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Twitching for values in the human domain: how do Australians value native birds? Ainsworth, GB, Aslin, HJ, Garnett, ST and Weston, M. Context. 1 st year of PhD: Social Values of Australian Threatened Birds. ARC project:

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Twitching for values in the human domain:

how do Australians value native birds?

Ainsworth, GB, Aslin, HJ, Garnett, ST and Weston, M.



  • 1st year of PhD:
  • Social Values of Australian Threatened Birds
  • ARC project:
  • ‘Increasing the effectiveness & efficiency of threatened bird conservation’
  • Action Plan for Birds 2010
  • - Biophysical
  • - Institutional
  • - Social
  • Influence of values on conservation outcomes

How do Australians Value Native Birds?

  • native bird species known
  • valued most widely

- values held for threatened &

non-threatened native species

  • values held for particular
  • native threatened species
wildlife management
Wildlife Management

Wildlife management:

wildlife policy framework

interactive relationships

information, values & efforts

  • Biophysical;
  • socio-structural;
  • valuational;
  • institutional/regulatory
  • (Kellert & Clark 1991)
  • ecological,
  • Economic,
  • socio-psychological

(Steinhoff 1980)


Value: ‘relative worth, merit or importance’ of something:

 cannot be observed directly only through their expression in the form of

attitudes & behaviours

Values are critical:

  • personal goals: good & bad, right & wrong
  • interpret events & information
  • across situations & events

Social science perspective:

 person’s values towards wildlife

 thinking & behaviour in wildlife situation

(Manfredo 2008)


Values: Attitudes: Behaviours:



Cary et al 2000

wildlife values research
Wildlife Values Research


Attitudes tested by empirical research, socio-psychological surveys, representative samples:

“I think duck hunting is ok as long as the bird is not endangered”

However, knowledge of individual native taxa across Australian society will likely be highly erratic:

- variation in prevalence, characteristics and distribution of bird taxa

- iconic / locally significant / expert knowledge

Measure of values reflected across society for native threatened birds can reveal public interest in and perceptions of individual species

developing a typology of bird values
Developing a Typology of Bird Values

Developing a Typology of Bird Attitudes

No precedent for valuing an entire class of fauna such as Australian native birds

(~720 species)

Review of commonly used empirical approaches to valuing wildlife

KELLERT, S. R. (1985) Social & Perceptual Factors in Endangered Species Management. Journal of Wildlife Management, 49, 528-536

- 9 value categories, quantitative

  • CAMPBELL, L. & SMITH, C. (2006) What Makes Them Pay? Values of Volunteer Tourists: Working for Sea Turtle Conservation. Environmental Management, 38, 84-98
    • - 8 value categories, qualitative

Native Bird Values Typology

The social values of Australian birds….???

expressions of group identity or social experiences & objects of specialized attachments

physical attributes & biological functioning of birds

strong affection for individual animals

material benefit of bird habitat

to human society (development)

physical attractiveness & symbolic characteristic of birds

material benefit of bird products

to human society (food)

interrelationships between

bird species & natural habitats

spiritual meaning or message attached to birds

Which of these values does society hold for native birds?

mastery & control of birds (sport);

being a good naturalist

exciting experiences with birds

in their natural habitat

increases / decreases in

bird populations

conflict between birds & humans

duty to protect & preserve birds





Aesthetic physical












  • 13 value categories

Native Bird Values Correlation Matrix

  • 13
  • Value categories
  • X
  • Social profiles
  • 21
  • National projects
  • nationally representative, publicly available data;
  • data directly aligned with value category, directly related to individual bird species

Media Stories

Influence of media on public perception of native birds is important

Newsbank – 162 local, regional, and national newspapers 1998 – 2010

Complete full-text content:

community events, schools, politics, government policies, cultural activities, local companies, state industries, & people in the community



67,156 bird stories identified

2,830 analysed

across all value categories




wildlife values conservation outcomes
Wildlife Values &Conservation Outcomes

Social profiles = better understanding of our relationship with native birds

- as a whole class of fauna, as families, as individual species

Better understanding of ourselves as humans and development of Australian culture

This research is ultimately important for threatened bird conservation:

- understand priorities currently given to individual species

- useful for communicating conservation messages to the broader community

with grateful thanks to
With grateful thanks to…

State / territory conservation departments

Birdwatching tour companies

National galleries and libraries

Australian Defence Forces

Conservation volunteer groups

Australian Institute of Sport

Regional shire councils


Fiona Douglas

Michael Honer

Tim Schinkel


Joan Dawes

Noela Edwards

Jean Tucker

Maureen Cooper


David Collyer

Mimmo Cozzolino

Susan Freeman

Vanessa Keyzer

Cilla Kinross

Hollis Taylor

Les Terrett

Andrea Wild


Ian Abbott

Greg Barrett

Fiona Colbeck

Clive Nealon

Kirsty Sadler


Rob Buttrose, Grace Lewis, Megan Moore, Alan Sergi,

Janelle Thomas, Paris Yves