Local bird lovers participate in national garden bird survey3 min readReading Time: 3 minutes
We hear a lot about the iconic native birds in our country, from the cheeky kea to the elusive kiwi, but how much do we actually know about the local bird populations in the rural and suburban spaces around us? To find out more, in 2007 an annual survey was set up to look at trends in these populations, and since then, thousands of people from across the country have participated in the annual New Zealand Garden Bird Survey.
For one hour between the 25th June and 3rd July, people record the birds they see and hear in their gardens and local parks. Some have participated in the survey for years, while others have taken part for the first time this year. Even though the participants come from a wide variety of ages, backgrounds, and motivations, they’re all united by their love of birds.
When asked what inspired her to engage in the survey, Onehunga resident, Linda Freeman, explained that as Auckland’s gardens shrink alongside urban intensification, she feels she has “a duty to protect the birds.” Meanwhile, Davinia Divis was driven by curiosity, saying “I wanted to learn about all the different birds in my garden.”
Others, like Olga Brochner, Kevin Barker, and Grant Taylor, are passionate about conservation. They are all involved in local groups and initiatives to protect native birds;
Grant campaigns for nature corridors to be created, which would allow native birds to move around the city more safely, and Kevin and Olga work with the Maungakiekie Songbird organisation, which works to trap pests and attract bird wildlife.
For the people who took part in this year’s survey, there were even a few surprises along the way. Young Michael Divis, who participated for the first time this year, was excited to see a starling as he had never encountered one before. “They look pretty cool, don’t they?” he said as his sister described the birds, which “looked like the night sky with all the stars.” Meanwhile, Linda Freeman saw a tuī (which usually stays in the safety of the trees near her house for fear of predators) briefly alight on the ground to eat a piece of fruit.
Those wanting to join in the survey next year don’t need to be bird experts. The New Zealand Garden Bird Survey website has a handy identification guide with pictures of common birds. And if you need any further encouragement, Davinia says, “It’s really fun to explore lots of types of birds.”
Key findings from the 2021 bird survey
Good news for four native species:
- Kererū (woodpigeon) counts show a 102% increase over 10 years, increasing rapidly over the last five years (57%).
- Pīwakawaka (fantail) counts were up 47% over 10 years.
- Kōkō (tūī) continue to increase nationally (30% over 10 years), and increasingly in Canterbury, Marlborough, Otago, and the West Coast.
- Tauhou (silvereye) shows its long-term slow decline is lessening (10% compared with 23% last year), with a moderate increase in numbers since 2016.
- Myna (maina) There has been little change to counts nationally, but in Wellington they have shown a rapid increase – 202% over the past 10 years.
- Starling (tāringi) shows numbers continue to decline over both the five and 10 year period, although their rate of decline has slowed compared to last year.
- Goldfinch shows a slight increase over 10 years. First detected last year, which has increased (from 18% to 30%).
- Numbers of song thrush, house sparrows, dunnock, chaffinch, and korimako (bellbirds) show little change over the past five years.
A tui in a bird bath (photo credit: Olga Brochner)