Wellington Scoop

Stop decorating birds, says SPCA

Report from RNZ
The SPCA says birds are showing up in Wellington distressed or dead after being decorated with tinsel, rings and other items.

It has reported incidents involving about 30 non-native birds such as sparrows since 2015, but it has got worse during Christmas in the suburb of Kilbirnie.

The agency has posted on social media asking for whoever is decorating them to stop.

Its central region general manager Ros Alsford said many of the birds are malnourished, stressed, or have died.

“One of the birds we saw had tried to pry the decorations off with their beak and had got itself into an even worse situation,” she said. “We’re not sure what is in this person’s mind to be doing this and we really would like to try and put a stop to it as quickly as we can.”

It was extremely distressing on the birds, as well as the SPCA staff who have to care for them, she said.

The birds seem to be appearing around Salek and Te Whiti streets.

The SPCA wants the public to come forward if they know anything.

SPCA on Facebook – January 3
The Wellington Centre is appealing to the public for help in solving a case of cruelty. We are continuing to get reports of wild birds in the Kilbirnie area with decorative trinkets, such as tinsel or ribbons, attached to their wings or around their necks. To date, we have been unable to identify who is responsible and the Wellington Inspectorate Team would like to speak to those involved. If you have any information, or would like to make an anonymous tip, please contact our call centre on (04) 389 8044. Your help will be greatly appreciated.


  1. Heidi P, 9. January 2019, 14:26

    It’s wonderful that the SPCA is calling for the end to this type of bizarre and stupid cruelty. Likewise it’s brilliant that the SPCA is also trying to to stop the widespread use of the inhumane 1080 poison. Well done SPCA!

  2. aom, 9. January 2019, 17:38

    Are Heidi and the SPCA really lining up with the DoC staff threateners, science deniers, pig and deer tormentors who don’t mind inflicting serious pain on their quarry, conspiracy theorists and those who would willingly hasten the extinction of NZ’s indigenous treasures?

  3. Heidi P, 10. January 2019, 5:41

    No aom. I was just calling for the banning of the inhumane poison 1080 that kills NZ indigenous treasures as it kills indiscriminately. I am thrilled the SPCA has the courage to try to stop this hideous cruel practice.

  4. Andy Mellon, 12. January 2019, 10:09

    No surprises that the SPCA is as poorly informed about the net benefits to endemic species as they are in their policies around feral cat management. I don’t think the SPCA would be happy until the only wild fauna left in NZ are feral cats.

  5. Daily Pnut, 12. January 2019, 16:04

    …and like clockwork out come the govt media spinners. But can’t have any public disagreement with govt operations especially from well informed highly credible sources like the SPCA. New Zealand are behind the rest of the world where 1080 has sensibly been banned.

  6. Andy Mellon, 12. January 2019, 19:59

    Another poster willing to condemn all our surviving endemic species to extinction. Until someone offers up a reasonable, non-utopian alternative to 1080, then it’ll continue to be used. The SPCA offer no alternative, you offer no alternative, the anti-1080 groups offer no alternative.

    And no, I don’t work for the government but I have done plenty of voluntary field work. I’ve seen nesting birds killed (on the nest) by invasive species. Our native birds, many of which are ground or tree nesting, have no defences against invasive species. Even our larger birds can be easily killed by a feral cat. Nesting success greatly increases after a 1080 drop.

    Don’t believe me? Read the science: https://newzealandecology.org/nzje/3341.pdf

    “Only one of fifteen nesting attempts failed at Okarito during the two breeding seasons after 1080 treatment, whereas ten out of thirteen nests failed in the untreated Fox–Paringa site, including seven failures out of seven nests during the stoat irruption year of 2012.”

    Yes, things can be done better. Yes, we should be looking for alternatives. But unless you want more native species to become extinct, then 1080 is a necessity.

  7. aom, 13. January 2019, 0:43

    Andy, you are wasting your time presenting rational arguments while people like Daily Pnut and Heidi consider that the SPCA has credibility because it opposes the use of the only weapon currently available to reverse the damage done by introduced alien species. One of the more perverse activities of the organisation is to save feral cats, desex them, then send them back to continue their genocidal killing of endemic wildlife. A further irony is that the SPCA is in the same camp as the fraudsters who protested at Parliament by claiming native birds were killed with 1080 when they weren’t, hunters who are excited by dogs savaging their quarry before being stabbed to death, and people who intentionally damage helicopters and vehicles as well as threatening DOC Rangers and environmentally motivated volunteers.

  8. Heidi P, 13. January 2019, 6:22

    1080 kills native species, and many people do not know that 1080 kills inhumanely and indiscriminately. The first step in trying to “doing it better” is catching up with the rest of the world that has wisely banned 1080.

  9. aom, 13. January 2019, 9:22

    Please deal with facts Heidi. The use of 1080 elsewhere, like in New Zealand, is determined by local factors. As a control method, 1080 removes non-endemic species here. Why would other countries use it when it would specifically target their own endemic species, some of which were were transhipped to become a scourge in the unique NZ New Zealand environment?

  10. TrevorH, 13. January 2019, 13:56

    The only other jurisdiction which uses 1080 in the same way as New Zealand is, as far as I can see, Western Australia. Its use is banned in the United States. A more humane approach needs to be found, for example by interrupting the fertility of target species. Is DoC or any university or research institute pursuing research along these or similar lines and if not, why not?

