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Great Kereru Count

It's time for the Great Kereru Count 2020.

Kereru Discovery is calling for all Kiwis to get out and count kereru.

Whether you love their classic white singlets, their whooping wingbeats, or their awesome air shows, kererus are unique to Aotearoa and as Kiwi as kiwi.

This year the Great Kereru Count 2020 runs from September 18-27.

In the Gisborne region there were 246 kereru recorded in 2018 and 254 in 2019.

Associate Professor Stephen Hartley, director of the centre for biodiversity and restoration ecology at Victoria University of Wellington, said this is the seventh year of the community science project.

“The Great Kereru Count is about New Zealand working together as community scientists to gain a better understanding of kereru so we can help them thrive.

“Whether you see any kereru or not, sharing observations is helping us get a picture of where kereru live, how many kereru there are or are not, and most importantly, how best to protect them.”

As well as being real characters of the bush, kereru are also known as the gardeners of the sky — spreading precious seeds of forest giants such as tawa, miro and hinau.

Native forest is important for health and wellbeing, and for ecosystem services such as clean water, clean air and healthy soil.

Tony Stoddard of Kereru Discovery, who co-ordinates the annual event, shared tips for keen kereru watchers.

“At this time of the year kereru will be flocking to trees like willow and tree lucerne,” Mr Stoddard said.

“These trees are kereru magnets as the birds come out of their winter-feeding grounds and prepare for the breeding season by feeding on the nitrogen-rich leaves.

“In urban areas, kowhai are another important food source for kereru, and you will often see or hear angry tui defending their trees from hungry kereru.”

Rural areas are not left out of the count and, according to Stoddard, if you are very lucky and have a keen eye, you could come across flocks as large as 100 in a paddock, free ranging on grass and clover.

Last year people around the country reported that kereru appeared less abundant.

“This might be because last year there was an especially high amount of fruit and food for kereru deep within forests and people didn't see them as much in gardens and around towns,” Mr Stoddard said.

Some of the questions which may be answered this year are whether or not numbers in urban areas have increased again, whether last year's plentiful forest food means a corresponding bumper year for breeding, or if predators are preventing the kereru population from booming.

The Great Kereru Count is an opportunity to answer these questions and more, and everyone is encouraged to take part in the count.

In 2019, 14,287 kereru were counted by around 6794 participants. In 2018, 18,981 kereru were counted by 8788 participants, and in 2017, 15,459 kereru were counted by 6946 participants.

The Great Kereru Count is a collaborative project lead by Urban Wildlife Trust & Kereru Discovery with partners Wellington City Council, Dunedin City Council/City Sanctuary, Nelson City Council and Victoria University of Wellington.

How to take part —

Kereru observations are easy to note on the Great Kereru Count website www.greatkererucount.nz

Simply use the quick observation page (no log-in required).

For more expert community scientists, the iNaturalist app for Android and iPhones can be downloaded for free from www.greatkererucount.nz

Big bird: The Great Kereru Count runs from September 18-27. How many kereru will you spot during those 10 days? Upload your observations to www.greatkererucount.nz Picture by Tony Stoddard of Kereru Discovery
Two birds, one observer: The Great Kereru Count runs from September 18 - 27. How many Kereru will you spot during those 10 days? Upload you observations to www.greatkererucount.nz