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What are you … a drongo?

A laughing kookaburra watches for prey in Redfern Park … A black swan shows off its white flight feathers in Sydney Park … A crested pigeon struts its stuff in Centennial Park …

If you missed these local avian displays – don’t despair. These and other plumage idiosyncrasies, flight patterns and preferred habitats have featured on the South Sydney Herald (SSH) website and Instagram feed over the last month – all captured by bird enthusiast and SSH writer and photographer, Stephen Webb, and his nature-photographer partner Penny.

Our ornithological focus initially aimed to encourage people to take part in the Aussie Bird Count as part of National Bird Week, Monday October 17 to Sunday October 23 (if you missed it this year, sign up in 2023).

Longer term, we’re hoping to inspire more city dwellers to find pleasure in the birdlife in our urban environments.

Stephen has had a great time asking citizens, councillors and scientists to nominate their favourite birds and to tell him what they most like about them.

Lord Mayor of the City of Sydney (CofS), Clover Mayor, is fond of the butcherbird and enjoys its wonderful song.

CofS Councillor Jess Scully’s choice was more controversial. She cited the white ibis (which many Sydneysiders call the bin chicken but not Jess) as her favourite.

“They’re not bin chickens,” she said in their defence. “They’re elegant prehistoric time travellers who have somehow ended up in the heart of a 21st century city, and they’re finding a way to survive.”

The spangled drongo was chosen by Darryl Jones, Professor Emeritus, Centre for Planetary Health & Food Security and School of Environment and Science, Griffith University.

The spotted pardalote (found in urban areas with a good cover of eucalypts) was chosen by quantitative ecologist and PhD candidate Carly Campbell, one of the authors of “Big changes in backyard birds: An analysis of long-term changes in bird communities in Australia’s most populous urban regions”.

Experts Stephen interviewed also shared some great advice about cultivating bird-friendly gardens, what books to help you identify birds and their behaviours, and insights into why protecting our birds is so important.

Bird life is at stake in our cities as parkland and open spaces get taken over by high rise, industrial areas and motorways – so there are things the ornithologists and urban biodiversity experts are saying we need to do to stop species from declining and disappearing.

First step: Put away your device and unplug your earphones. Stand as still as you can and look up. The sights and songs of our urban birds are splendid. Free for the taking.


Follow @southsydneyherald on Instagram to see our birds of the day and learn about protecting urban biodiversity. Visit the SSH website for longer, bird-focused articles.

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