to mind – but a colourful parrot is reported to be a far more common sight in our skies and backyards.

The results of the 10th annual Aussie Bird Count announced this week revealed the rainbow lorikeet was the bird most commonly seen in Australian skies since October.

The result comes after more than 60,000 people across the country looked up to tally more than 3.6 million birds.

This is not the first time the rainbow lorikeet has been found to rule our skies.

When the Aussie Bird Count was first held in 2014, the rainbow lorikeet came in as first according to reports by the 9000 bird counters who took 20 minutes out of their week to do a survey in the places where they lived, worked or played.

The results for the second and third most-common birds remain similarly unchanged over the past decade; those titles belong to the noisy miner and Australian magpie, respectively, in 2014 and 2024.

Over years, only one bird has climbed into the top 10 – our much-maligned bin chickens, the Australian white ibis, at the expense of the introduced common myna.

BirdLife Australia spokesperson Sean Dooley said if the Aussie Bird Count was conducted back in the 1950s or even the 1990s, the top 10 would look quite different.

“Birds tell us a lot about the environment we live in,” he said.

“In the past, there were few ongoing chances for long-term study of how populations of our most common birds are faring … One thread linking the most successful birds that have been recorded living in the places where we live, is that they tend to be bolder, more aggressive species with a broad, generalist diet.

“We are picking up a decline in reporting rates of smaller, more specialist bush birds that were once fairly common garden birds such as Silvereyes and fairywrens.”

In total, 597 different bird species were recorded during the most recent Aussie Bird Count.

New South Wales led the count with more than one million birds, followed closely by Victoria with 846,890 and Queensland with 872,204.

But per capita, Tasmanians were the keenest to count birds, followed by the ACT, Northern Territory and Queensland.

Although the majority of participants counted birds in their own backyards, surveys came in from across the country including remote locations such as outback South Australia and offshore territories such as Christmas Island and Norfolk Island.

Regionally, the top three birds varied across states and territories; while rainbow lorikeets reigned supreme in NSW, Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia, the magpie goose ruled the skies in the NT.

Insights from the Aussie Bird Count help BirdLife Australia shape its broader Bird Conservation Strategy, which aims to halt bird extinctions by 2032 and overall bird declines by 2050.

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