Kiwis asked to make kererū count this week!

The Great Kererū Count is about to take flight, with New Zealanders across the country being asked to keep their eyes on the skies to help scientists build up a comprehensive picture of where our native pigeon is – and isn’t - found.

The annual count runs from Saturday 19 Sept until Sunday 27 Sept.

Kererū (Hemiphaga novaeseelandiae) are known as the “gardeners of the skies” as they play a crucial role in dispersing the large fruit of our native trees such as tawa, taraire and matai. No other bird is large enough to fulfil this function, making the species essential for forest regeneration.

The information collected from this nationwide citizen science project will be used by conservationists to better protect kererū and to help save our native forests.

Tony Stoddard, WWF’s Kererū Count Coordinator, is encouraging everyone to take part: “We are asking people to become citizen scientists by counting the kererū in your backyard, school, park or reserve over the next week. They are distinctive looking birds; their large size and bright white, green and purple plumage make them easy to spot perched in tree tops or on power lines.

“Whether you see any kererū or not, sharing your observations with us will help build up a clearer picture of where the birds live, how many there are and what they eat.”

Public observations can be recorded on the website www.greatkererucount.nz . The data will also be collected and stored on the NatureWatch NZ platform.

Stephen Hartley, Senior Lecturer in Ecology from Victoria University of Wellington, explains the scientific significance of the project: “Are kererū becoming rarer or more common? This is the central question we are looking to answer from the data we gather during these annual counts.

“This year we are especially keen for people to make timed observations of between 5 and 30 minutes – and then tell us even if they don’t see a kereru. This can be done while waiting at a bus-stop or going for a walk in the park. The data from these timed surveys will really improve the accuracy of our nationwide comparisons and our ability to detect trends over time.

“Given the ecological importance of kererū, this information is critical not just for protecting this species, but for ensuring the vitality of our forest ecosystems for future generations.”

The Great Kererū Count is a partnership between Forest & Bird and WWF-New Zealand. It is supported by Kiwi Conservation Club (KCC), Kererū Discovery, Wellington City Council, Victoria University of Wellington, Wildlands Consultants and NatureWatch NZ.

Notes to editors

  • Kererū are also known as kūkū / kūkupa/ kokopa / New Zealand pigeon (Hemiphaga novaeseelandiae) and the parea / Chatham Islands pigeon (Hemiphaga chathamensis).
  • The count has been going since 2011.
  • In 2014, 14,000 kererū were counted by more than 7,000 participants.
  • The Great Kererū Count observations can also be made via the iNaturalist app for android and iPhones. It is available to download free from www.greatkererucount.nz.

Images

High resolution images available to download from this Dropbox folder or the Kereru Discovery Flickr account – all images © Tony Stoddard.