Chris Watson

Melbourne the first Australian city to join Global Urban Birding Challenge

Chris Watson

Here’s something for Melbourne birders to get their teeth into which might help see you through the impending cold winter. Melbourne has just become the first Australian city to enter the global Urban Birding Challenge (UBC).

The Melbourne skyline from the home straight at Moonee Valley racecourse - an urban jungle beckoning to the intrepid city-birder.

If you haven’t heard of this then you may not have been paying attention. There is a lot more information over on the UBC website, but it’s fairly self-explanatory. The UBC team are using map polygons to extract eBird lists and counts for various urbanised areas of the world. Then they’re turning this data into a friendly multi-media birding competition to see how the bird diversity and birding effort varies from city to city. The hope is that this might feed into conservation by stimulating birders to bird more frequently in the ‘burbs, and in the process discover more about bird populations using modified environments. At a less serious level, as the website says, “it’s a big year competition between cities”.

The project grew out of the US (it’s administered from NYC) and when I inquired as to why there was no listing for an Australian city, the response was that there had simply been no interest. So I emailed the blokes running the site and they very quickly set me on the course to getting Melbourne registered for inclusion in the challenge. The geographical data for Melbourne is all set and I have sent them a crude polygon for the urban limits of metropolitan Melbourne (and I mean crude – this can be refined later). A blog post for urban birding in and around Melbourne will go up shortly on the site and further blog contributions are welcome from any Melbourne birders.

Moonee Ponds Creek - a concrete-lined shadow of its former self, but still flowing its original course and yielding some valuable riparian habitat along its banks for urban birders to explore.

It’d also be helpful if birders in other Australian cities could pick this up and get involved. It doesn’t take a lot of time and could provide a very interesting little rivalry for patch-workers in our main cities. If your town has a population of more than 250,000 you’re eligible to enter so get cracking!

Start poking around your suburb and start looking for those hidden pockets of remnant habitat and little-known populations of urban cripplers.

Go have a read of the UBC site and let’s get the lists up!

A typically creepy Nankeen Night-heron at far right of picture. Just one of many stunning urban species adorning the lists of most Melburnian birders.