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History of bird observations
Birds and gardens form a dynamic partnership, with many plants relying on the avian population for pollination and birds obtaining food, habitat, nesting site and shelter, all necessary for their life cycle.
The three gardens belonging to the Royal Botanic Gardens & Domain Trust have different locations, geography, rainfall and elevation - thus they each support a different suite of birds.
In the 1913 Annual Report of the Botanic Garden, the Director reported that: ‘bearing in mind the interesting records in the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, of the fauna of all groups to be found in that Garden, I asked my good friend, Mr. Robert Etheridge, curator of the Australian Museum, if he would co-operate in preparing such lists for the Gardens here.’ A.J. North, the then ornithologist at the Australian Museum, provided details on the 66 species that were commonly seen in the Botanic Garden - a large number of which have long disappeared.
Earlier the Botanic Garden maintained aviary species. The 1861 Annual Report of the Acclimatisation Society of NSW stated that ‘The kindness of the Director of the Botanic Garden in taking charge of various animals in the interest of the Society has also been highly appreciated by the Council. Mr. Moore has further expressed his readiness to continue to give (until other places are appropriated for their reception) suitable accommodation and food to any animals which the Society may receive, provided they are not of such a nature to disturb or interfere with the existing arrangements of the Garden; and those who have examined the excellent provision made for waterfowl, &c., in the recent additions to the public aviary, must have perfect confidence that animals placed there have every prospect of enjoying a high degree of health and comfort.’
The Aviary remained in active use until its removal in 1940.
The ponds within the Royal Botanic Garden was stocked with many exotic waterbirds in the past, including over the years white swans and paradise shellducks. In recent years all of the birds using the ponds are free flying and include a number of visitors from Taronga Zoo. One Pacific black duck banded in the Royal Botanic Garden in 1991 was recovered dead at Violet Town, Victoria in 1994 - a distance of 583 km away to the south-west.
The Royal Botanic Garden still provides habitat for a number of migratory species including the golden whistler, rufous fantail, common koel and channel-billed cuckoo. Superb-fairy wrens, of glowing colour, and a female, in its pale-brown plumage, were recorded on the lawns of Government House by George Bennett in 1860, and this species has maintained a viable breeding population within the Royal Botanic Gardens through to today. However, from the examination of early records it is clear that the vegetation has changed greatly over the years, thus effecting the viability of many species such as the red-browed finch and various species of thornbills.