Monday, July 2, 2012

One bird, two birds, blackbird, bellbird

Tui drinking flax nectar
Is it a blackbird? Is it a bellbird? No, it's a tui, the 6th most common bird seen in NZ gardens over the past five years.
Photo by Mollivan Jon
Leap outside. It's garden bird survey time again! Every year, for a week, thousands of people throughout New Zealand spend an hour in their garden counting the birds. It's the annual New Zealand garden bird survey, coordinated by Eric Spurr of Landcare Research in collaboration with the Ornithological Society of New Zealand, Forest & Bird, and NZBRN.

You've got until this Sunday (8 July) to add your gardens' birds to the national tally. All you need to do is spend one hour noting the maximum number of each bird species that you see at any one time.

Here's what Eric Spurr told us about last year's survey.
The most striking result was a large decline in the number of silvereye counted (average about two thirds the number counted the previous year). Survey participants made comments such as, “Where are all the silvereyes?” and “This is the lowest number of silvereyes we’ve had in years”. House sparrow was by far the most numerous species last year (second the previous year), with 39,001 counted in 3089 gardens (average 12.6 per garden). Silvereye was second (top last year) with 18,641 counted (average 6.0 per garden). As in previous years, counts varied between regions.
These annual surveys are an excellent way to document which birds are using our gardens and how our bird communities are changing.

Instructions and a summary of past years' findings can be found at the New Zealand Garden Bird Survey. Eric has a poster summarising what we've all learned from the past surveys. All your observations are error-checked by Eric and then added to NZBRN for everyone to use. The error-checked past data will all be in NZBRN's new NatureWatch NZ when it launches later this year.

If you miss this survey or get enthused about documenting the birds using your garden at other times of the year, you can store and share your garden observations on NZBRN at any time (and not just of birds, of course). If birds and only birds are your thing, another great web option is eBird.

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