What you need to know

Bird is the word

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Up there in the sky!

Is it a bird?

Is it a plane?

It’s a…actually, it’s a bird.

During the lockdown of 2020, many people became more interested in birdwatching.

There is an abundance of feathered wildlife to spot and enjoy watching in our part of the world. And it costs nothing!

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1. Abundance

You can see a lot of different birds in a short period of time. This is one local’s list of the 47 species he observed on Steele Creek Trail in two hours on a recent morning. Amazing!

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2. Those crows aren’t actually crows

You know those glossy black birds most of us call crows? They are actually Little Ravens, a species of Corvid (which thankfully has nothing to do with Covid). They are known as the problem-solvers of the bird world because of their ingenious use of tools.

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3. You can watch the same birds for years

Local birdwatching legend Anna has been observing a pair of Peregrine Falcons at Valley Lake for at least five years. They recently fledged four chicks, and have now taken them down the creek to learn to hunt.

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4. Predatory birds are easier to spot in areas where they can hunt

There is a pair of eagles which can be observed from Lily Street Lookout in Essendon West. They use the old munitions site for nesting.

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5. Make friends with magpies

We are so used to hearing horror stories about magpies swooping that we can overlook their endearing qualities. Magpies are the puppy dogs of the sky because they love to play rough and tumble games and their own version of hide and seek. Their warbling and songs create a language as complex as that of a three-year-old child.

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6. Wetlands birds are a delight

Head to any of our wetlands to see birds that thrive there, and you may be lucky enough to spot an elusive Buff-banded Rail (above) or a Hard-head Duck. Rosehill wetlands will provide better bird-watching in a year or two, but species are plentiful at Afton Street Conservation Reserve, Ascot Chase and Woodlands Park.

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7. Know your pigeons

Next time you see a pigeon, check whether or not it has a punk-style hairdo. Many of the pigeons we see are introduced, but the Crested Pigeon is native. It has a crest like a mohawk.

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8. Fishing is not just for humans

There are four kinds of cormorants that fish on the Maribyrnong River. You can occasionally see all of the varieties sitting on the wire that stretches across the river near Poyntons Nursery.

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9. Birds are a great indicator of a healthy environment

Remember the way that canaries were used by coalminers? Observing the birds that are in our environment is a great way of checking on the health of urban areas. For example, the Red-breasted Robin is usually only seen in places where natural flight corridors are maintained. Swift Parrots (above) use Moonee Valley as a flight corridor on their migration. You might see one on the mast of the Montgomery Park pirate ship.

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10. Kookaburras and Yellow-Tailed Black Cockatoos may be returning

There are unconfirmed reports that these iconic species are back in Moonee Valley after an absence of several years. The old river redgums in Thomson Street Reserve, Avondale Heights, might be a good place to find them. Our conservation team would love to hear if you spot these birds locally.

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11. Hitting the jackpot

Everyone’s favourite bird is different, but most locals who come across a Nankeen Night Heron (above), a Sacred Kingfisher, a Powerful Owl, or an Australasian Bittern feel like they are glimpsing something special.

Check out the Birdlife site and consider getting involved in their bird survey. This table shows participation in the 2020 Backyard Bird Count:

2020 backyard bird count participation

To encourage native birds to your garden, plant a couple of local native shrubs like grevilleas or correas and put a bird bath in between. No need to feed them – just sit back and enjoy the show!

Thanks to Milly and Michelle from our Conservation team for pulling together the information, and Anna for her brilliant photos.

Learn more about our local environment here.