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Garden bird species on decline, but tui up

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 21/06/2017
Silvereye (Zosterops lateralis), a small bird growing to 12 cm © Auscape/Universal Images Group/Getty Images Silvereye (Zosterops lateralis), a small bird growing to 12 cm

There is good news for those who love the song of the tui, but a recent report show many of our garden bird favourites are on the decline.

Landcare Research has released research from the past 10 years on the populations of garden birds, with 28,960 gardens surveyed.

The bird that has suffered the biggest decline is the silvereye - its population is down 44 per cent since 2007, likely due to increasing winter temperatures.

June 2016 was the second warmest in 10 years and silvereye numbers were the lowest recorded then, with that trend expected to continue this year.

"It is possible that in the mild winters more food was available in the surrounding countryside, so birds did not need to come into gardens in search of food," says Dr Eric Spurr, the NZ Garden Bird Survey organiser.

Other garden birds recording low populations since 2007 were starlings (down 35 per cent overall), goldfinch (down 27 per cent) and blackbirds (down 11 per cent).

However, the tui numbers were encouraging - up 14 per cent - while the swallow saw a healthy 52 per cent swing upwards in the past decade.

Mr Spurr said the tui numbers have been aided by re-planting native vegetation and predator control.

Catriona MacLeod, who leads Landcare Research's Building Trustworthy Biodiversity Indicators programme, says birds can be indicators of the health of the environment people are living in.

"Some species feed on ground-dwelling invertebrates, suggesting that changes in our urban landscapes such as increased use of paving are impacting these birds," she said.

The 2017 NZ Garden Bird Survey takes place between June 24 and July 2 - check the Landcare Research website to take part.

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