Scientist exposes threat to backyard bird diversity

October 29, 2007

A leading environmental scientist from the University of Western Sydney has revealed that parrots commonly thought of as native to Sydney, are in fact invaders from inland areas of Australia, and their growing presence is threatening our backyard bird diversity.

Associate Professor Shelley Burgin from the UWS College of Health and Science says this is due to the fashion of planting so called 'native' species in our backyards to encourage wildlife.

"Australians need to be aware that whilst they may think they are helping native wildlife and the environment by planting Australian native plants, there are many plants including cultivated hybrids that are not truly native to Sydney and its surrounding areas," Associate Professor Burgin says.

By planting colourful grevilleas and other cultivated hybrid species in areas where such plants would not naturally grow in the bush, Australians are changing the demographics of our wildlife and encouraging some bird species in favour of others.

"Australians are unwittingly impacting on the living patterns of some parrot species and threatening whole colonies of other species such as heath birds by planting native species that are not indigenous to their local area," Associate Professor Burgin says.

Associate Professor Burgin studied museum records from 100 years ago and found records of only two parrot species - the turquoise parrot and the ground parrot - and a variety of heath birds within 10kms of the Sydney GPO. These birds no longer live in the city because their habitat has been replaced.

Associate Professor Burgin says other parrot species have come to live in suburbia because a habitat and an abundance of supplementary food has been provided for them, both in private gardens and public areas such as parks. This has resulted in increasing numbers of species such as rainbow lorikeets.

"By encouraging these parrots, we now know that we may have inadvertently caused the extinction of native birds that once thrived in Sydney's bushland," Associate Professor Burgin says.

"Other common landscaping 'fashions' such as having an expansive green lawn, encourage magpies and aggressive noisy miners into our backyards - causing them to dramatically increase in numbers and further excluding or dominating other native birds."

While the suburbs of Sydney continue to expand and new housing developments flatten native scrubland and bush, Associate Professor Burgin urges developers and homeowners to think twice before choosing that colourful hybrid grevillea or that expansive green lawn, and instead consider replacing the bushland that has been lost with plants that are truly native to the area.

Source: University of Western Sydney

Explore further: Fire damage to soils sets back bushfire recovery

Related Stories

Fire damage to soils sets back bushfire recovery

August 25, 2015

Soils in areas hit by bushfires like the Sampson Flat fire may take several years to recover, say University of Adelaide soil scientists starting a new study into the effects of bushfires on soils.

River prawns stop disease spread in West Africa

August 25, 2015

The Diama Dam that spans between Senegal and Mauritania in West Africa was intended to improve crop irrigation when it was built in 1986. But while preventing saltwater intrusion, the dam also altered the region's ecology, ...

Bats wake up and smell the coffee

August 19, 2015

A team from the University of Leeds, UK, National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bangalore and Nature Conservation Foundation, Mysore, surveyed bats in the southern Western Ghats, in the first detailed study of the impact ...

Fossil study: Dogs evolved with climate change

August 18, 2015

Old dogs can teach humans new things about evolution. In Nature Communications a new study of North American dog fossils as old as 40 million years suggests that the evolutionary path of whole groups of predators can be a ...

Report finds freshwater life is on the way out

August 17, 2015

The majority of New Zealand's freshwater species are disappearing. That's the message of the Society for Conservation Biology's new report, which two of New Zealand's leading freshwater ecologists Massey University's Dr Mike ...

Recommended for you

Ice sheets may be more resilient than thought

September 3, 2015

Sea level rise poses one of the biggest threats to human systems in a globally warming world, potentially causing trillions of dollars' worth of damages to flooded cities around the world. As surface temperatures rise, ice ...

Long-sought chiral anomaly detected in crystalline material

September 3, 2015

A study by Princeton researchers presents evidence for a long-sought phenomenon—first theorized in the 1960s and predicted to be found in crystals in 1983—called the "chiral anomaly" in a metallic compound of sodium and ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.