TODAY |

Public asked to keep eye out for kererū as New Zealand's annual count returns

The Great Kererū Count, New Zealand’s biggest citizen science project, is once again asking Kiwis to keep an eye out for the pigeon to help scientists track their numbers.

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The event helps New Zealand get a better understanding of the bird’s numbers. Source: Breakfast

The native bird isn’t formally recognised as a threatened species, despite reports their numbers have declined from 50 to 100 years ago. The count is the only centralised way to monitor the bird’s numbers and distribution. 

The project is returning for its seventh year and runs from today to September 27.

Associate professor Stephen Hartley, director of the Centre for Biodiversity and Restoration Ecology at Victoria University of Wellington, said the data is important as it helps scientists get a better understanding of the bird. 

“Whether you see any kererū or not, sharing observations is helping us get a great picture of where kererū live, how many kererū there are or are not, and most importantly how best to protect them,” Hartley said.

Kererū Discovery co-ordinator Tony Stoddard, who organised the project, said kererū would be flocking to trees like willow and tree lucerne because of its nitrogen-rich leaves. 

“In urban areas, kōwhai are another important food source for kererū, and you will often see or hear angry tui defending their trees from hungry kererū,” he said.

Because of the bird’s large size, it plays a crucial role in helping disperse fruits from native plants such as tawa, taraire and matai. No other mainland bird is large enough to do the same.

In 2018, nearly 15,500 kererū were counted.