Final count down begins for Great Kererū Count 2021, how you can participate

Final count down begins for Great Kererū Count 2021, how you can participate

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It’s almost that time for the upcoming annual Great Kererū Count of 2021. The project is 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 count down has begun, and everyone can participate whether inside a bubble or just out of it. All New Zealanders are being reminded as part of the Great Kererū Count for this year between September 17 and 26 to make sure they count all the Kererū they see while outdoors.

This will be the final year it will happen. A compilation of collected data from the past eight years since it started will provide a scientifically robust understanding of the birds and how they can be best helped.

Source: CC/ Tony Stoddard

Kererū are a protected bird species in Aotearoa New Zealand and tāonga to many.

They protect and keep native forests growing because they are the only way seeds of large native trees such as tawa, taraire, miro and hinau can be dispersed.

They are the only bird that can distribute large seeds to keep the forests developing and flourishing.

Source: CC/ Tony Stoddard

Numbers in today's age remain much lower than reported from fifty to one hundred years ago.

Over time, they thrived, but until recently have only assembled in small groups or by themselves, perching on trees or overhead line wires.

Introduced mammalian predators such as feral cats, possums, stoats and rats are a common threat to Kererū.

Other types of vulnerabilities they face include man-made objects, fast-moving vehicles, overhead wires, fences and windows or illegal hunting of the bird.

Source: CC/ SUPPLIED

Tony Stoddard of Kererū Discovery, coordinating the Count, says participation from the community over the last seven years has been a privilege to be part of. Mr Stoddard, is a passionate advocate for kererū and encourages all 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,” he said.

Over the last eight years, for just ten days each, many thousands of New Zealanders have observed the presence or absence of kererū, including their location and behaviours.

Data is collected and collated by i-Naturalist NZ — data analysis is then carried out by Dr Stephen Hartley and Dr Jon Sullivan, scientists from Victoria University and Lincoln University.

This year will see the completion of the nationally significant data set built to understand better what conditions can help the kererū survive and thrive.

Source: CC/ SUPPLIED

Dr Stephen Hartley, Director of the Centre for Biodiversity & Restoration Ecology at Victoria University of Wellington, says 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,” he said,

“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.”

In 2020 21,509 were counted by over 10,000 people participating — it has been the greatest number to date and a fifty percent increase in sightings from 2019 and a twenty percent increase from 2018. Urban sightings were up in 2020, comprising 61% of the total (compared to 55% in 2019).

The Manawatu-Whanganui region saw more kererū per person than previous years of sighting reports. Upper Hutt City had the most participants close to 1 in 100 residents, and recorded sightings in 2020 per capita, at 27.6 kereru per 1,000 people.

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 encounters.

Source: CC/ Tony Stoddard

Pest control will be a core aspect to boost the numbers of kererū. When the bird lays a single egg it can be vulnerable to being eating by introduced predators.

Kererū Discovery despite this year being the final of the Great Kererū Count, will be continuing to share stories and encounters of the bird while building a more shared understanding about them.

The eight-year analysis of data will be completed by Sam Rammell who's a post-graduate student at Victoria University of Wellington.

Image: SUPPLIED/Tony Stoddard

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