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The Final Count Down - Great Kererū Count 2021

Photo: Tony Stoddard from Kererū Discovery

It’s time for the Great Kererū Count 2021. Whether you are inside your bubble, or just out of it, make sure you count all the Kererū you see between 17 and 26 September.

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 on how best to help kererū.

Tony Stoddard of Kererū Discovery, who coordinates the Count, says that community participation over the last seven years has been a privilege to be part of.

Stoddard, who is a passionate advocate for kererū, encourages everyone to take part in the final count down. “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 Aotearoa New Zealand, are protected birds, and 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.

Dr Stephen Hartley, Director of the Centre for Biodiversity & Restoration Ecology at Victoria University of Wellington, says that last year there was a 50% 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. The Great Kererū 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. Kererū lay a single egg which is very vulnerable to being eaten by rats, possums and stoats.

Although this is the last year of the Great Kererū 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.

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


The Great Kererū Count

Great Kererū Count observations are easy on the Great Kererū Count website www.greatkererucount.nz. Simply use the quick observation page (no log-in required).

For more expert community scientists, the iNaturalist app for Android and iPhones can be downloaded for free from www.greatkererucount.nz.

For 10 days for the last eight years, thousands of New Zealander’s make observations about the presence or absence of kererū, their location and their behaviour. This data is collected and collated by i-Naturalist NZ and data analysis is carried out by Dr Stephen Hartley and Dr Jon Sullivan, scientists from Victoria University and Lincoln University. This year will see the completion of this nationally significant data set, from which we will build a better understanding of what conditions help kererū survive and thrive.

A few emerging trends so far are:

  • In 2020 21,509 kererū were counted by over 10,000 participants - the greatest number to date, and a fifty percent increase in sightings from 2019 and a twenty percent increase from 2018. The increase in sightings was reflected in a nationwide perception of kererū becoming more abundant.
  • Kōwhai remains the plant where kererū are most likely to be seen feeding (over one thousand observations in 2020).
  • Urban sightings were up in 2020, comprising 61% of the total (compared to 55% in 2019). This adds to growing evidence that kererū are becoming more visible in the places where most people live and work, and that there are annual fluctuations in how they distribute themselves across the landscape, quite likely in response to food availability.
  • In 2020, Manawatu-Whanganui region recorded considerably more kererū per person than in previous years.
  • Upper Hutt City was the city with the most kereru recorded in 2020, per capita, at 27.6 kereru per 1000 people. Upper Hutt also had the highest participation rate of close to 1 in 100 residents.
  • In both 2019 and 2020 urban observers were more likely to report an increase in abundance over the past three years, however rural observers were more likely to report sites with a very high frequency of encounter. This suggests that in rural sites kererū are more predictably present than at urban sites.

About Kererū

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

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

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

Kererū are protected birds and endemic to New Zealand. 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 wires, fences and windows, and illegal hunting of kererū.

Reports of previous years’ data

Download the Great Kererū Count 2020 Report

Interactive story maps of the GKC previous year


Kererū Discovery Twitter: 
#GKC2021 | @kererudiscovery

Kererū Discovery Instagram:

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