This project started as a gift for a soon-to-be six-year-old. Michael Livingston and I couldn’t find a book that would help our young, curious friend learn the names of the birds she sees around Melbourne. So we made our own!

We’ve called it Melbirds. Michael picked 63 of the most easy-to-find bird species around Melbourne and devoted a page to each one – their common name, size, a colour photo he’s taken himself, and a few sentences about their appearance and behaviour. We’ve wrapped it up with a few extra resources and a blank bird list to start filling out at the back.


Melbirds runs to 84 printed pages and, of course, it’s not intended to be read cover to cover. Instead, we expect that kids and the people who read to them will flick through and focus on whatever catches their eye.  We’ve divided the species into sections that we hope will help with IDing new birds.

Michael and I have no training in birding, communicating with kids, or designing books. Leave us a comment if what we’ve made has been useful for you, and let us know what improvements us amateurs could feasibly make to it. Five months after the original release, we’ve updated the book with a 64th species plus native/introduced symbols for all species.

You can download a pdf of Melbirds here.

Finally – if you like Michael’s photos, you can keep up with his birding via his instagram and twitter accounts.


  1. This is brilliant, thank you so much for it! I’m a bird nerd and I’m trying to make my 2.5 yo babe a bird nerd too. I think I’m winning! I know you havent asked for anything, but I would love to give you both *something* / buy you a coffee for the effort and beauty of the book. Is there a way to do so? Feel free to email me directly to the email you should see from my comment notification. Thank you again!

    1. Oanh, thanks so much for your support! Michael has suggested that anyone who wants to pay it forward make a donation to BirdLife Austraila. And really, passing your love of nature on to your 2.5-year-old is the best outcome we can imagine. :)

    My mum (a self confessed bird nerd) and I have been looking for something for my almost 2 year old to have when hanging in Nannie’s garden!
    You have nailed the brief! Can’t wait to get this printed. Again thank you!

  3. What a lovely idea. My Dad was a bird watcher and my older brother is still a keen bird watcher maybe this will be the gateway to developing my inner bird nerd

    1. Thanks for the suggestion, Lis – I think that’s a bigger logistical project than we could take on ourselves at this time, but we’ll consider it in the long term. Colour printing is especially expensive! We had our one copy printed and spiral-bound at a local Officeworks. Other people have been saying that it’s great on an ipad.

  4. Thanks so much! Two of my young bird-watching nephews live in Nepal atm. When they visit Melbourne later this year they will love this book!

  5. Wow! This is such an awesome resource! It’s going straight to the pool room (actually, my year 6 classroom)!

  6. Thanks for your generosity in sharing this wonderful kids’ resource. We will certainly use it in any of our landcare group’s kids’ nature activities and share it around locally.

  7. Awesome! Thanks so much. I have been wanting to buy a book for ages for my two kids ( 2 & 5) that could help us spot all these wonderful birds we come across while we go to the park/ walk. This book is perfect for that! Thanks again

  8. Such a wonderful idea. Thank you for your generosity in sharing this. I’m heading straight to office works to get it printed! x

  9. Lovely book, and a great resource! Thanks so much!

    My inner handbook editor couldn’t help but notice a typo on page 57, “Chestnust” instead of “chestnut”. :-)

  10. Congratulations for a very well thought out book with excellent photos. This book would not only be great for children but also for those of us just starting out to appreciate the wonderful birdlife around us. I hope you have copywrited your photos and book. Well done!

  11. Thank you for sharing this wonderful resource! The photos are incredible and the information is just right for kids. Many of these birds can also be found in our local area, so I have shared it with colleagues.

  12. If I were turning 6 and was given this book I would be the happiest ever! However, page 21 needs more information and swearing xx

  13. Feedback from a fellow Librarian: A useful addition may have been a little symbol to denote native or introduced.

    1. Thanks, Marie! We’ll get that onto our to-do list for any potential future editions.

      I can’t help noticing that your home town would also make a great portmanteau title for a bird guide. :)

  14. Thank you for creating and sharing this wonderful resource! My 5yo loves looking up information about the birds we see every day, and your book is wonderfully accessible, and a great launchpad without being overwhelmingly overloaded with scientific names. Thank you!

  15. Thank you so much Cindy and Michael for this wonderful resource. I live in Queensland but my almost three year grandson lives in Melbourne. He will really value the information you have provided so beautifully. I’ve already learnt heaps of stuff too. I thank my cousin Ron Livingston for passing on info about the book via Facebook. All the best with all you endeavours, Warm Regards, Narelle Arcidiacono.

