Bird of the Year: Why it’s such an important competition
Every year the Bird of the Year competition grips the nation in a wave of fun and research as we all pick our favourite flying (or flightless) friend. This year’s result has just been announced, and we couldn’t be more pleased for the cheeky Kea.
Congratulations to the Kea!
It’s no wonder how the Kea has made it into the hearts of New Zealanders around the country. This beautiful alpine parrot is native to the country, and there are just 3,000-7,000 Kea left, making it a nationally endangered species.
They are one of the most clever and inquisitive birds around, which often gets them in trouble, and is almost always the cause of laughter and entertainment when you spot one of these cheeky parrots taking off with a stolen biscuit or treasure. They are also the cause of plenty of damage, as they love to nip and tear at car parts they find in ski fields, much to the chagrin of tired skiiers at the end of a day on the mountain.
Unfortunately, the Kea’s penchant for stealing human food can do harm, as they can get sick from certain snacks. They are also vulnerable to predation by stoats, cats, rats, and possums, and the changing alpine environment may leave these beautiful parrots with fewer places to call home.
While the Kea is certainly in need of help, it’s exciting to see this species gain national attention through the Bird of the Year competition.
Why the competition is so important
Each year, the Bird of the Year competition crowns just one of our native birds as the champion. In doing so however, it also brings the media and public’s attention to many of our natives, especially those that are in danger and need all the help they can get.
With each new year, our native birds get a boost of attention as conservation groups and members of the public champion their favourite species. Plus, Forest & Bird, the group behind the annual competition, offers the option to donate to your species of choice during the campaign, helping to raise additional funds for each bird.
Last year, the winner was the Kokako, the year before, the Bar Tailed Godwit. While all birds receive some attention each year, the annual winner gets plenty of extra coverage in the media, with information about their status, threats, and more options to donate to their cause. Together, it makes for a fun and exciting annual spotlight on our native birds, where everyone gets to learn a little more about these precious species.
While we don’t see the Kea during our nature tours in New Zealand (as we are not in an alpine environment), we do have the fortune of meeting some of our country’s other native gems. Check out our eco tour options to see which birds you might meet!
New Zealand’s latest and greatest conservation news
Amidst so much negative news, it can be easy to miss all the exciting announcements and developments in the world. Just in case you missed them, here are some of the best pieces of conservation news from New Zealand recently!
Frog population booms after 1080 operation
A successful 1080 operation in Whareorino has seen populations of rats and possums take a nosedive, which has allowed the frog population to increase substantially. In fact, post-operation monitoring programs failed to find any rats at all, and possums were down to just 1 per cent. Recent rainfall has destroyed leftover 1080 bait, and traps have been set to ensure rat numbers remain low.
New enclosures help takahe breeding season
The Department of Conservation has completed two new safe enclosures for takahe at the Burwood Takahe Centre near Hamilton. This means that the six breeding pairs on site now have two new secure areas to raise their chicks throughout spring, which can be a huge boost for the Recovery Programme working to support this precious bird’s growing population.
Coastal marine species get help from the High Court
The High Court backed a 2016 Environmental Court finding saying that regional councils would have the right to protect their marine environment. This means that individual councils can decide to regulate fishing activity and protect native marine species, rather than leaving it up to the government. Forest and Bird lawyer Sally Gepp said that the decision could have important consequences for seabirds, penguins, and Maui’s dolphins around New Zealand.
51 black stilt released into the Mackenzie Basin
More than 50 black stilts were released into the Mackenzie Basin in late August, adding to the 60 birds already released in the Tasman Valley earlier in the month. The black stilt is the rarest wading bird in the world, and these recent releases signify big steps in helping the populations improve. In addition to these events, the Department of Conservation is working to control predators in black stilt habitats. In total, it brings the number of birds in the wild up from just 23 to an impressive 106 adult birds.
Kokako enjoys more than a thousand per cent increase since 1990
The kokako is one of New Zealand’s endemic endangered species, and it has seen a population increase of more than a thousand since its low point in 1990. Conservation officers conducted a 1080 drop in 1990 that is credited for saving the population, and continued efforts to reduce predators and encourage breeding has seen the species go from just five pairs up to 60 pairs, plus 29 single birds. The kokako is known for its haunting birdsong, and conservation minister Maggie Barry is excited and hopeful for the future of this special species.
As a company that lives and breathes birds, plantlife, and marine life, Habitat Tours celebrates every conservation success around New Zealand and the world. Join us on a New Zealand eco tour so we can show you some of our favourite spots and species.
Tristan Cullen - Passionate Conservationist