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Return of native birds to Wellington continuing to grow

News from Predator Free Wellington
The spectacular return of native birds to Wellington continues to intensify. More than half of birds in Wellington forest reserves are now native and we are protecting more birds that are classified as ‘nationally threatened’ or ‘at risk’. These birds now make up a quarter of the diversity of our bird population in Wellington.

This is good news, it means that vulnerable bird populations that have been translocated into Zealandia are spreading out across Wellington.

The significant increase of tūī, kākā and kākāriki across the city indicates that the improvements in the intensity and spatial coverage of predator control beyond Zealandia has benefitted these birds.

Tīeke are largely restricted to Zealandia and forest reserves less than 1-2 km from the pest-proof fence. The research indicates the 250% increase in tīeke recorded in these areas since 2011 is likely to be a result of ongoing improvements in the mammalian predator control being carried out in forest reserves adjacent to Zealandia.

Kākāriki have also increased significantly since 2011 from very low numbers. They are sparsely distributed throughout Wellington City, in both native forest and suburban habitats and have increased more than seven-fold (about 750%). Beyond Zealandia, kākāriki are now established in Wrights Hill Reserve, Otari-Wilton Bush, Khandallah Park, Huntleigh Park and possibly also the Wellington Botanic Garden.

Kākā are now commonly encountered in central Wellington, particularly in the suburbs of Karori, Wadestown, Ngaio, Kelburn, Te Aro and Brooklyn. Kākā are also continuing to extend their range into more northern suburbs such as Johnsonville, and more eastern suburbs such as Miramar. Kākā are estimated to be now three times more prevalent beyond Zealandia than in 2011.

Kererū have become much more abundant and the research confirms that they are now four times more prolific than in 2011. Kererū are most prevalent 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 and beyond.

Tūī have cemented their place as the most abundant native bird in Wellington forest reserves and are now widespread and common across the city. Tūī have recently overtaken the small tauhou (silver eye) to take this honour. When recently surveyed, tūī were found to be around twice as prolific than when measured in 2011 (a 180-200% increase). There was only a small resident population in the mid 1990s.

Additionally, a recent survey of coastal birds in Wellington found the nationally endangered matuku moana (reef heron) breeding on Tapu Te Ranga in Island Bay for the first time in many years. The Wellington City Council has been working with local volunteers to increase predator control along the adjacent coastline to protect these special birds and contribute toward the collective effort to realise a Predator Free Wellington.

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