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14248 kererū counted in nationwide citizen science survey

30 September 2019

This week New Zealand citizen scientists made over 6,700 observations of kererū. This year’s Count had broader reach than last year, with observations from Kaitaia to Rakiura/Stewart Island and everywhere in between, and a total of 14,248 kererū were counted.

The number of observations were down from 8,500 last year, and Dr Stephen Hartley, Director of the Centre of Biodiversity & Restoration at Victoria University of Wellington and key partner of the Great Kererū Count, says this doesn’t necessarily mean that there has been a drop in the kererū population, simply that fewer observations have been reported.

“The Great Kereru Count doesn’t tell us exactly how many kererū there are in the country, but over time it will tell us if numbers start to increase or decrease in certain areas relative to others” says Dr Hartley.

With the bumper fruiting season this spring, there has been unusually high amounts of forest fruit, so one possibility is that kererū have been staying deep in the forest rather than venturing out into towns and cities.

Tony Stoddard, coordinator of the Great Kererū Count and Director of Kererū Discovery, says that people have been very concerned about reported low sightings in places such as Upper Hutt, Wellington.

However, he cautions that Kererū are able to fly up to 70 kilometres in a single day, and so lower numbers being reported in towns and gardens may not be all bad news.

“Just like my labrador-cross dog, kererū will go out of their way to follow their favourite foods. Kererū feeding on native forest fruit is exactly what they need to do, as they play a crucial role in dispersing seeds of large trees like tawa, taraire, hinau and miro – this is why they are known as gardeners-of-the-sky.”

The aim of the Great Kererū count is to build a comprehensive longitudinal study of how New Zealand’s native pigeon is doing. Now in its sixth year, the Great Kererū Count needs eight years of data to help New Zealand understand how best to restore healthy and abundant populations of kererū.

Tony Stoddard thanks all who took part. “I’d like to do a huge shout-out to everyone who participated in the count and shared their kererū observations. This is our only comprehensive record of how these amazing birds are doing. The photos and stories people have shared over the last 10 days is truly inspiring.”

If you didn't see kererū in your area at this time of year, but they come visiting at other times, observations can be recorded year-round on i-Naturalist and stories can be shared on Kererū Discovery Facebook – this will all help build a national picture” assures Stoddard.

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


Additional information

• Kererū are also known as kūkū / kūkupa/ kokopa / New Zealand pigeon (Hemiphaga novaeseelandiae) and the parea / Chatham Islands pigeon (Hemiphaga chathamensis).

• The Great Kererū Count has just completed its sixth year.

• In 2017 6,946 observations were made, counting a total of 15,459 kererū.

• In 2018 8,500 observations were made, counting a total of 18,981 kererū.

• Kererū play a crucial role in dispersing seeds of large native trees like tawa, taraire, and miro.

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

• Kererū are protected birds and endemic to New Zealand (i.e. found nowhere else in the world). 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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