Citizen Science: Birdata

It’s National Science Week and time to think about Citizen Science!

I really enjoy doing Citizen Science and there are many different projects that you can join in to assist science in general but the science of nature in particular! My favourites are Birdata, iNaturalist and Questagame but over the years I have got addicted to a few other Citizen Science projects. The Zooniverse Numbat Discovery project comes to mind! I am not sure whether I reviewed hundreds or thousands of photos for that one!

Birdata is probably the one that I have been involved with the longest. My first survey entry for Birdata was on 13 February 1999. Since then I have submitted 1,649 surveys or about 75 bird surveys per year. I would hate to think how many surveys I could have submitted if I had entered a survey ever single time I go bird watching!!! Lots of lost data there!

The Curlew Sandpiper has has been recognised as a Critcically Endangered species in Australia thanks to Birdata surveys documenting the decline in their numbers over the past 30 years. While this is no reason to celebrate, its important to recognise declines so that conservation actions can be prioritised.

Birdata is for documenting birds in Australia. There are international citizen science project such as eBird and iNaturalist that can be used to document birds you have seen in Australia as well as other countries. However, the survey types in Birdata such as 20 minute 2 hectare surveys make it particularly useful for scientists.

Carnaby’s Black Cockatoo is a local and endangered species that benefits from Birdata surveys.

The reason for entering the survey data into Birdata is to contribute to Australian bird science. Australian scientists use the data to provide insights into our Australian bird species and to conserve them. All of the projects undertaken by BirdLife Australia rely on the surveys submitted to Birdata. One particularly important one that encompasses all Australian bird species is the State of Australian Birds project. But other scientists from Universities, Museums and other groups also can access the data and use it in their research and conservation projects.

The data is documenting species declines, species recoveries, changes due to Climate Change, and a lot more!

The change in the Red-tailed Black-cockatoos local distribution in Perth due to a massive fire in the Perth hills was documented with Birdata.

One interesting thing you can do with Birdata is to explore the data to work out where to find species that you have never seen before. This is particularly useful if you are visiting a region you haven’t been to before to see how many lifers are awaiting you there!

Australian Raven
Australian Raven are very common in Perth and surrounding areas.

Its also interesting to see the statistics of your own and everyone elses data entry! I am not surprised to find that the bird I have added to the most surveys is the Australian Raven! These are very common birds in the greater southwest of Australia where I do most of my birdwatching. As are my number two and three: Australian Magpie and Red Wattlebird. Across the nation with everyone who contributes data, the Australian Magpie is number one, Magpie-Lark number two and Willie Wagtail is number three!

Australian Magpie
The Australian Magpie is a very common species throughout Perth.

At the other end of the tally sheet are a bit of a who’s who of vagrant birds I have recorded on Birdata or less common species from other states of Australia that I haven’t spent much time in.

This vagrant Sabine’s Gull at Bremer Bay January 2019 was a lifer and the only record in my Birdata of this species.

If you spend time birdwatching, then I encourage you to start a Birdata account and start documenting the birds you see. Perhaps make a pledge this National Science Week to do a Birdata survey or part take in another Citizen Science project!

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