The joy of bird song is something we take for granted and we may get used to the tui’s iridescent splendour. But the annual New Zealand Garden Bird Survey offers a chance to observe the birds around us and collect useful information for research.
This is the 16th year the national survey is being held and researchers are starting to identify trends from the information received. If you want to play your part in understanding the trends of our bird populations, visit the New Zealand Garden Bird Survey website and download a tally sheet. Then select a backyard, a garden, marae, local park or school grounds to start your survey.
Choose one hour on one day between 25 June and 3 July. Then get comfortable and ready to jot down your findings. Look and listen for birds. The survey is asking what birds are in your garden and how many.
For each species of birds, write down the highest number you see or hear at one time. Your findings can be submitted online at the New Zealand Garden Bird Survey website (gardenbirdsurvey.nz). You will find a link to the survey form live on the homepage from the date the survey starts.
Whitianga resident, Tony Wilson, has been a professional birdwatching guide for overseas tourists. He is enthusiastic about the survey because it encourages people to take time out to appreciate what birds are in their neighbourhood. “I think it develops their interest and also their knowledge of what birds are attracted to particular plants,” he says. “Then they can compare the birds and plants in their garden to other people’s gardens. It is also a good opportunity to get children involved and appreciating birds. Using binoculars is also a good idea. From my experience when out birdwatching, if I have binoculars and I hand them to someone else to watch, they look and go, ‘Wow!’”
There was some good news coming from last year’s survey, which showed that nationally kereru numbers increased rapidly over the past five years (up 57 percent). Fantails were up 47 percent over the past 10 years and tui have increased by 30 percent in that time. However, bellbirds show little change over the past five years and silvereye have had a moderate increase during that time.
Statistics on introduced species such as song thrush, house sparrows, dunnock and chaffinch also show little change over the past five years.
Goldfinch show a shallow increase over 10 years and starlings continue to decline. Nationally there has been little change in myna counts, except in Wellington, where they have increased 202 percent in the past 10 years.
Pictured is a photo of a tui captured by Whitianga Photographic Club member, Steve Merchant.