Victoria University of Wellington researchers involved in Great Kererū Count

The annual count, which runs from Friday 21 September until Sunday 30 September, aims to build a picture of where our native pigeon is–and isn’t–found.

A native New Zealand pigeon (kererū) sits on a branch surrounded by forest
A native New Zealand pigeon/ kererū

The Great Kererū Count is a collaborative project led by Kererū Discovery in partnership with Victoria University of Wellington, WWF-New Zealand and Wellington City Council.

Kererū, also known as kūkū, kukupa, kokopa, or New Zealand pigeon, and sometimes the gardeners-of-the-skies, play a crucial role in dispersing seeds of large native trees like tawa, taraire and matai.  They are the only bird left in New Zealand that can distribute the largest seeds of these trees and help native forests regenerate.

Dr Stephen Hartley, Director of the University’s Centre for Biodiversity & Restoration Ecology, explains the scientific significance of the project. “Over time, we aim to discover whether numbers are increasing or decreasing and whether populations are faring better or worse in some parts of the country compared to others.

“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.”

Kererū are protected birds and endemic to New Zealand, meaning they are found in no other country. Dr Hartley says the Great Kererū Count is the only centralised data gathered to specifically monitor the trends of this significant bird. Information and data collected from this nationwide citizen science project will be used to better protect kererū and to help restore the health of our native forests.

The main threat to kererū is predation by introduced mammalian predators, particularly possums, stoats, rats, and feral cats. These threats are even more serious for kererū during nesting season, as unlike many of our other native birds, kererū only lay one egg per nest. Other threats include collisions with man-made objects such as fast-moving vehicles, overhead power and telephone wires, fences and windows.

Dr Hartley added, “In addition to recording casual observations we particularly value timed surveys and reports of where people have looked for at least five minutes, but not seen any kererū.”

Sightings can be logged at: https://www.greatkererucount.nz or via the i-Naturalist Great Kererū Count project (https://inaturalist.nz/home).