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Kakariki numbers up 700%, as capital’s native bird species boom

Boom! It’s not the sound of a kakapo, but many other native bird species are causing an explosive increase in the dawn chorus across Wellington.

The capital’s annual bird count shows that all native bird species are on the increase in the city’s reserves, with kakariki numbers increasing about 700 per cent since 2011. Beyond Zealandia, the red-crowned parakeets (above) are now established in Wright’s Hill Reserve, Otari-Wilton Bush and Khandallah Park and Huntleigh Park.

Kaka and kereru also on the rise, with 250 per cent and 350 per cent increases respectively.

Kaka, which were almost absent from the North Island about two decades ago, are now commonly encountered in central Wellington, particularly in Karori, Wadestown, Ngaio, Kelburn, Te Aro and Brooklyn, and are now extending their range into northern suburbs such as Johnsonville, and eastern suburbs like Miramar.

The two most abundant species of native birds are tui (below) and silvereye. There was only a small remnant population of tui in the mid-1990s, but now they are ubiquitous.

You are twice as likely to see a tui in a council reserve than you were in 2011, when the Wellington City Council’s Urban Ecology programme first engaged professional ecologists to conduct yearly five-minute bird counts at 100 stations in the city’s reserves.

The counts provide a high-level picture of how birds are doing by monitoring the trends in diversity, abundance and distribution.

The full report (available here) includes records of little penguins and spotted shags for the first time.

Councillor Peter Gilberd, who holds the Natural Environment portfolio, says reintroductions into Zealandia have been an important factor in the increase in bird life.

“There are also more birds in more places because they have been largely encouraged by the Council’s large-scale predator control operations, and community trapping groups are intensifying efforts in reserves and backyards across the city.”

The Council’s extensive planting programme has also been a game-changer.

“More than 1.7 million native plants have been planted in open spaces – giving birds more food and habitat,” Cr Gilberd says.

Council’s Environment Partnership Leader, Tim Park says: “Wellingtonians can get involved by sharing observations of birds on ebird.org or iNaturalist.nz. These free citizen science platforms are a great way to meaningfully contribute to our understanding of the changing nature of Wellington.”