Discover the animals in your backyard
Merri-bek is home to many different animals, including some that are vulnerable to extinction and need our help.
Animal sightings are recorded by the Merri Creek Management Committee, Friends groups and interested community members. You can explore these records and contribute your own via the Atlas of Living Australia. There are currently records for more than 900 different species of animals in Merri-bek. How many can you spot?
The Friends of Merri Creek have undertaken quarterly bird surveys along the creek for over 20 years. These surveys show that bird populations have grown significantly as a direct result of habitat restoration efforts. Many species have also returned to the area, and there are now records of more than 200 different birds in the area.
Early morning is the best time to bird watch. Look carefully and you may spot many different honeyeater, parrots, Whistling Kites, Brown Falcons or a sleepy Tawny Frogmouth. Our waterways are a great place to observe waterbirds nesting and feeding, including cormorants, swans, ducks and swamp hens.
The large areas of native grassy woodlands in the northern suburbs provide habitat for larger mammals such as Eastern Grey Kangaroos and Swamp Wallabies. If you're lucky, you might spot an echidna or a platypus along the Merri or Edgar's Creeks.
Nocturnal mammals such as possums and bats and are also found throughout Merri-bek, including the threatened Grey-headed flying fox, one of the largest bats in the world.
Reptiles, fish, invertebrates and amphibians
Our creeks and wetlands provide important habitat for aquatic species such as eels, long-necked tortoises, yabbies and native fish. After rain, our waterways come alive with frog calls. Listen out for the Pobblebonk frog, named after the sound it makes, and the threatened Growling grass frog. You can learn more about these amazing animals, including how to create a frog-friendly habitat through Melbourne Water's Frog Census.
Merri-bek species facing extinction
We have identified at least 21 vertebrate species in Merri-bek which are are currently facing extinction. Our list was taken from the VictorianFlora and Fauna Guarantee Act Threatened List (September 2022 update), cross-referenced against each species' range and sightings recorded in Merri-bek through the Atlas of Living Australia.
You can click on each species to learn more about their features, habitat and distribution. These animals need our help. Click here to see how you can get involved.
|Common Name||Scientific Name||Status (FFG)|
|Grey-headed Flying-fox||Pteropus poliocephalus||Vulnerable (EPBC)|
|Australian Little Bittern||Ixobrychus dubius||Endangered|
|Black Falcon||Falco subniger||Critically Endangered|
|Blue-billed Duck||Oxyura australis||Vulnerable|
|Curlew Sandpiper||Calidris ferruginea||Critically Endangered|
|Eastern Great Egret||Ardea alba modesta||Vulnerable|
|Freckled Duck||Stictonetta naevosa||Endangered|
|Grey Goshawk||Accipiter novaehollandiae||Endangered|
|Grey-crowned Babbler||Pomatostomus temporalis||Vulnerable|
|Helmeted Honeyeater||Lichenostomus melanops cassidix||Critically Endangered|
|Little Eagle||Hieraaetus morphnoides||Vulnerable|
|Little Egret||Egretta garzetta||Endangered|
|Plumed Egret||Ardea intermedia plumifera||Critically Endangered|
|Powerful Owl||Ninox strenua||Vulnerable|
|Red-chested Button-quail||Turnix pyrrhothorax||Endangered|
|Square-tailed Kite||Lophoictinia isura||Vulnerable|
|Swift Parrot||Lathamus discolor||Critically Endangered (EPBC)|
|Spine-Tailed Swift||Hirundapus caudacutus||Vulnerable|
|Growling Grass Frog||Litoria raniformis||Vulnerable (EPBC)|
|Tussock Skink||Pseudemoia pagenstecheri||Endangered|
|Golden Sun Moth||Synemon plana||Vulnerable|
Several species are also classified as threatened under federal legislation(Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Act 1999, EPBC). These are marked (EPBC).
Colouring-in and fact sheets
Learn about Merri-bek's animals and their habitat with these colouring in sheets.
Should we feed the birds?
Bird feeding is a controversial issue. Many people enjoy feeding ducks at the park, or the birds in their garden, but may not be aware of the unseen problems that feeding creates for the birds, including malnutrition, disease and imbalanced populations.
The types of foods we put out for birds are very rarely what they would eat naturally, and are more like bird junk-food. Native birds have a varied and healthy diet which includes nectar, plants, aquatic plant seeds, insects, yabbies and shrimps.
There are a couple of items in particular that cause problems for birds and should be avoided:
- Bread: Bread will fill a bird up without providing any nutritional value.
