'We need to do more' – 10-year-survey shows dramatic drop in NZ precious wildlife

Kiwi scientists say our environment is changing and our birds are sounding the alarm.

Kiwi scientists say New Zealand's environment is changing and birds are sounding the alarm. Source: 1 NEWS

A 10-year survey of backyard birds has shown a dramatic drop in some of our precious wildlife.

Landcare Research gathered 31,000 surveys over a 10 year period from volunteers who recorded birds they saw in their garden.

Sightings of silvereyes have had the biggest decline, dropping 43 per cent. The starling, song thrush and goldfinch decreased by 31 per cent, 27 per cent and 26 per cent respectively.

But it's not all bad news for bird watchers. Sightings of the greenfinch have increased by 47 per cent, the tui by 22 per cent and the kereru by 12 per cent.

Andrew Gormley of Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research says birds are our backyard barometers.

"It indicates that we need to do more with pest and predator control and creating good habitats for these species," he says.

"It's possible that the decline in silvereye is a result in warmer winters, meaning the silvereyes don’t need to come into gardens to find food - they can find it in their natural environment"

Landcare Research says we now need to better understand what kind of environmental changes are occurring, be it urbanisation or use of poisons.

Auckland Zoo bird keeper Natalie Clark says our birds are fundamental to a healthy ecosystem.

"For example, the kereru play a really important role in seed dispersal. Seeds in our native plants that only the kereru can disperse because of the large size of them", she says.

But work is being done to save some of our most threatened birds and in some cases, bring them back from extinction.

It was thought there were no more South Island kokako, but a public appeal for sightings has led to more than 100 reports of the ancient bird.

Five promising reports came from the Heaphy Track and six around the Reefton area.

The South island Kokako Charitable Trust believes the bird is just hiding.

"It's definitely out there, we just need that picture," says Nigel Babbage.

Until we get that picture, there are ways to help birds who are still making an appearance in our backyards.

"Get out there and plant lots of native trees. Ones that provide berries or nectar for our natives. Cats are quite a big problem for urban back yard species and dogs are a problem from coastal species." Natalie Clark says.