Looking at the Birds: Greenpeace and Birdlife Australia’s projects

When talking about climate change and global warming, birds—and the effect of human activities on them—is an aspect that is commonly overlooked, and with reason. In cities and towns around Australia, they are often perceived with annoyance as pesterers of food, and come springtime, people keep a wary eye on the sky for the sight of angry swooping magpies.

An annoyed tweet about the behaviour of birds in spring (Kate 2016).


But what is often not noticed is that they are, perhaps, the only wildlife that is still persistent around humans and that has adapted to share our cities and towns with us. This makes them the perfect source for studying the effects of human activities on biodiversity as they are right in front of us.

During my research, I found two projects concerned with bird welfare that were particularly interesting and that demonstrate how we are starting to respond and take notice of our effect on our neighbours.


Greenpeace’s ‘Stop Trashing Australia’ campaign

Greenpeace’s ‘Stop Coco–Cola Trashing Australia’ campaign is one project that highlights how human consumerism—particularly our consumption of beverages in plastic bottles—are impacting on the earth’s wildlife. They state that of the 13–14 billion plastic bottles bought every year, an average of seven billion of these will end up as waste in landfill or littered on streets and beaches (Greenpeace 2012). The impact of this is clear; our plastic waste often ends up being eaten by birds or blown into the ocean where marine wildlife often mistakes it for food. Choking, strangulation and dying of starvation on a stomach full of plastic are just some of the widespread results of this waste (Greenpeace 2012).

Greenpeace utilises an online platform to launch their campaign, which allows them to raise awareness not only nationally, but globally as well. Their campaign (see video below), which opens with a scene of a glorified summer’s day, is starkly juxtaposed by the dead bird that falls to the ground immediately afterwards. What’s most evident in these first few scenes is the ignorance of the general public to what’s happening right around them. This video ends with a child looking down upon a dead bird, which acts as a warning for the future; it is the future generations who will notice these impacts and, by then, it will be too late.

This video acts as a precursor to the overall Greenpeace campaign—which is a petition to governments to enable a ‘Cash for Containers’ scheme. Greenpeace believes—with evidence of the results from the South Australian ‘Cash for Containers’ scheme—that a higher rate of recycling will prevent this harm from occurring to our wildlife and that a monetary incentive will indeed encourage more people to recycle. There is pressure, however, from Coca–Cola companies to have situations remain as they are, with their reasoning being that the costs of their beverages would have to increase to allow for a ‘Cash for Containers’ scheme (Sharwood 2013).

In recent years, this scheme has gained more recognition and there is now a stronger push by select individuals of the government to adopt this in their states. However, the idea of recycling is, in a sense, a short–term solution to the overall problem of plastic. Dr Lavers states, “‘disposable’ and ‘plastic’ should never go in the same sentence. It’s an oxymoron. Something built to last forever should never be labelled as disposable” (Cormack 2016).


The Aussie Backyard Bird Count

The Aussie Backyard Bird Count campaign homepage (2016).

The second project discovered in my research is the Aussie Backyard Bird Count. Created from a partnership between Birdlife Australia and Birds in Backyards, the Aussie Backyard Bird Count is an annual bird count that allows these organisations to gain insight into how the birds of Australia are faring. A project that relies on the data submitted by the general public, this event provides the opportunity for people to feel as if they are making a difference in a way that is not time strenuous or difficult.

As a project that uses the practice of generative systems in its functionality, it involves a set of constraints on participants to allow for more accurate results.

  1. Counting can only occur annually in a chosen week in spring, as this is when birds are the most active (Aussie Backyard Bird Count 2016).
  1. A counting session lasts for twenty minutes. This is perhaps to ensure that the results are more uniform and accurate, however a user can open a counting session more than once.
  1. All counters must register their location to assist with the accuracy of results and so further insight can be gained from the data.


The term ‘backyard’, in this instance, is also used loosely as participants can count birds from any place they choose. This allows people to go to popular bird spots to submit their data.

Taking into account this movement of their users, the Aussie Backyard Bird Count also has an accompanying app that participants can use to submit their count. Included in these submission portals are bird directories that allow for unknown birds to be identified. This caters for a wider range of participants that aren’t avid bird watchers.

Results of Count

The results of the count from the pervious year was summarised into an info graphic for public consumption.

Infographic of the results of the 2015 Aussie Backyard Bird Count.


As an event that is still relatively new, it will be interesting to see how these organisations will treat the data comparatively in a few years. Visually, there is much potential for insights and information to be displayed in a way that move and affect audiences.


Reference List

Aussie Backyard Bird Count 2016, Make every bird count with the Aussie backyard bird count, viewed 1 September 2016, < http://aussiebirdcount.org.au/>.

Birdlife Australia 2015, Aussie Backyard Bird Count 2015, viewed 1 September 2016, < http://www.birdlife.org.au/images/uploads/e-news/birdcount/downloads/InfographicResults2015.pdf>.

Birdlife Australia 2016, Discover the Aussie Backyard Bird Count app!, videorecording, Youtube, viewed 1 September 2016, < https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EUT4VnEzMq8>.

Cormack, L. 2016, ‘Marine plastics pollution senate inquiry covers the ugly truth of the issue’, Sydney Morning Herald, 18 February, viewed 19 August 2016, <http://www.smh.com.au/environment/marine-plastics-pollution-senate-inquiry-covers-the-ugly-truth-of-the-issue-20160218-gmxoe1.html&gt;.

Greenpeace 2012, Stop trashing Australia, viewed 19 August 2016, <http://www.greenpeace.org/australia/en/what-we-do/oceans/Stop-Trashing-Australia/&gt;.

Greenpeace Australia Pacific 2013, Stop Coca–Cola trashing Australia, videorecording, viewed 18 August 2016, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q7Uxaw6YoRw&gt;.

Kate, T. 2016, ‘But seriously spring means birds will attack you time so I ain’t celebrating that!!!!’, Twitter post, 31 August, viewed 8 September 2016, < https://twitter.com/tksheather/status/771127077462421504>.

Sharwood, A. 2013, ‘Coca-Cola wins Federal Court case, cash for containers recycling found illegal’, news.com.au, 4 March, viewed 19 August 2016, <http://www.news.com.au/finance/business/coca-cola-wins-federal-court-case-cash-for-containers-recycling-found-illegal/story-fnda1bsz-1226590179763&gt;.

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