Questions & Answers

We have put together this Q&A (Questions and Answers) to help you understand why Bathing Birds is such an important project and what you need to do to get involved. Remember if you have any questions and queries that are not covered here, please contact Dr Gráinne Cleary at

Image courtesy of citizen scientist, Lyn.

Why are we interested in what birds are using birdbaths?

For the simple reason that we do not know what birds are using birdbaths! Despite being one of the most common additions to any bird-friendly garden, there is not scientific research out there on what uses them. We are going to look at which bird species are using birdbaths to drink from and/or bath in, if this changes between seasons (winter versus summer) and how garden habitats and what we do might impact on what birds visit us.

When is the Bathing Birds survey happening?

The Bathing Birds survey runs for 4 weeks starting on Friday the 23rd of January and finishing on Monday the 23rd of February.

So what do I need to do to take part?

All you need is a birdbath and to register on our data portal. You will use this data portal to enter information about your garden, your birdbath and your bird sightings. If you are already registered on our portal from the Great Koala Count, simply send an email to Dr Gráinne Cleary at to have your account registered for Bathing Birds participation.

Once your registration has been approved there are three straight forward steps you are required to do. Under Add My Bird Data located on the menu bar:

  1. set up your garden location Download step 1 PDF guide,
  2. answer a short multiple choice survey about your garden and birdbath Download step 2 PDF guide and
  3. from January 23rd, start your bird surveys! Download step 3 PDF guide
    Watch your bath for 20 minutes a day for up to 3 times a week. You can elect to do your survey in the morning or afternoon but only do 1 survey a day (e.g. you could do a morning survey on Monday and a afternoon survey on a Wednesday).

Each of the above steps has been made as simple as possible to complete and we have PDF user guides to help you if you become stuck.

What if I have already taken part in the Winter 2014 Bathing Birds Survey?

If you have already particiated in our winter Bathing Birds, then you should have your location already set up. We will ask you to fill out Step 2, Add Garden Information again as this will allow us to assess any changes in your garden composition between seasons.

When should I monitor my birdbath and for how long?

To help us standardise our Bathing Bird survey, we would like you to record what birds visit your birdbath for 20 minutes period up to three times a week starting Friday 23rd January until Monday 23rd February (4 weeks). We know your time is precious and if you are only able to monitor your bath once a week that is OK! The reason we ask for three times a week is because it makes for a more robust and well-designed research project. The more data we can get from you the better, so ideally it would be great if you are able to send in data each week for the 4 weeks.

It is unlikely that we will capture every individual or species utilising the bath, but remember that the focus of the project is not to establish population estimates. Instead we wish to understand how our gardening habitats and behavioural practices influence bird species using birdbaths. The more surveys we get though, the more we will be able to uncover.

When do I start my 20 minutes survey?

From January 23rd you can start your 20 minute survey either

  1. when you see a bird using your bath, or
  2. when you have a spare 20 minute to see if birds arrive. If you watch for 20 minutes see and no birds visit then scrap that survey and try again another time.
You can elect to do your survey in the morning or afternoon but only do 1 survey a day (e.g. you could do a morning survey on Monday and an afternoon survey on a Wednesday).

What if I only get “boring” birds visiting my bath?

We still want to know! To get an accurate picture of what is going on we need records of the common birds and even the introduced birds like common (Indian) mynas and house sparrows.

Will other people be able to see my garden location once I set it up?

No. Only you will see the location of your own garden. Information about where you live and the composition of your garden will not be shared with the public. We plan to use this information to help explain or predict what birds are visiting birdbath. By knowing what your garden is like, we can try to understand why birds might be visiting.

Bird sighting data will be publicly shared in the spirit of citizen science and will appear on the Atlas of Living Australia, however your personal information will not be shared.

If you have any questions or concerns about data privacy, please feel free to contact us.

I’m not great with computers, will this be difficult?

Not at all! We’re doing our very best to ensure that everybody will be able to participate, by streamlining and simplifying the process as much as possible. Entering your garden details and your bird sightings onto our data portal is quite intuitive and each step is accompanied by a detailed PDF explaining in detail how to proceed. If you need additional support at any stage just flick us an email!

I have numerous birdbaths – which one do I monitor?

Many of our citizen scientists will have multiple birdbaths, so please pick the one that is most convenient for you. A birdbath located in an area that maximise your view of the birds and minimised the conspicuousness of the observer is ideal.

What weather conditions should I monitor my birdbath in?

We would like you to monitor your bath during dry mild/warm days. Please avoid rainy and windy days

I have a pond that acts as my birdbath – can I monitor the birds using it?

Yes you can! For this project, ponds are considered birdbaths

Why does it matter what type of birdbath I have?

There are many different types of birdbaths people use, such as pedestal baths, hanging baths and even saucepan and pots! We are interested in finding out if there is a preference for a particular type of bath.

Why are you asking questions about my garden?

We are asking questions about your garden as the garden structure and types of plants can influence what birds might visit your garden. For example, research has found that nectar-feeding (e.g. honeyeaters) birds appear to be more common in gardens that have prolific-flowering plants (e.g. Grevillea species) while many insect-eaters (e.g. superb fairy-wrens) may be at a disadvantage. However there is currently a shortage of data supporting these ideas and we need your help to fill in the gaps.

Why are you asking about pets and if I feed birds?

Apart from the choice of garden structure and the plant species we grow, we can also modify the environment for birds in many other ways. We want to understand if and how pets and feeding birds might affect birds visiting baths.

Why are you asking if I scrub and rinse the bath and how often I replace the water?

This will allow us to understand if people maintain their baths, to what extent they do and how frequently.

Image courtesy of citizen scientist, Kevin.