Going green for native birds

3MT People’s Choice Award winner Jacinta Humphrey discovers more about how urban environments affect bird populations.

Jacinta Humphrey (she/her) is a PhD student with the Research Centre for Future Landscapes at La Trobe. She won the 3MT People’s Choice Award for the first chapter of her PhD thesis, which looks at how housing cover in suburbia affects the birds you can see and hear in your local area.

"In order to create cities where nature can thrive, we first need to understand how urbanisation affects wildlife," Jacinta explains. "What actions can we take to better support biodiversity in our cities?"

Her work has clear ties to the wellbeing of the environment and people alike. As Jacinta notes, "access to and connection with nature in your local area can bring about enormous benefits for human health and mental wellbeing."

The fieldwork for this research was extensive, covering repeated visits to 300 different sites in the northern and eastern suburban corridors of Melbourne.

"I would go and stand at a particular location for ten minutes and I’d write down any species of bird that I could see or hear. And I did that 1500 times. My results show that as suburbs become more developed, we see a significant decline in the number of bird species recorded, with birds that typically depend on forests and woodlands among the first to disappear."

Jacinta’s work also looks at what encourages a diverse range of birds to remain in an area, and documents how this can benefit both human and bird populations.

The next stage of her research delves more deeply into how specific species respond to urbanisation. While rainbow lorikeets, for example, have responded well to higher levels of urbanisation, other native parrots do not. Part of her research will attempt to tackle why some species adapt better than others.

"The simple act of retaining mature trees, if implemented by local governments, could provide a practical solution for supporting biodiversity in the city, bringing benefits to both people and wildlife. Simply put, the greener the suburb, the greater the diversity of birds."