Landcare Research - Manaaki Whenua

Landcare-Research -Manaaki Whenua

State of NZ Garden Birds 2019 | Te āhua o ngā manu o te kāri i Aotearoa

State of New Zealand Garden Birds 2019 | Te āhua o ngā manu o te kāri i AotearoaThe State of New Zealand Garden Birds 2019 | Te āhua o ngā manu o te kāri i Aotearoa, released today by Manaaki Whenua - Landcare Research, shows the latest results in New Zealand’s longest running citizen science project – the New Zealand Garden Bird Survey.

Since 2007, people across the country have spent one hour in their gardens, local park, or school grounds, counting the numbers of birds that they can see. The survey helps scientists to understand the health of garden bird populations and the wider environment by showing how bird counts are changing across Aotearoa over two timeframes – the past 5 and past 10 years.

The latest results, collected in 2019, show positive signals for five native species. We see strong evidence for increases in fantail (pīwakawaka), tūī and kererū over the past 10 years, with some evidence that bellbirds (korimako) are increasing as well. These native species seem to be doing particularly well in some regions in the past 5 years. And although silvereye (tauhou) continue to decline, their decline has slowed nationally from 38% in the past 10 years to 2% in the past 5 years.

Things are not looking so positive for some introduced species. The results indicate shallow or moderate declines in counts for song thrush, goldfinch and starling over the past 10 years, and dunnock over the past 5 years. On the other hand, there has been a moderate increase in counts of greenfinch over the past 10 years, and a shallow increase in counts of myna in several regions, though little or no change nationally.

The NZ Garden Bird Survey founder, Dr Eric Spurr, says the results are very encouraging, and show the value of long-term citizen science monitoring. “The survey does not attempt to determine the causes of changes in bird counts, but it is tempting to suggest that the increases in counts of native birds reflect the results of increased predator control and habitat restoration activities around the country”.

NZ's national picture: How have garden bird counts changed?

More about the NZ Garden Bird Survey:

  • Starting in 2007, there have been over 39,000 bird counts done in gardens as part of the New Zealand Garden Bird Survey.
  • The more people who participate, the greater the strength of our evidence for what’s happening to garden birds at the local scale. Get involved in the NZ Garden Bird Survey this year to help us better understand these changes.
  • People who do the NZ Garden Bird Survey tell us that they value contributing to this collective and meaningful activity, especially when there is so much negative news about biodiversity loss in Aotearoa.
  • Why do we do the survey in winter? It may seem odd, but in fact it makes sense. We are more likely to see birds in our gardens in winter, because they’re attracted in when there’s less food for them in the wider environment.

A full copy of the State of New Zealand Garden Birds 2019 | Te āhua o ngā manu o te kāri i Aotearoa is available at

This year, the New Zealand Garden Bird Survey runs from 27 June to 5 July 2020. It’s easy to get involved – here’s how:

  1. Visit the NZ Garden Bird Survey website to get started.
  2. Select a garden, or a local park or school grounds.
  3. Choose any ONE day between June 27 and July 5, 2020.
  4. Look and listen for birds on that day for ONE hour.
  5. For each species, record the HIGHEST number seen or heard at one time.
  6. Submit the results online at the NZ Garden Bird Survey website.

The more people who participate, the greater the strength of our evidence for what’s happening to garden birds at the local as well as national scale. Let’s form a team of 5 million observers!

You can also follow @NZGardenBirds on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, join the Facebook group: NZ Garden Bird Survey, and contribute to the conversation: #NZGardenBirdSurvey

Interviews available

We have several people involved with the Survey who are happy to talk about it:

Dr Fiona Carswell, Chief Scientist – to talk about the wider impact of citizen science projects, why they are important, how they impact on research, and what COVID-19 testing and the Garden Bird Survey have in common.

Dr Eric Spurr (Retired), Researcher Wildlife and Ecology Management – the man behind the inception of the Garden Bird Survey 14 years ago – what was behind it, how it has changed over the years, some of the key findings, any significant changes over the years.

Dr Angela Brandt, Ecologist/Modeller - Ecosystems and Conservation – to talk about the data and how it is analysed, interpreted and then used.

John Innes, Wildlife Ecologist, Ecosystems and Conservation – to talk about the birds that you should expect to see in your garden.

George Hobson, 16 – Birding is just for old people? Nah, that’s not how George sees it. Among the new generation of birding enthusiasts, George is a passionate conservationist, environmental policy nerd and believes young people are the future of conservation.

Please get in touch with either Dan Park (022-411 5095) or Kim Triegaardt (027-368 7683) to arrange any interviews.

NZ Garden Bird Survey