Wellington native bird numbers flying high

9 November 2018

Wellington is now a prime place to see threatened native bird species and hear a dawn chorus according to a survey which shows numbers are booming.

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One trend indicates that kākāriki have increased about 700 percent since 2011, and new species have been picked up in the capital’s annual bird count. 

All native bird species are on the increase in the city’s reserves, and tūī and silvereye are the two most abundant species. Trends also indicate that you are twice as likely to see a tūī in a council reserve than you were in 2011. 

Since 2011, Wellington City Council’s Urban Ecology programme has engaged professional ecologists to conduct yearly five-minute bird counts at 100 stations in Wellington city reserves. The counts provide a high-level picture of how birds are doing by monitoring the trends in diversity, abundance and distribution. The report includes records of little penguins and spotted shags for the first time. 

“This is a fantastic result and shows there will be visible results as we progress towards becoming a predator-free capital,” says Mayor Justin Lester. 

“It’s incredible when you think there were only about six pairs of tui inside Zealandia in the mid-1990s and now we are seeing them everywhere. 

“The trends emerging from the surveys indicate that kākāriki have increased around 700 percent, kererū 350 percent and kākā at least 250 percent. Wellington is quickly becoming the bird-spotting capital.”

Councillor Peter Gilberd, who holds the Natural Environment portfolio, says reintroductions into Zealandia have been a important factor in the increase in bird life. 

“There are also more birds in more places because they have been largely encouraged by the Council’s large-scale predator control operations, and community trapping groups are intensifying efforts in reserves and backyards across the city. Fewer predators means safer habitats for native birds.”

The Council’s extensive planting programme has also been a game-changer. “More than 1.7 million native plants have been planted in open spaces – giving birds more food and habitat,” Cr Gilberd says.

Council’s Environment Partnership Leader, Tim Park says “Wellingtonians can also get involved by sharing observations of birds on ebird.org or iNaturalist.nz. These free citizen science platforms are a great way to meaningfully contribute to our understanding of the changing nature of Wellington.” 

The report can be found here. Key info:

  • Tūī have increased 200 percent (you are twice as likely to see a tui now in a council reserve than you were in 2011).  Tūī are now common and widespread in Wellington. There was only a small remnant population in the mid 1990s. 
  • Kākā have increased at least 250. Kākā are now commonly encountered in central Wellington, particularly in the suburbs of Karori, Wadestown, Ngaio, Kelburn, Te Aro and Brooklyn. They are also continuing to extend their range into more northern suburbs such as Johnsonville, and more eastern suburbs such as Miramar. Kākā were almost absent from the North Island about two decades ago.
  • Kererū have increased 350 percent. Much of this increase has been in recent years. Kererū encountered more in reserves containing original native forest habitat, such as Otari-Wilton Bush and Khandallah Park, but they are also frequently observed in adjacent suburban areas.
  • Kākāriki have increased 700 percent. Beyond Zealandia, kākāriki (red-crowned parakeets) are now established in Wright’s Hill Reserve, Otari-Wilton Bush and Khandallah Park, Huntleigh Park and possibly also the Wellington Botanic Gardens. Kār`ariki are still sparsely distributed throughout Wellington City, in both native forest and suburban habitat. 
  • Ruru/Morepork remain one of the unknowns in the forest landscape though we are investigating opportunities to learn more about the elusive species.