News | 20 July 2022
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Capital flocks together to see bird numbers fly sky high

The latest monitoring survey shows bird numbers are soaring in the capital – but while there’s lots to tweet about, there is still more work to be done.

Titipounamu on hand: credit Melissa Boardman
Titipounamu photo credit Melissa Boardman

Thanks to years of collaboration between Wellington City Council, Zealandia, Predator Free Wellington and great mahi from thousands of volunteers and groups around the capital native bird species numbers are constantly increasing and predator activity is down.

Five-minute bird counts have been carried out at 100 bird count stations in forest habitat throughout Wellington every year since 2011, monitoring trends in diversity, abundance and distribution of native forest birds.

Read Forest and Coastal bird reports

Between 2011 and 2021, average annual counts of kākā have increased by 270%, kererū by 243%, tūī by 74% and pīwakawaka by 37%.

Kereru sitting in tree photo credit Tony Stoddard
Kererū photo credit Tony Stoddard

These results are largely due to the predator-free Zealandia sanctuary, and the measurable ‘halo’ effect on native forest bird communities, with the average number of native bird species recorded declining with increasing distance from Zealandia’s predator-proof fence.

Wellingtonians are huge fans of our feathered friends, and love reporting their findings through various apps and surveys, says Council’s Urban Ecology Manager, Henk Louw

“We have noticed increased engagement from the public, with over 70,000 citizen science reports of native bird observations collated over 10 years through iNaturalist, the Great Kērerū Count, and the NZ Garden Bird Survey.

“In addition to the halo effect, Wellington trapping volunteers both in reserves and their backyards continue to create safe spaces for the birds jumping the fence. Their continued effort is paving the way for birds to explore new areas and in some cases, even establish themselves. Re-introduced titipounamu have successfully bred in Wellington’s reserves for the first time in over 100 years in the 2021/22 season.

“Our mission has always been to connect people with nature, and for them to feel an emotional attachment and want to protect it, so it’s rewarding to witness that first-hand across a wide range of communities and demographics.”

Last year, to mark the 10 years of the report and celebrate our successes, Wellington City Council launched a video with the key stats and findings to tell the story of birdlife in Pōneke.