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More help needed to trace Red-vented bulbul birds

7 November 2005

More help needed to trace Red-vented bulbul birds in Devonport.

The search is still on for a pair of Red-vented bulbul birds in Devonport and Central Auckland, but reported sightings of the birds have dried up.

The birds are native to India and parts of Asia, but have been introduced to parts of the Pacific, and are listed among the top 100 invasive species. Biosecurity New Zealand says the birds were most likely introduced from the Pacific by a boat visiting Auckland.

Biosecurity New Zealand Senior Adviser Sonya Bissmire says more help is needed to deal with the birds quickly, as they may be breeding.

“We’ve had great community support, including a ‘stake-out’ by the Auckland Ornithological Society. Several sightings were reported, but as time has gone on, they have dried up. We’ve narrowed down the probable home range of the birds, but we need to identify a number of sites that they routinely visit in order to have the best chance of capturing them, and to do that we need more help from the public,” Sonya Bissmire says.

Red-vented bulbuls are slightly smaller than a starling, and dark brown, almost black in colour with a light-coloured abdomen and a distinctive red patch beneath their tails. They also have a black head with a small peaked crest.

They are very active, moving fast from one flower to another, not spending much time in one place. They are most likely to be found in flowering trees and trees with berries, but will also eat grapes, bananas and other soft fruit, and food scraps. They have also been spotted eating dry cat biscuits from a cat bowl.

In the 1950s a small population of about 50 of the birds became established between Takapuna and Mt Eden after some were released from a ship. It took until 1955 for them to be eradicated. It has been illegal to import these birds since the late 1960s.

Red-vented bulbuls can cause significant damage to fruit and vegetable crops and they have been known to chase and attack other birds. They could also have an impact on gardens, crops and native vegetation. BNZ is working with the Department of Conservation and Auckland Regional Council to track the birds and eradicate them. Sightings should be reported to 0800 80 99 66.

ENDS

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