Wellington’s native bird numbers soar

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Kākā has seen the biggest increase in bird numbers over the past ten years, increasing by 250%. Photo / Bridget Sloane

New data released by Wellington City Council shows a dramatic increase in the number of native birds counted in the city over the past 10 years.

Throughout the year, the council conducts five-minute bird counts at 100 stations in the city’s parks and reserves.

Between 2011 and 2020, the average number of native bird species observed during these counts increased by 50%.

The kākā population rebounded the most, increasing by 250%.

Kereru are also booming, increasing 186 percent, followed by tui with a jump of 121 percent.

The tui are one of the native bird species that has seen a significant increase in the capital.  Photo / Judi Lapsley Miller
The tui are one of the native bird species that has seen a significant increase in the capital. Photo / Judi Lapsley Miller

Wellington City Council biosecurity specialist Henk Louw said it was incredibly exciting.

“Communities are really contributing from all sides – restoration, entrapment, community advocacy, everyone is joining in and driving this increase through the work behind the scenes and the results are visible.”

Louw said the work the people of Wellington have done to help the birds is evident in finds like the titipounamu (rifleman) that began to nest on Te Ahumairangi Hill – a first in more than 100 years.

Zealandia Bird Sanctuary has also played an important role in restoring bird populations in the capital. This is because the predator-free fence around its perimeter keeps pests out.

However, he said species such as tieke (saddle), toutouwai (NZ robin) and popokotea (whitehead) still struggle to establish themselves outside of Zealandia’s fence.

Another species that currently thrives in the capital is the Pīwakawaka (fantails).  Photo / Tom Lynch
Another species that currently thrives in the capital is the Pīwakawaka (fantails). Photo / Tom Lynch

“There are various environmental factors that limit them to the Zealandia halo. Predation, food availability and rate of natural dispersal are all part of this.”

Other factors that contributed to the rebound were efforts to plant two million trees in the city, more than 9,000 traps in backyards and municipal reserves, and the elimination of 72,000 pests in the city. of Wellington over the past five years, Louw said.

Ellen Irwin, Chief Ranger of Zealandia.  Photo / Nick James
Ellen Irwin, Chief Ranger of Zealandia. Photo / Nick James

Zealandia Chief Ranger Ellen Irwin said it was great to see the progress made by native birds.

“Obviously Zealandia provides a real safe place for birds to breed and thrive, but there has also been an incredible amount of work done by community groups and the city council around controlling predators, planting and creating a safe space once they have left the shrine. . “

Irwin said Zealandia helps different species in various ways.

“Something like hihi (stitchbird), these are nests in cavities and our forest is not mature enough to necessarily provide enough tree cavities for them to nest in, so we provide them with nesting boxes that they use during the breeding season. “

Irwin said the kākā are also given birdhouses.

“The most important thing we do is maintain the fence and maintain a predator-free environment.”

Irwin said Wellingtonians can also take steps to help native birds thrive.

“Backyard trapping is a great thing to do, planting native trees that not only help birds but also lizards and other invertebrates to really create a real backyard of biodiversity. “

She said responsible possession of animals around reserves, especially with cats, is another key measure.

Gini Letham, Zealandia Scientific and Communication Manager Ranger Photo / Nick James
Gini Letham, Zealandia Scientific and Communication Manager Ranger Photo / Nick James

Chief Science and Communications Ranger Gini Letham said other initiatives include the Sanctuary to Sea project, which aims to improve fish habitats, migration and forest corridors for native birds leaving Zealandia. .

It is a partnership of more than 15 catering organizations, including iwi, Morphum Environmental, Wellington City Council, Wellington Water and Greater Wellington Regional Council.

“It’s about restoring the environment as a whole rather than helping one particular species.”

Letham said the project, which began in 2018, is already having an impact.

She said they also do a lot of work outside the fence on wildlife education for those who don’t come to Zealandia often.

“Nature is for everyone so we want to make sure that everyone can have access to it.”



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