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From otter spotters to Red vented bird watchers

DATE 8 September 2006

From otter spotters to Red vented bulbul bird watchers

Not long ago Aucklanders were keeping their eyes peeled for Jin the escaped Auckland Zoo otter. Now they’re again being asked to report sightings of red-vented bulbul birds.

Biosecurity New Zealand has been on the trail of a pair of the birds since last year, but despite several sightings in Devonport and the central city, the trail went cold. The birds are mostly dark coloured, but have a white abdomen and a distinctive crimson patch under the tail. They also have a small crest on their head and are about the same size as a starling.

Senior adviser Sonya Bissmire said Biosecurity New Zealand is working with the Department of Conservation and Auckland Regional Council to track the birds down.

“The birds are native to parts of Asia, but are a recognised invasive species and have established in parts of the Pacific, where these ones most likely came from. Biosecurity New Zealand is concerned that they may establish a population in Auckland that would affect resident’s gardens, native plants and birds. If they spread more widely, they could also impact on crops,” she said.

“Auckland residents were fantastic in reporting sightings last year but we never quite had them cornered. That was despite a number of calls and a local bird spotting group conducting a ‘stake-out’. These birds are pretty cunning and wary. They seem to really like cat biscuits, and there were more than a few reported narrow escapes from the cats the biscuits were intended for.”

In the 1950s a small population of about 50 red-vented bulbuls became established between Takapuna and Mt Eden after some were released from a ship. It took until 1955 to eradicate them, and since the late 1960’s it has been illegal to import them.

Sightings of the birds can be reported to 0800 80 99 66.

ENDS

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