Dunedin up with the birds, national survey shows

Dunedin has maintained its status as the native bird capital of New Zealand, among main urban areas, recently released figures in an annual bird survey suggest.

''Dunedin has a great selection and abundance of native birds,'' survey organiser Eric Spurr, of Whangaparaoa, said.

''Dunedin has, for many species, the highest number of [native] birds in an urban area in New Zealand,'' he said.

Dunedin and Otago bird lovers are also being asked to take part in the latest bird survey, which starts today and continues until next Sunday.

''The eighth annual New Zealand Garden Bird Survey aims to track the fortunes of our familiar feathered friends through backyard bird watching,'' Mr Spurr said.

Participants are asked to spend one hour, during the survey period, recording the birds that visit their garden, to provide wildlife specialists with a picture of how native and exotic birds are faring.

It was vital that participants recorded the largest number of birds of the respective species they saw or heard at any one time during the hour, to ensure that individual birds were not counted twice, he said.

Dunedin and Otago bird lovers had enthusiastically supported the survey in the past. Southern residents accounted for 444 (12.8%) of the 3476 participants in the national survey last year.

This was well above the percentage of households (5.1%) in the Otago region. In total, 136,737 birds were counted nationally during the survey, of which 20,819 (46.9 per garden) were counted in Otago.

He noted that silvereye, also known as waxeye, was the most numerous species counted in Otago over the years, at 20.5 sightings per garden last year, well up on the 7.5 national average.

By contrast, the house sparrow (12.8 sightings) was the most frequently observed bird nationally, but was in second place (9.6) in the southern figures last year.

The blackbird was the third most commonly sighted bird in Dunedin and Otago, and the starling and bellbird shared fourth spot (2 each).

Sightings of several native birds were higher in Dunedin and Otago than elsewhere in the country, including bellbirds (at 2, five times the national average) and tui (1.9, well up on 1.5 nationally).

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