Weekend Sun   

The final count

Kererū will be counted for the final time this year. Photo: Tony Stoddard/Kererū Discovery.

An accumulation of data on kererū – the New Zealand pigeon – is now in its final year, and experts are asking for the community’s help one last time.

Tony Stoddard of Kererū Discovery says this is the last year of the ‘Great Kererū Count’.

“After this there will be eight years of data which will provide a scientifically robust understanding of trends, and how best to help kererū,” says Tony, who coordinates the count and is a passionate advocate for the bird.

“Whether you are inside your bubble or just out of it, make sure you count all the kererū you see between September 17 and 26.”

Tony says community participation over the last seven years has been a privilege to be part of.

“Over the last seven years there has been a total of 52,034 observations, and 119,910 kererū counted. For this final count, it’s important that as many people as possible join in. It’s super easy, good for you, and good for kererū.”

Kererū only live in New Zealand. They are protected birds, and a treasure or tāonga to many.

“Once there were large flocks of kererū, and now they are mostly seen singly or in small numbers perching on trees or overhead wires.

“Kererū are critical in keeping native forests growing because they are the only way that seeds of large native trees like tawa, taraire, hinau and miro are dispersed.”

They are also the only bird left in New Zealand that can distribute these large seeds and help keep native forests growing.

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

Victoria University of Wellington Centre for Biodiversity and Restoration Ecology director, Dr Stephen Hartley, says last year there was a 50 per cent increase in sightings from 2019.

“Despite this, there is a worrying recent report from the NZ Bird Atlas that numbers may be declining in the South Island,” says Dr Hartley.

“The count is about New Zealand working together as community scientists to gain a better understanding of kererū so we can help them thrive.

“Whether you see any kererū or not, sharing observations is helping us get a great picture of where kererū live, their abundance, and most importantly how best to protect them.

“From the data we already have, we know that some of the best ways people can help kererū in their community is by planting trees like kowhai, which is the most common tree people have seen kererū feeding on.”

Dr Hartley also expects to see the importance of pest control for boosting kererū numbers. They lay a single egg which is very vulnerable to being eaten by rats, possums and stoats.

Although this is the last year of the count, Kererū Discovery will continue so that people can keep sharing their stories and encounters and continue to build a shared understanding of kererū. Analysis of the eight years of data will be completed by Sam Rammell - a post-graduate student at Victoria University of Wellington.

Great Kererū Count observations and sightings can be logged at: www.greatkererucount.nz

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