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What on Earth is that Bird Doing?

Have you ever wondered what a bird is saying when it sings? Or why that cockatoo wants to steal your lunch? Birds behave the way they do for lots of different reasons. Let’s learn more.

Have you ever had a crush on somebody? What did you do to get them to notice you? Did you know birds do the same sort of thing? 

In the bird world, the males show off to get females to like them. Birds can’t flex their arm muscles, score a goal or hold a girl’s hand so they have to come up with different ways to impress girls. Some birds sing, some dance, some look pretty and some build works of art. 

Which bird show off are you? 

You love…  

You can’t stop… 

a) Singing  a) Copying other people’s songs and sometimes their car alarms. 
b) Dancing  b) Shaking your tail feathers with weird dance moves. 
c) Building things  c) Stealing blue pegs.

If you answered a) for both, you are a LYREBIRD! Watch the BBC Earth video to see a lyrebird in action.

If you answered b) for both, you are a BIRD OF PARADISE! Watch the Life's A Stage video to check out their cool moves. Most of these birds live in New Guinea, but there are a few that live in northern Australia. 

If you answered c) for both, you are a BOWERBIRD! Check out the photos of a bower and all the things the Bowerbird has used to make it pretty. Can you guess what a Bowerbird’s favourite colour is? 

A boy Satin Bowerbird 
The male Bowerbird builds a bower and adds things he
thinks are pretty to catch the eye of a female. 


When they are not showing off, birds get up to lots of different things. Can you match the birds with what they are doing?

Another thing that birds spend a lot of time doing is calling out. You have probably heard lots of different bird noises today already. Did you know birds talk to each other just like humans do? Every noise a bird makes means something. Birds can even understand the alarm calls of different types of bird and help each other avoid predators. 

Sometimes birds do behave badly. They are not trying to be bad, it’s just that they have learnt bad habits from living near humans. Some birds have learnt that human food is easier to get than looking for their own, natural food. Some Cockatoos in Sydney have learnt how to open wheelie bins and look for food scraps in our rubbish! A few Cockatoos have even been seen turning bubblers on and drinking from them!  

The problem is that birds don’t eat ham sandwiches, sausages or chips in the wild. Eating human food makes birds sick and their babies can’t grow up healthy.   

Have you ever had a picnic and been surrounded by ibis, ducks and seagulls all getting closer and closer to you like in a scary movie? Birds can turn in to bullies if they want some of your free food. When you come to one of our Botanic gardens or Centennial Park, it is best not to feed the birds. We don’t like bullies and we want to keep our birds wild and healthy.  

Find out more about why we shouldn't feed birds bread here.

We should not blame the birds for their bad behaviour. In lots of cities and towns, humans have changed the environment and birds are just changing their behaviour to survive beside us. If you really want to help birds, why not plant some plants native to your area in your school or garden? This will help give food, shelter and nest materials for your local birds so they will be happy and continue their life cycle.  

A rainbow lorikeet feeding on banksia flowers
A rainbow lorikeet feeding on banksia flowers

Activities - What on Earth is that Bird Doing?

1. Can you be a mimic like a Lyrebird?

How many bird calls can you copy? Watch the video and be inspired by! 2019 SCLC Bournda Bird Olympics. (Ask a adult for help to access this video on YouTube)
Listen to the top 40 bird calls on the Birds in Backyards website - Top-40-Bird-Songs . Do you hear any of these at your house? Which ones can you copy? Can your family guess which bird you are? 

2. Draw your favourite bird calls 

Come up with symbols to help you remember bird calls. 
Example:  A pardalote makes 3 whistles. The first is a low sound and the second 2 are higher sounds and are fast and close together. The symbols might look like this:        . “  or  _  **

3. Create an ad for TV  

Birds shouldn’t eat human food like bread. Write and perform and/ or film an ad for TV that shows why people shouldn’t feed wild birds.


4. Design your own bird 

  • ​What environment does it live in?
  • What sort of feet does it have? 
  • What does it eat? What sort of beak does it have?
  • What does its nest and eggs look like? 
  • What do the feathers look like?
  • Will they help camouflage or stand out? 
  • What sounds does it make to communicate?
  • What does it do to show off? ​