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People in Otago and Southland are being encouraged to take part in the latest annual nationwide Garden Bird Survey, which starts today and ends on July 4.
Readers are asked to watch and note birds in their gardens during one hour on one day in the survey period.
Dunedin and Otago people have traditionally topped the pecking order as the country’s most enthusiastic participants in this Landcare Research-led survey, now in its 15th year.
And last year’s Covid-19 lockdown, and more time spent at home watching the birds, may have been an unexpectedly powerful factor in the big survey response, both nationally and in the South, survey organiser Dr Eric Spurr said.
The overall response was the biggest in the survey’s history, up 91% from 3082 in 2019 to 5896 last year, including a 34% increase in Otago (from 530 to 710).
"Otago people continue to contribute more survey forms than other parts of the country on a per capita population basis," Dr Spurr said.
Otago residents last year provided 12% (710) of the national returns, despite the region containing only 5% of the country’s gardens.
"It shows the keenness of people in Otago for the birds," he said.
Southlanders also showed a solid interest: their 207 responses—up more than three-fold on 65 in 2019— comprised 3.5% of overall returns, from 2.4% of the country’s population.
Otago-Southland people made most of their responses online, but 97 of the Otago returns were through a form in the Otago Daily Times.
The high response rate meant Dunedin could be regarded "as the ‘birding’ capital of New Zealand", and Dr Spurr urged people to respond the survey again, to add to knowledge about our bird life.
Silvereyes, also called waxeyes, were the most commonly-sighted bird in Otago last year (average 17.4 sightings, up from 5.9 in 2019); and also in Southland (17.8).
House sparrows were the second most commonly-seen bird in Otago last year (average 10.1 sightings, down slightly from 11.2 sightings in 2019), and in Southland (11.8).
Completing the survey’s Otago-Southland top five were: blackbird (Otago 2.9, up from 2.5 the previous year), Southland 3.6; tui (2.2, previously 1.6), 1.7 ; and starling (2), Southland 3.1.
National figures for garden bird sightings overall were: silvereye 6.6; house sparrow 11.8; blackbird 2.6; tui 1.7 and starling 1.9.
Several positive trends could be seen both nationally and in Otago-Southland.
Kereru counts were up 79% nationally (36% Otago; 125% Southland); fantail counts up 40% nationally (79% and 80% respectively in Otago and Southland); and tui counts up 26% nationally (47% in Otago, 19% in Southland), he said.
The survey’s supporters include Forest and Bird, Birds New Zealand, iNaturalist and Topflite.