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Native bird populations around Melbourne have declined in response to drastic changes in the environment. A birdlist by Ferdinand von Mueller gave 114 species seen in the Royal Botanic Gardens c. 1869, with many names recognisable to modern birdwatchers. Most species are recorded in greatly reduced numbers around Melbourne, though many no longer occur in the Botanic Gardens. Species such as Freckled Duck, Cape Barren Goose, Beautiful Firetail and Southern Emu-wren have disappeared locally, and others are rare. Introduced species such as Blackbird, Common Starling, Common Myna, Spotted Turtle-Dove, Feral Pigeon and House Sparrow are more likely to be seen in many areas than are native birds.

Species which were formerly uncommon and are now locally widespread in suitable habitats include Musk Lorikeet, Rainbow Lorikeet, Galah and Wood Duck. Numbers of Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Little Corella, Long-billed Corella, Pied Currawong, Little Wattlebird and Crested Pigeon are currently increasing.

In earlier days, birds were commonly shot for sport, for food, to protect crops, to ornament ladies' fashions and for private skin collections. In Victoria native birds are now protected by the Wildlife Act 1975 and Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988 unless a specific permit to destroy them has been issued. Pest animals including birds are controlled by the Catchment and Land Protection Act 1994.

In spite of their wariness, some birds of prey still breed locally. Peregrine Falcons may nest on city buildings and electricity pylons in addition to natural sites, and Australian Goshawks and Australian Hobbies nest in big trees in parks and gardens.

On 1 December 1996 the Melbourne Metropolitan team of the Challenge Bird Count (Bird Observers Club of Australia) logged 95 species within a radius of 40 km of the City. However, bird species and numbers fluctuate markedly with the seasons, especially after rainfall.

From the 1950s the Society For Growing Australian Plants (Australian Plants Society since 1998) encouraged the planting of Australian species in gardens, street plantations and reserves, and this attracted native birds, especially honeyeaters and parrots. Following European tradition, the feeding of birds in gardens is now established but brings many problems, including inadequacy of nutrient content, encouragement of aggressive introduced species and dependence on artificial food supplies. Large old trees are often felled in urban areas, but many Australian birds need the nesting-hollows they provide. Alternative nest-boxes offered are a mixed blessing unless management plans include eradication of introduced species of birds and European honeybees.

Predation by introduced cats, dogs and foxes increases, particularly on ground-nesting and ground-feeding birds, which have declined markedly. Local laws to control cats and dogs have been introduced by some councils but most relate to dogs, ignoring the more difficult issue of controlling numbers and activities of household and feral cats. Bird-oriented clubs which include a Melbourne focus are Birds Australia (1900), and Bird Observers Club of Australia (1905).

Ellen M. Mcculloch

Friends of the Maribyrnong Valley, Birds of the Maribyrnong Valley, Authors, Melbourne, 1987. Details
Kloot, Tess, Birds of Box Hill in the City of Whitehorse, Victorian Ornithological Research Group, Melbourne, 2000. Details
Norris, Michael (ed.), Local birds of Bayside, Bayside City Council, Melbourne, 1995. Details
Warringal Conservation Society, Birds of Heidelberg and the Yarra Valley, Author, Melbourne, 1981. Details