Sources of local bird info

To: <>
Subject: Sources of local bird info
From: "Geoffrey Dabb" <>
Date: Sun, 20 Nov 2005 09:19:40 +1100
Questions about local birds are often raised on this chatline, and no doubt
there are a lot of other questions out there that are not asked.  This
suggests to me that it might be useful to list here the published sources of
information that are most useful for reference purposes.  I am not covering
here the various field guides to Australian birds. I am sure that all
chatlist members will have at least one of these.  the following is in rough
form, because it would not be done if I was going to lay out full publishing


1.  The Taylor/Day 'Field Guide to the Birds of the ACT'.  This little
booklet is excellent and convenient to use.  'Rareness' info is handy for
beginners.  Illustrations are fairly comprehensive and non-illustrated
rarities are listed.

2.  Steve Wilson's 'Birds of the ACT - Two centuries of change' summarises
the status of birds on the ACT list.

3.  The COG list of ACT birds is based on Steve Wilson's book, giving only
abbreviated labels.  There is some unevenness in the use of the labels.
Find this on the COG website behind the Brown Goshawk icon.

4.  'Birds of the ACT - an Atlas' of 1992, edited by McComas Taylor, was the
result of surveys between 1986 and 1989.  Although the quantitative info
(including graphs) is limited to the data input from that period, it remains
a useful quick guide to seasonal occurrence in the ACT.

5.  'Birds of the Canberra Region - Field List' was - for that matter still
is - a useful pocket guide to seasonal occurrence in the COG area, reaching
a 4th edition in 1993 before being discontinued.

6.  COG's 'Birds of Canberra Gardens' has been a good seller and gives info
about garden birds drawn from the garden bird surveys (GBS).  Unfortunately
the photos, which should have been its strong point, have an underexposed
look due to weaknesses in the printing process.

7.  Philip Veerman's privately published 'Reports' on the GBS contain much
fuller info and should be consulted by anyone wanting to know the chances of
seeing a particular species in or near the suburbs.  The second edition
analyses 21 years of GBS data, an excellent foundation on which to draw.

8. Do not overlook COG's 'Annual Bird Reports', published as part of
Canberra Bird Notes.  Chronic underreporting makes these less comprehensive
than they should be in theory - but they make a useful checklist and will
let you know if you have see something unusual - or that should be reported!

9.  If you are interested in the ranges of marginal Canberra species you
might want to take a look at the maps in the BA Atlas based on the 1998-2002
surveys.  Field guides are likely to base their own diagrammatic maps on
this work.  (Other atlas info will be available online, but this is beyond
the scope of this note.)

10.  I should mention 'Birds in the Australian High Country' (1969), the
work of a group of Canberra-based professional ornithologists. This, once
regarded as 'Canberra's bird book', is frequently available second-hand, and
is still useful.

If you want information on sub-species and their ranges, you should go to
the 'Directory of Australian Birds' (Dick Schodde and Ian Mason) - only vol
1 (Passerines) available as yet.


Breeding info is included in most of the above-mentioned sources.

Questions are sometimes asked along the lines "I saw an X doing Y.  Is this
behaviour "unusual"?'

Beyond what has appeared in 'Canberra Bird Notes' or might be gleaned from
the archives of this chatline, there is no systematic publication of
information on behaviour of Canberra birds specifically.  Nor should there
be.  It has not been suggested that the stresses of Canberra cause any
particularly distinctive behaviour, at least among birds..

Probably the most fruitful course will be to consult a copy of
HANZAB (the final volume of which is now awaited).  This work is a dump, in
severely abbreviated form, of virtually all the information on Australian
bird species that anyone has ever bothered to 'report' (ie record
retrievably) - up to the cut-off date for the relevant volume.

For species not yet covered in HANZAB, the 10-volume series organised around
the National Photographic Index of Australian Wildlife remains a useful
summary of basic information.

For their particular subjects, the Gordon Beruldsen handbook on nests and
eggs (2003 ed available) and the Barker/Vestjens vols on 'Food' might
provide the information sought.

               Geoffrey Dabb
email    :   
ph/fax   :   02 6295 3449

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