Reports abounded of increased numbers of birds in towns and cities in New Zealand during the Covid-19 lockdown.
Against this background, Forest & Bird Hibiscus Coast took the opportunity to run a local bird count survey during the last two weeks of lockdown.
This is in addition to the nationwide Landcare Research survey that is held every year in winter.
Fifty-four people responded to the lockdown survey, recording a total of 39 bird species.
The most numerous species was house sparrow, followed by tui, myna, silvereye and blackbird. Among the most exciting finds were a kaka in Army Bay and two bellbirds, one near Shakespear Regional Park and one in Orewa near Eaves Bush.
One Army Bay resident had 45 tuis at one time in bottlebrushes and other trees around the garden, and said this was “not unusual”.
Although house sparrow was clearly the most numerous species per garden, tui actually occurred in more gardens – 96 percent compared with 94 percent for sparrows. Fantails were recorded in 59 percent of the gardens, and silvereye 54 percent. Kereru were recorded in 39 percent of gardens.
These figures for tui, fantail, and kereru are higher than in most other areas of New Zealand.
Retired Landcare Research scientist Eric Spurr crunched the numbers. He says the numbers of most species were similar to those recorded last winter in the nationwide NZ Garden Bird Survey.
“There is no evidence from the present survey to suggest that more birds were recorded because of the lockdown,” he says. “Anecdotal reports of such increases may have been a result of people having more free time, birds moving conspicuously into spaces vacated by humans such as empty streets, beaches and construction sites, and a lack of background noise in the environment from fewer cars and things like construction.”
He says autumn is also a time of year when birds naturally form flocks and start moving into town in search of food. This autumn has been particularly dry, so birds may also have been searching for water.
The next NZ Garden Bird Survey takes place in late June/early July. Details will be posted on gardenbirdsurvey.landcareresearch.co.nz