Study Finds Kookaburra Populations Are On A Sharp Decline In Australian Cities

The kookaburra is an Australian icon, recognized by children around the world from the classic nursery rhyme “Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree.” Despite their high regard and recognition, their populations are experiencing a sharp decline in urban areas throughout Australia.

A recent study has found kookaburra populations are declining rapidly and there are some key reasons why.

The study was published in the journal Biological Conservation and titled, “Big changes in backyard birds: An analysis of long-term changes in bird communities in Australia’s most populous urban regions.”

Photo: flickr/NAPARAZZI

The peer-reviewed study relied on citizen science data to look at the diversity of bird species across Greater Sydney, Greater Melbourne, Greater Perth, and Greater Brisbane.

According to ABC News, study author Carly Campbell of Griffith University said, “We have found that a lot of these species that we consider ‘common’ might not necessarily be as common as we thought anymore. Iconic species such as the galah and kookaburra have declined in prevalence in urban areas.”

Photo: flickr/Steve Bittinger

The study also found that urban areas had an increase in aggressive birds, such as the noisy miner.

It’s believed that the reason for the changes in bird populations is due to the changes in urban habitats. The kookaburra decline, for example, is likely a result of reduced nesting options and food sources. When people limit the trees and plants in their yards in favor of grassy lawns, they often limit the resources for wild animals, like the kookaburra.

Photo: Raw Pixel

Some species thrive with limited resources though, like the noisy miner. The noisy miner can use the lack of trees and plants in yards and urban spaces to keep an eye on its territory and scare other species away. The increase in noisy miner populations further pushes the decrease in other bird populations, since the aggressive noisy miner is known to fend other birds off.

The study highlights the role that individuals and communities can play in keeping the diversity of bird species in suburbs and urban areas alive and thriving.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

According to ABC News, Campbell said: “Think about our backyards and the spaces we look after as a place for wildlife as well. Often that comes down to picking the right species of plants for our backyard and that’s making sure we have a variety of different types of plants. Not just the ones that have beautiful showy flowers, but ones that can also provide a habitat for smaller birds as well, such as some dense shrubs and structural complexity.”

Local governments and individuals can help push for landscapes that promote diversity and possibly help save birds like the kookaburra from disappearing from urban landscapes altogether.

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