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Bushfire Research Project (BRP)

Shoalhaven severely affected by fire in 2020
The Shoalhaven LGA was severely impacted by the 2019-2020 fire season, suffering varying degrees of damage to over 60% of the region including over 90% of our national parks, state forests and crown land.

In the aftermath of the fires, habitat loss, and radical reduction in foliage, insects, nectar, protection and nesting hollows will have a dramatic impact on all bird populations. The Australian Government has identified 13 bird species across Australia now more vulnerable to extinction since the 2019-20 fires, eight of which are found in the Shoalhaven. Given the unprecedented scale of the last fire season, we cannot take for granted the Australian environment will show a rapid or predictable recovery response.

The fire varied in intensity across the region. Green island oases have supported small numbers of birds. But in ‘ground zero’ areas there is still little evidence of habitat recovery after close to 5 months. The fire was not uniform in its impact on bird species, and will have changed the genetic mix within populations. The last fire season was a major throw of the evolutionary dice and the interactions of all these factors will shape the future of our bird populations.

Identifying the long-term impact of fire on bird populations
BirdLife Shoalhaven established the Bushfire Research Project (BRP) to identify and quantify the long-term impact of fire on bird populations in the Shoalhaven LGA. We are part of a national research project and BirdLife Australia are working closely with us to learn how this can be rolled out effectively in other regions.

Bird counts through structured surveys by individuals
The aims of the BRP are to determine how the last fire season changed bird diversity and abundance:

  • between areas that were affected by different levels of fire intensity.
  • in similar habitats that were affected by different fire intensities.
  • through natural regeneration versus interventions like water and feeding stations, feral and weed control and replanting projects.


Over 30 bird surveyors are now collecting data from over 100 sites across the region. The number of sites having increased dramatically since the fires compared to last year. Volunteer surveyors monitor these sites through 20 minute / 2 hectare surveys, and enter this into BirdLife Australia's Birdata portal and app for the BRP to collate.

We are also keen to record incidental sightings of species who lost major parts of their habitat based on fire spatial analysis and Birdata records. Initially the species we are particular interested in are Rock Warbler, Powerful Owl, Yellow-tufted Honeyeater, Yellow-throated Scrubwren, Glossy Black-cockatoo.

Birdata holds records going back over 20 years, which will provide a base-line on bird diversity and abundance before the bushfires. The sites are spread across a range of fire intensities, as shown on the map, capturing a range of post-fire conditions for comparison. There are still large areas where we need to collect data.

You can help this project by becoming a Bird Surveyor

We would like to widen the number of survey sites, especially in habitats that have suffered damage from fire. If you would like to be involved, and you know your birds – you could

  • sign-up to Birdata and download the app at
  • Find a site that you are keen to survey every quarter, complete a 20 minute / 2 hectare survey and register the site on Birdata
  • contact Gary Brady, BRP project co-ordinator, at if you need any guidance on setting up a site or entering your sightings into Birdata
  • Also record incidental sightings of species you are unlikely to see during 20 minute / 2 hectare surveys

Shoalhaven fire intensity map showing survey sites
View from Coolendel Lookout after the fires - image by Kim Touzel
Parma Creek after the fires - image by Steve Pryn

Below is a short video tutorial (2 mins) on how to register for Birdata and how to use the Birdata app