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The Sector > Provider > General News > Aussie Bird Count: how to help the children in your care become citizen scientists

Aussie Bird Count: how to help the children in your care become citizen scientists

by Freya Lucas

October 12, 2023

The Aussie Bird Count is an annual event which aims to encourage all Australians even those under five years of age to engage with nature, one bird at a time. 


Running from 16-22 October, the count complements the work of trained birdwatchers and ornithologists by focusing on common backyard and urban birds. It fills a crucial gap in the understanding of birds, takes just 20 minutes, and offers significant benefits. 


In 2023, early childhood education and care (ECEC) services are being encouraged to become involved and engage children in the experience, teaching valuable lessons about sustainability and the value of birds in Australia’s ecosystem. 


How to participate 


  • Choose your spot: select your favourite outdoor space with the children it could be the outdoor space of the service, a local park, or even looking out the window.
  • Count the birds: spend 20 minutes quietly observing and counting the birds you see and note the species and the number you spot.
  • Share your data: record findings using the Aussie Bird Count app or the web form. You can participate as many times as you like, in as many places as you like during the count period, but each count should be 20 minutes.
  • For those unsure about bird identification, a built-in bird finder tool in the app is available to help.


Presented by BirdLife Australia, the annual Aussie Bird Count has grown to become one of the country’s largest citizen science events.


“The Aussie Bird Count is not just about counting birds,” said BirdLife Australia’s National Public Affairs Manager Sean Dooley. 


“It’s also about connecting with our environment and contributing to the knowledge that underpins our conservation efforts. Australia faces numerous challenges, including climate change, habitat loss, and invasive species. Paying attention to birds is where conservation begins through popular interactive opportunities including the popular Bird of the Year vote.”


Citizen science helps children learn 


To learn more about the value of citizen science, we spoke to Dr Annie Naimo and Dr Holly Parsons from Bird Life Australia. 


It’s a bit like teamwork between scientists and people who are interested in science,” Dr Parsons said. 


“There are a number of different iterations of citizen science it may be a question stemming from ‘citizen scientists’ themselves, a collaboration to solve a local issue or one at a national or international scale, it may involve going out and observing nature, or classifying images online. In all these forms of citizen science, the goal is to harness the collective power of curious and interested people to answer important scientific questions, monitor the environment, and make positive changes in the world.”


Citizen science, she continued, is an excellent “hands on” way to engage children in the scientific process, and to engage in STEM thinking


“Participating in citizen science projects gives kids a sense of purpose and shows them that their actions can have a real impact on scientific research and our understanding of the world. It helps them see that science isn’t just something done in a lab, but is relevant to their everyday lives. It enriches their learning experiences, nurtures their curiosity, and empowers them to make meaningful contributions to science and their communities. It’s an educational and inspiring journey that can shape their future and our collective understanding of the world.”


How to engage children without reading and writing


Some educators may have questions about how children who aren’t able to read and write can participate in a data driven process like the Aussie Bird Count. 


“The great thing about birds is that they are all around us,” Dr Naimo said. 


“There are likely to be birds outside the window of every early childhood environment in Australia. And there is no need to read or write to appreciate them. Birds are beautiful, and taking a moment to watch their behaviour can be captivating for all ages.”


A number of lesson plans are available to support educators in the Aussie Bird Count. Although these have been designed for older primary students, they are easily adaptable for ECEC, Dr Parsons added. 


“To make the count engaging for younger children,” she suggests, “select an area ahead of time where you know there are some really common and easy to spot birds (so an open park will be easier to spot birds in than a patch of bushland).” 


“Introduce birds into the classroom as well. Display images and play bird calls. It’s always fun to have the children imitate the calls that they hear. Make the Aussie Bird Count a group activity where the children work together. Assign roles like ‘bird spotter’ and ‘bird counter’ to encourage teamwork and collaboration.”


Children can combine science with art (e.g. drawing birds) language (e.g. describing birds) and maths (e.g. counting how many).


Why should ECEC services be involved in the Aussie Bird Count?


“Early exposure to concepts of sustainability and environmental stewardship can help shape their attitudes and behaviours for the future,” Dr Parsons said.


“It’s easier to build on these attitudes as they grow older. It is important not to overwhelm or frighten them of course, but instead provide them with ways to make positive change themselves. Use simple language, engage in hands-on activities like the Aussie Bird Count, and focus on positive actions that young children can understand and participate in.”


Establishing a connection with nature also has benefits for the children themselves. More and more research shows that getting out in nature has a range of education, wellbeing and physical benefits. Besides that, she added, “birds are fun!”


They provide such a great way to experience the world around us and the Aussie Bird Count is such an easy and fun way to open that world to the kids.”


Go to or download the Aussie Bird Count app to take part.

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