  11. Katy Mansfield, 14. January 2019, 11:27

    Only in Aotearoa would you get away with carpet bombing a substance so toxic that it is banned everywhere else! Makes me so sad.

  12. Andy Mellon, 14. January 2019, 21:16

    Would that be more hyperbole by any chance?
    “1080 is banned in several countries, including Brazil, Belize, Cuba, Laos, Slovenia and Thailand, as well as in some states of the United States where aerial distribution and its use on all mammals but coyotes is prohibited.” All of whom have native terrestrial mammals which would be the most in line for harm if used in the same way as New Zealand where we have no terrestrial native mammals.

    @TrevorH – hard to tell, but you can have a look at proposals funded through MBIE’s Endeavour Fund. For example, there’s a funded proposal from Landcare for $9m over 5 years titled “More Birds in the Bush: large-scale restoration across complex forests”. There’s detail in the MBIE documents which can be found on MBIE’s website. It does seem that there’s greater focus on research to support primary industries, but I’ve only looked at the 2018 results.

  13. Mel G., 15. January 2019, 9:05

    Our native eco-fanatics should read veteran eco-journalist Fred Pearce on why invasive species will be nature’s salvation.

  14. Andy Mellon, 15. January 2019, 9:23

    @MelG – I read that article and understand the point that evolution exists and it’s a survival of the fittest argument and that ecosystems adapt to change.

    What will not have enough time to evolve are New Zealand’s unique endemic species. I notice that article doesn’t talk about what his approach is when an invasive predator becomes an extinction threat to a rare endemic. The methodology proposed essentially means the ecosystem adapts to the invader (i.e. the native will become extinct).

    This is not out of alignment with my earlier expressed view that if you do nothing, then our native species will become extinct. This article just takes it a step further and says that our ecosystems will become adapted to host what are currently invasive species – so our forests will become host to feral cats, mustelids, rats, blackbirds, sparrows etc. and will be much like any forest in the Northern Hemisphere. We’d lose what is unique about NZ bushland.

  15. Andy Foster, 15. January 2019, 9:37

    Thank you Andy and Aom for your stout defence of predator control work.
    To the rest of the commentators here it just does not seem – from repeated posts on the subject – that you understand that New Zealand is genuinely unique – or was before we humans arrived bringing mammalian predators (and our own often catastrophic behaviours). As Andy and Aom have pointed out, these islands did not have land-based mammals until we arrived.
    New Zealand was a land isolated from mammals (other than 3 bat species) for around 70 million years. If that 70 million years were a 24 hour day, the first Polynesians arrived just after 1 second to midnight. In that last second we have eradicated 1/4 of all bird species, and 80% of those that are left are threatened or endangered – many of them critically. Many of the 60 lizard species, 4 frogs, 3 bats, insect species, and many plant species are also in serious danger. That long isolation also means we have the highest proportion of species of any place on the planet (possibly bar Antarctica) which occur nowhere else. If those species are lost in New Zealand – then they are lost everywhere.
    The biggest threat to them now is predators – especially stoats (and other mustelids), rats and possums.
    Stoats are enemy number one – they pretty much kill for fun. We know they will patrol an area waiting for kiwi chicks to hatch – then kill them. Only 1 in 20 kiwi chicks survive to adulthood without pest control. The story is no different for most of our other bird species. They simply cannot co-exist with these predators. A very conservatively estimated 25 million birds, chicks and eggs are devoured by predators every year.
    They need our help. Doing nothing is not an option unless we are willing – on our watch – to allow yet more unique and precious species to be eaten into extinction. Imagine calling ourselves Kiwis if we, our generation, allowed the birds we named ourselves after to disappear. I am not willing to see that happen, and I believe most New Zealanders are not either. It is fantastic to see so many thousands of people in our community trapping in backyards and reserves, to see the work being done by Capital Kiwi. Kia kaha people! In Wellington we aspire to remove all those predator species, starting with the Miramar peninsula this year. Personally I got just 4 rats yesterday checking my trap lines. That makes 237 rats /mice and includes half a dozen hedgehogs /weasels over the past two years. As so often I also see and hear endangered bird spilling out of the Sanctuary as I do – sometimes robin (toutouwai), tieke and yesterday hihi (stitchbird). It is good to know I am helping give them a chance.
    Trapping is good but we need – and I mean need – more, especially in remoter areas. 1080 is an essential tool at this stage, and looks likely to be essential for some years to come. I do recommend that people read some of the reputable research (the PCE’s 2011 paper is very good – if a little dated now). Among other things it notes the continual improvement in techniques (including reduction to less than 1/10th of the amount required for any given area compared to the 1970s), and significant improvements to safety procedures. It also notes that we used at that stage (2011) 3000 kg of 1080 per annum, less than 1 /1000th of the total pesticide use of 3,500,000 kg. The biggest thing wrong with 1080 is that at the moment only a fraction of the DoC estate has any form of predator control, and 1080 is used on an even smaller proportion, meaning the predators run riot in those areas without control. It is great that the new Government has allocated more funding to DoC for predator control.
    We so clearly need to do more – not less. Thank you again to all the people who are making a difference in helping protect the unique species we share these islands with.

    Cr Andy Foster
    Predator Free Wellington Leader, Wellington City Council