  16. As a teacher and science communicator, I think this book is great! I would also like to see native/non native info signalled in some way, and also scientific names and maybe an explanation of why there are called that ie means yellow footed
    I was about to print copies for all the young families I knew for Christmas but colour printing and binding comes to $40+ a book! Will have to rethink-would love to see a crowd funding project to bring these costs down in the future
    Until then, congrats on creating such a great resource

  17. This is awesome! Thank you so much for sharing it! I would echo others suggestions of a few symbols to denote native/non-native tame/shy and perhaps a few other things. My three year old can’t read, but pores over bird books “reading” the symbols about males/females, locations etc. I’m also a designer, so I’d love to offer my help if you ever do a crowd funding project – getting it printed and bound in a reasonable quantity at an ethical printing press like Print Together or Black Rainbow is much cheaper than good ol’ officeworks, and I’d be happy to help negotiate artwork specs etc.

  18. Thank you so much for this generous and wonderful resource! My 7 and 4 year olds are avid birdwatchers (twitchers?) and they use this book every day. It’s come along with us to almost every day trip and weekend away. ❤️
    I now love to hear my children identify birds while we’re out, using features spotted to distinguish them as per the book. Amazing how fast they learn.

  19. Thank you so much for this! It’s great that it’s in PDF format, easy to use, well organised/grouped with clear photos! Good job, will help me out in the field learning birds!

  20. I had this printed for my 6 (almost 7) year old nephew and gave it to him for Christmas with a pair of binoculars…and I won Christmas! Haha seriously, he loves it so much and it’s a wonderful book. I look forward to future editions ;) I’ve paid it forward by donating to BirdLife – I’m now aware of all the important work they doz. thanks for the education!


  21. Hello Cindy and Michael. I read your piece on Melbirds in The Age and seen the PDF on this site.Congratulations and thanks for the gift of your book. I have been a bookseller for 23 years and there has been nothing like.your book. It has been so needed. I am glad you don’t have much ‘experience’ in children’s books because this is perfect. If you went to the publishers I think they would say it is too niche, too long etc. I can sell quite a number of these books if you would like me to and raise money for Birdlife or for you to make books for every city/state in Australia. Please speak to me at 94398700 during office hours or on 0429129242 after hours if you would like to discuss this more.

    1. Meera, thank you very much for your encouragement! I think the gap between our book and your shop is colour printing, which is very expensive. We are exploring options, though, and will get in touch if something eventuates.

  22. Thanks for the excellent idea, great book and your generous sharing.
    I can see this taking off – Bendbirds, Shepbirds, Seemorebirds etc.

  23. LOVED this book and had printed for my grandson, a new resident to the Dandenong Ranges where we live. He is so interested in the birds he is discovering at his new home, this is so ideal for us to read the accompanying information related to the birds he is seeing. Your generosity in the download is spectacular and our family is very grateful. Thank you so much.

  24. Oh thank you so much for your work – this is a wonderful resource for old people (like me) as well as the little ones. My daughter is about to have a baby, and many of her friends too are expecting or have children. It is fantastic to have such local resource and the photos are great.

      1. Hi Hutch and Kenneth – I just tried again myself without issues! Can you tell me what kind of device and browser you are using?

        If all else fails you can email me (my address is on the Contact page) and I can email you a copy. Note that the file is 25MB in size, and the second page is blank for printing purposes.

      2. I have a desktop home computer, quite new and expensive, that has no trouble downloading PDFs generally. I shall email you – or you can email it to me at
        I really want to have it; I work with children, and it sounds like it would be very popular, and useful, for them.
        Ken Farmer.

  25. Many thanks for a great resource. I noticed one small typo on p.24 – delete ‘used’ in last sentence about currawongs.

  26. A fabulous resource to encourage little ones’ interest in nature and birdlife. Thank-you so much for your generosity in sharing. It was exactly what I was looking for to add to Mr. 3’s birthday presents, I’m sure he will love it!

  27. thank you for this wonderful resource. My two littlies will enjoy spotting all these creatures on our walks. I will also be sharing this with their school, childcare and cousins. Great work and beautifully done – thanks again!

  28. This is awesome. Our favourite book as siblings in England was a British bird book, which is now the favourite book of my nieces and nephews. I have been looking for something similar in Melbourne and this is perfect. My kids (and I) love it. Thank you

    1. Hi Sue! We are not printing copies of Melbirds for sale. You are free to download the book from this page, and print your own copy from that pdf. Thanks for your interest.

  29. Thank you for providing this to download. I am a school teacher in country Victoria and I will print out some of the common birds we have in our school to help with the Aussie Backyard Bird Count we are doing next week. Cheers!

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