Join in ... with the Lower Murray Bird Club

Helen Elix and Geoff Poyner invite you to get involved with bird keeping and breeding in the Murraylands.

“Join In” aims to promote community connections and wellbeing in the Murraylands – and it could promote your business, too. Murray Bridge News is seeking an ongoing sponsor for this regular feature. Call Peri on 0419 827 124 or email

More than 600 people have descended on the racecourse at Gifford Hill on Sunday – not for a horse race, but for a bird sale.

The sale is the biggest annual event of the Lower Murray Bird Club, an association of about 150 locals interested in keeping and breeding finches, parrots and other birds.

Its highest award this year was the Brian Dabinett Memorial, given to the best display at the sale in the memory of the club’s late president of 22 years.

Mr Dabinett’s legacy, and his passion for birds, is now being carried on by club members including Geoff Poyner, who spoke with Murray Bridge News on the phone on Wednesday, and Helen Elix, who took the time to introduce some of her finches.

Twenty-six different species live in aviaries behind the home in Murray Bridge where she and her husband Colin live.

When did you first get involved with breeding birds?

Geoff: About six and a half years ago I moved to Strathalbyn from northern Victoria. I was involved with birds there for 25 years before I came here – finches and small neophema parrots ... I used to have a sheep stud. From the time I was young I’ve been fascinated with genetics ... not only to breed better birds, but to keep their colour and size.

Helen: We became involved with the club when we moved here 20 years ago from our Holstein Friesian stud at Ponde. I always enjoy the outdoors, I always love birds. Colin is the one who looks after the birds; my role is to help out in any way I can with the club – with tech, the Bird Bites newsletter, Facebook. I have hand-fed some finches though, some little double-bars. That was quite an achievement.

What do you get out of your involvement?

Geoff: Meeting other bird people … (And) it’s very pleasing to put a pair of birds down and get some young ones out of them.

Helen: It’s the excitement of breeding them for the first time, or putting a flock together and having success. And networking with other breeders is important.

What is your fondest memory of your time breeding birds?

Geoff: I got fascinated as a teenager when my parents bought a pair of green budgies. Every time they nested, there was one pure yellow one out of those green ones. That’s what started the fascination: how can those two green ones come out with a yellow one?

Helen: Four years ago one of our bird breeders brought a tiny owl finch. It hardly had any feathers on it. We didn’t expect it to live. Four fell out of the nest in Mount Barker and (the other birds) wouldn't accept this little one. We reared it and it became very attached – it would be in the lounge, sit on Colin’s glasses, hide under my collar. Now it has been in our aviary for four years, and for the first time it has reared some young and they’ve just fledged. We were thinking he had become too humanised, he didn’t want to breed, but now he’s settled down with a female and given us three young.

Geoff: If it doesn’t rain, birds don’t seem to breed as well – it’s nature. Even though you’ve got them in a false environment, a different environment, it still affects them ... They’re a bit like humans. Just because you've got a male and a female, it doesn’t mean they’re going to breed.

What do you spend your time doing each month?

Geoff: We have a meeting once a month. We discuss what’s happening. It’s a chance to swap birds if you’re missing a particular male or female, want to get a new bloodline or that sort of thing. We have other clubs come and visit us.

Helen: We have guest speakers as well ... We go on trips. We average around 35 to 40 members at a meeting.

What is your goal with the Lower Murray Bird Club?

Geoff: Fellowship … (Also) a certain species might be endangered and the club might be able to take it on and breed more of that particular type.

Helen: The goal would be to try and stimulate more interest with the young people. Most of our bird keepers are 50-plus. There’s wisdom there, and it's great to be able to share that with younger people.

Why should people join the club?

Geoff: To find out how enjoyable (birds) are. Just about every member would have one or two birds they’re particularly fond of as a companion. And your parrots, a lot of them will talk. They’ve all got different personalities. You let them out, they’ll come and sit on your shoulder, sit on the edge of your bowl when you’re having breakfast. It’s another reason to get out of bed in the morning.

Helen: For the satisfaction of buying your first pair of birds and seeking advice on how to look after them. It’s different to having a pet like a cat or a dog.

Geoff: Some of our older members, they’re willing to pass on as much information (as they can) ... We’ve got plenty of knowledge in our club to help any person who wants to start out and try breeding birds.

“Join In” aims to promote community connections and wellbeing in the Murraylands – and it could promote your business, too. Murray Bridge News is seeking an ongoing sponsor for this regular feature. Call Peri on 0419 827 124 or email