- Mince: This might seem like a treat but mince lacks the nutrients carnivorous birds would usually get from a diet of insects, fur and bone. Chicks raised on this diet can suffer from brittle bones due to insufficient calcium. Mince can also cause bacterial infections by sticking to the beaks of birds like Tawny Frogmouths and Kookaburras.
- Honey/water mixes: These liquids do not provide the complex sugars a bird would get from the nectar of a flower.
Disease transmission is a real risk with bird feeding and there have been outbreaks of diseases linked to bird feeders, especially in places where large numbers of birds gather. Our parrots are especially vulnerable to a highly infectious virus (Psittacine beak and feather disease), which attacks their feathers and beaks. If you’ve ever seen a mangy, balding Sulphur-crested cockatoo you will know that this disease is devastating for the bird. Please see theWildlife Vic Beak and Feather disease (PBFD) fact sheet.pdf for more information.
The birds that we feed are usually omnivorous opportunists like ducks, kookaburras and magpies. This means they will eat anything, and are better able to adapt to our urban environments than small, shy or fussy birds. Feeding these larger, more aggressive birds has resulted in increased numbers, which forces our smaller birds over time. For example, populations of Pied Currawongs and Magpies have grown dramatically due to feeding. Pied Currawongs then go on to eat the eggs and chicks of small birds.
So what should you do?
We know that some people take great joy from feeding birds and that connection to nature is really important. However, we ask that you consider the welfare of our birds first, and be aware of the problems feeding can cause.
A garden that provides natural food for birds such as one with native grasses to provide seed, mulch to encourage insects and small-flowering locally native shrubs to feed honeyeaters is much better for our whole bird community than one that feeds only a few potential problem birds. A better way to connect with your local birds is to create great habitat spaces that provide natural foods and water.
White Ibis at Coburg Lake
The Australian White Ibis is a protected native bird species that is known for taking up habitat in lakes across Australia.
Many users of Coburg Lake have noticed an increase in smell, noise and aggressive behaviour from the White Ibis colony.
- Many users of Coburg Lake have noticed an increase in smell, noise and aggressive behaviour from the White Ibis colony. There are some reports that the Ibis have been aggressive to other bird species and concern they may become aggressive towards people.
- Bird surveys by the Friends of Merri Creek have indicated native species of birds are declining as a result of the Ibis population. Particularly affected are aquatic species such as Pacific Black Ducks and Black Swans which have reduced dramatically.
- Numbers of Pacific Black Ducks have reduced from 60-80 per survey prior to the arrival of Ibis, to 5-20 since 2018. Black Swans have been recorded nesting in the lake for several years but were observed in 2020 being shielded from their nest by Ibis. No Black Swans were observed in spring 2020 surveys.
- Vegetation on the island and some vegetation around the lake is in decline as a result of the Ibis and much of the ground storey has become denuded. Some of the trees which are favoured by the birds (such as the Canary Island Date Palms) contribute to the Reserve’s heritage significance.
- With the roosting areas concentrated around Coburg Lake, the high nutrient content of excreta from the birds is likely to impact water quality, with increased evidence of algal growth during the summer of 2020.
Council has sought advice and developed a list of strategies that work to reduce the impact of White Ibis at Coburg Lake, in a sensitive manner that considers animal welfare, environmental and public safety and awareness concerns.
Ibis prefer to nest in and around certain vegetation types. Canary Island Date Palms are particularly preferred and are usually characteristic of the landscape where Ibis problems occur.
Some Councils have trialled palm trimming, removing dead and horizontal growing fronds, with some success. It was found to reduce the number of nests, however, Ibis then tended to nest in other palms or trees in the park or adjoining properties.
Egg and Nest Removal: Nest and egg removal have been described as effective means to manage increasing numbers of White Ibis in growing colonies.
As Ibis are a protected species, any activity that has potential to impact on the species must only be undertaken under an Authority to Control Wildlife permit issued by the Department of Environment, Land, Water & Planning.
Creating disturbances, particularly at dusk, has been shown to have some effect on roosting Ibis.
This could be through shining spotlights, laser lights, cracking whips (or other loud noises) or distress calls which may disperse the birds. The use of sprinklers has also been discussed but its effectiveness has not been trialled.
In 2022, Council contractors carried out works to reduce the population of Ibis at Coburg lake. This included vegetation removal and dispersal to reduce nesting, and replanting with appropriate species to provide habitat for other birds. Works were undertaken with the approval of the Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action (DEECA, formerly DELWP).
There has been a reduction in numbers since the vegetation works were completed. We are continuing to work with DEECA to monitor and manage the population at Coburg Lake.
For information about the activities to be implemented at Coburg Lake please contact Council's Open Space Design and Development Unit by email Openspace@merri-bek.vic.gov.au