“Small birds take flight”

To: Birding-aus <>
Subject: “Small birds take flight”
From: Jack Shapiro <>
Date: Tue, 6 Sep 2005 09:23:25 +1000
The letter to the editor of The Sydney Morning Herald, attached below is of interest to “Birding Aus”-ers.
“Small birds take flight”
Sydney Morning Herald, Letters to Editor, 5 September, 2005

Thanks to the Herald for high-lighting the loss of little birds in the inner-city gardens (“back-yard twitchers a big help to little birds”, September 3-4).

When we moved into our Balmain cottage in 1976 there were blue wrens, white plumed honeyeaters, silvereyes, little wattle birds, bulbuls, and cuckoo-shrikes. Gradually over the years, each species has slowly disappeared. Long gone are days when we would be startled by a blue wren colliding with its own reflection in our glass doors.

Now all we get are currawongs, butcher birds (heard but never seen), lorikeets (fleetingly), and native (not Indian) noisy miner-semi resident and in plague proportions. We don’t see sparrows any more. All we have to look forward to now is the arrival of the migratory but dismal koel from North Queensland. We have plenty of bushes and shrubs for small birds to nest and feed in, but-although a friend claims that after a few years the miners will move on- I doubt the little birds that used to nest and visit will ever return.

Tony Barrel, Balmain
Like several other councils, mine- North Sydney Council actively
encourages the planting of native trees and shrubs in backyards, to promote the return of small birds. The expectation is the same as expressed by Tony Barrel, above.

The one ingredient, missing out in the councils planning is the emphasis on the essential need for a continuity of bushland across back yards, to create a large security corridor where little birds can move through in safety. Habitat loss, fragmentation and degradation have been a subject of ornithological research in Australia and abroad (see David Lindenmayer publications of ANU, and others), and should be publicised. Proximity to bushland to backyard is also a great help, and research has shown that the size and breadth of the bushland corridors is also important.

Like Tony Barrel, I had converted part of my backyard to native vegetation. While no small birds are to be seen, I enjoy an occasional visit by other birds than those mentioned above, like Crimson Rosellas, King Parrots, Twany Frogmouths, Kookaburras, Sulphur-crested Cockatoos, and Crested Pigeons, Channel-billed Cuckoos, but unfortunately also by Indian Mynahs.

There is one example, within the Northern Sydney Area, where the planting of native plants (flowing the clearing of weeds and exotic plants) has successfully brought about the return of small birds (Red-browed Finches, Superb Blue-wren) is Flat Rock Reserve. The North Sydney Council effort should be commended for this super effort, which is on-going.

Councils should be encourage to create the necessary continuum of bushland of suburban back yards, if progress is to be made in reversing the loss of small birds in back yards.

Any comments would be appreciated.

Jack Shapiro

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