The Australian Bird Feeding & Watering Study

Why are we interested in what you are feeding birds?

Every day, throughout Australia, thousands of sincerely concerned people provide food and/or water for birds without advice or guidance and many worry about whether they may be harming the birds they care deeply about. It is estimated that over 50% of Australian households are involved in some kind of bird feeding, although this percentage may well be higher. Due to the controversy surrounding bird feeding,there is little research and consequently limited scientifically sound advice available for Australia. Almost all information from other countries regarding bird feeding simply does not apply here.

Why are we interested in what birds visit feeders or use bird baths?

For the simple reason that we do not know a lot about what birds are consuming food or using birdbaths! Despite being one of the most common additions to any bird-friendly garden, there is no scientific research out there on what uses them. We are going to look at which bird species are consuming food and visiting birdbaths to drink from and/or bathe in.

What do I need to do to take part?

If you have already registered with Gráinne Cleary for Bathing Birds, your user account information and sighting record has been saved and migrated to our new platform. Simply visit the Forgot Passwords page and enter your email address to have your new password sent to you.

For new users signing up couldn’t be easier. Simply follow the Sign-Up link on our home page to create an account and get started!

If you have any trouble signing up or getting into your old account, visit our account help page for more information, or to fill out a help request.

What do I need to do after I have registered?

Once you are registered you can begin setting up your bird bath and/or feeder.

Set up your bird bath and/or feeders

Use the bird bath/feeder wizard to set up the location of your bath/feeder and mark it on the map. Every sighting you record will be a part of a 20 minute survey on either your selected birdbath or feeder. Once you have selected your birdbath and/or feeder for the study, it is locked in for the duration of the project.

Answer questions about the garden your bird bath/feeder is in

Add information about your birdbaths and feeders and answer some questions about them and garden composition.

Answer contributor questions

We have designed a set of questions about you, your garden, your interactions with birds and your motivation for providing food or water. This will help us to understand what drives your participation to help ensure the ongoing success of citizen science projects like this in the future. The more complete our data is about your birdbaths, feeders, garden composition and survey information, the more context we can build around your sightings, enabling us to tell more with the data you collect. So please do take your time with this setup information!

Will other people be able to see my location once I set it up?

Only you will see the location of your own garden. Information about where you live and the composition of your garden will not be shared with the public. We plan to use this information to help explain or predict what birds are visiting feeders/baths. By knowing what your garden is like, we can try to understand why birds might be visiting. If you have any questions or concerns about data privacy, please feel free to contact us.

I have numerous bird feeders/tables and/or birdbaths – which one do I monitor?

This project allows monitoring of 1 birdbath and/or 1 feeder. Many of our citizen scientists will have multiple feeders and/or birdbaths, so our advice is to pick the one that is most convenient for you. A bird feeder/bath located in an area that maximises your view of the birds and maintains your normal interaction with the feeder and/or birdbath is ideal.

Can I change which bird bath/feeder I am monitoring during the study?

No, we need you to monitor the same bird bath/feeder for the duration of the Study. This is required to keep consistency in the data you are collecting from survey to survey.

What weather conditions should I monitor my bird feeder/bath in?

We would like you to monitor your feeder/bath during dry mild/warm days. Please avoid rainy and windy days.

I have a pond that acts as my birdbath – can I monitor the birds using it?

Yes you can! For this project, ponds are considered birdbaths.

When should I monitor my bird feeder/bath and for how long?

To help us standardise our Study, we would like you to record what birds visit your feeder/birdbath for 20 minutes period, 3 times a week. We know your time is precious and if you are only able to monitor your bath once a week that is OK! The reason we ask for 3 times a week is because it makes for a more robust and well-designed research project. The more data we can get from you the better, so ideally it would be great if you could monitor your feeders/baths 3 times a week.

When do I start my 20 minutes survey?

You can start your 20 minute survey either when you see a bird using your feeder/bath, or when you have a spare 20 minutes to see if birds arrive. If you watch for 20 minutes and do not see any birds visit this is still important information so please click on ‘no sightings this survey’. You can elect to do your survey in the morning or afternoon but only do 1 survey a day (e.g. you could do a morning survey on Monday and an afternoon survey on a Wednesday).

What if I only get “boring” birds visiting?

We still want to know – this is very important to us! To get an accurate picture of what is going on we need records of the common birds and even the introduced birds like common (Indian) mynas and house sparrows that visit your baths or feeders.

I’m not great with computers, will this be difficult?

Not at all! We’re doing our very best to ensure that everybody will be able to participate, by streamlining and simplifying the process as much as possible. Entering your garden details and your bird sightings onto our data portal is quite intuitive. If you need additional support at any stage just flick us an email!

Why does it matter what type of birdbath I have?

There are many different types of birdbaths people use, such as pedestal baths, hanging baths and even saucepan and pots! We are interested in finding out if there is a preference for a particular type of bath by different birds.

Why do you want to know what type of feeder I have?

Like different types of birdbaths, different type of feeders may influence what birds visit them. Do different birds use a tube feeder to birds that use bird tables or do different birds come when food is scattered on the ground compared to food hung on a tree?

Why do I need to tell you about what food I have provided at the start of each survey?

We need to know this as it may determine or influence the birds that visit your feeder during the survey. For example do different birds visit when seed is provided compared to bread. We don’t know so let’s find out!

Why are you asking questions about my garden?

We are asking questions about your garden as the garden structure and types of plants can influence what birds might visit your garden. For example, research has found that nectar-feeding birds (e.g. honeyeaters) appear to be more common in gardens that have prolific-flowering plants (e.g. Grevillea species) while many insect-eaters (e.g. superb fairy-wrens) may be at a disadvantage. However there is currently a shortage of data supporting these ideas and we need your help to fill in the gaps!

Why are you asking about pets in my garden?

Apart from the choice of garden structure and the plant species we grow, we can also modify the environment for birds in many other ways such as the presence of pets. If you have pets that have access to your garden we want to understand how their presence might affect birds visiting baths.

Why are you asking if I scrub and rinse my bath/feeder and how often I replace the water/food?

We are asking this question to understand if people maintain their baths/feeders, to what extent they do and how frequently. This will help us understand hygiene around baths and feeders may even help us understand about a risk of disease spread.