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Counting the Kererū – starting today

counting the kereru
Photo by Tony Stoddard – Urban Wildlife Trust

Press Release – Wellington City Council
The Wellington City Council is a proud partner of the Great Kererū Count, which takes off on Friday.

Mayor Andy Foster says: “It is an absolute joy to see increasing numbers of these beautiful birds soaring over our city, perched on wires and in trees. It is also special to have occasionally seen flocks of 20 to 30 birds.

“I remember being told that thirty years ago there were just two pairs of kererū in our city, so this is a wonderful demonstration of the incredible environmental restoration journey we’ve been on over these nearly thirty years,” he says.

“For nearly thirty years, Council has protected large areas of land to form our Outer Green Belt. That’s enabled natural regeneration, which along with active planting and intense predator control by Council and thousands of Wellingtonians, has hugely improved habitat for kererū and other native birds,” adds Mayor Foster, himself a keen reserves trapper.

“The Great Kererū Count measures this progress. New Zealanders contribute to one of our country’s largest citizen science projects by recording observations of kererū. This information gives a better understanding of how they are doing, and what conditions help kererū survive and thrive.

“The research shows kererū have become more abundant nationwide, while in Wellington forest reserves they are now four times more prolific than they were in 2011. Until recently, kererū were usually found in reserves containing major native forest habitat like Otari-Wilton Bush, Khandallah Park and Zealandia, but now they are an increasingly regular sight in neighbourhoods all over the city.”

Kererū are a crowd favourite in Wellington, well-known for their entertaining antics, but they are also able to distribute large seeds and help keep native forests growing with giants such as tawa, miro and hinau – crucial for ecosystem services like clean water, clean air, and healthy soil.

Tony Stoddard of Kererū Discovery, who coordinates the Count, shares some tips for good spots to see kererū; “At this time of the year, kererū will be flocking to trees like willow and tree lucerne. These trees are kererū-magnets as the birds come out of their winter-feeding grounds and prepare for the breeding season by feeding on the nitrogen-rich leaves.

“In urban areas, kōwhai are another important food source for kererū, and you will often see or hear angry tui defending their trees from hungry kererū.”

Some other bird highlights this year have been kakariki and banded dotterel seen in Miramar, a number of karearea seen feasting in the CBD since the COVID-19 lockdown, and a rifleman spotted outside Zealandia’s fence.

These are great results and show the progress we’re having in our community and urban ecology programmes, says Natural Environment portfolio lead, Councillor Teri O’Neill.

“Kererū play the roles of great rangers and gardeners too – they help out our biodiversity in spreading the seeds of native bush and other efforts.

“As we protect nature, nature will protect us – and we’re on the right track to ensure the future of this precious tāonga. Our city’s love of birds is critically important to the success of ecosystems, economy and people. If you’re someone who has appreciated the feathered friends in your backyard over lockdown – this is one way we can return the favour.

“Examples like the Great Kererū Count citizen science projects are valuable ways to deepen our understanding of the changing face of nature in Wellington, and the country as a whole.”

This year the annual Great Kererū Count 2020 runs from 18-27 September.

The Great Kererū Count is a collaborative project led by Urban Wildlife Trust & Kererū Discovery together with partners Wellington City Council, Dunedin City Council/City Sanctuary, Nelson City Council and Victoria University of Wellington.

Further information

The Great Kererū Count

Great Kererū Count observations are easy on the Great Kererū Count website www.greatkererucount.nz. Simply use the quick observation page (no log-in required).

For more expert community scientists, the iNaturalist app for Android and iPhones can be downloaded for free from www.greatkererucount.nz.

In 2019 14,287 kererū were counted by around 6794 participants. In 2018 18,981 kererū were counted by around 8,788 participants, and in 2017 15,459 kererū were counted by around 6,946 participants.

Kererū are also known as kūkū / kūkupa/ kokopa / New Zealand pigeon (Hemiphaga novaeseelandiae) and the parea / Chatham Islands pigeon (Hemiphaga chathamensis). Kererū play a crucial role in dispersing seeds of large native trees like tawa, taraire, and miro.

Kererū are protected birds and endemic to New Zealand. Kererū numbers today remain much lower than the flocks reported from 50-100 years ago. The main threat to kererū is predation by introduced mammalian predators, particularly feral cats, possums, stoats, and rats. Other threats include collisions with man-made objects such as fast-moving vehicles, overhead power, and telephone wires, fences and windows, and illegal hunting of kererū.

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