Bird Monitoring Programme Supports Urban Green Spaces

22 March 2016

Bird Monitoring Programme Supports Urban Green Spaces

Two NorthTec environmental management students have contributed towards a project of national significance, monitoring the bird population of Whangarei’s urban and green spaces.

Nathan Arcus and Darren Gash graduated in 2015 with a Diploma in Conservation and Environmental Management and are now working towards their degree, a Unitec qualification delivered in Whangarei by NorthTec.

They spent most of January and February this year going to sites all around the Whangarei area to measure the amount of bird activity at specified locations. Sites included Kamo, Onerahi, Kensington, Raumanga, Tikipunga, Parihaka and the Pukenui Reserve.

The students used the five-minute bird count method to count birds in more than 330 points across Whangarei. This method has been used as an index of bird activity in New Zealand since the 1970s, and enables the results of the current study to be compared to more than 1000 other studies where this monitoring tool has been used.

By using this method the health of bird populations in Whangarei can be compared with more unmodified environments around New Zealand. Therefore, wildlife managers will have a better understanding about how well areas in Whangarei are supporting native birds.

Nathan and Darren were working under the supervision of NorthTec tutor, Dr Dai Morgan, and have helped Dr Morgan complete the second year of this project. Supported by NorthTec’s research funding, it is demonstrating that native bird activity is most common and abundant in Whangarei’s urban green spaces and pockets of bush while introduced birds are more numerous in residential areas.

It emphasises the importance of green spaces in terms of maintaining native biodiversity, and points to the crucial need to manage the city’s parks and reserves by controlling pest mammals that prey on birds and plant weeds that compete with native plants. Dr Morgan stresses, however, that improving the quality of Whangarei’s green spaces will not only have positive impacts on bird life, as other groups of native organisms, like insects and lizards, would also benefit.

Dr Morgan presented the results of the first year of the project at last year’s Australasian Ornithological Conference, held at Flinders University in Adelaide.

He said he chose Nathan and Darren to carry out the research for his project over both years, as they were excellent students and able to work under their own direction.

When this year’s data has been analysed, Dr Morgan hopes it will be presented at the New Zealand Ornithological Conference, to be held in Napier in June. It will provide baseline data and the monitoring sites will be revisited in two to three years, revealing the change in bird numbers over time and illustrating the need for environmental management of green spaces within New Zealand cities.

Nathan hopes to go on to complete a Master’s in bird-related environmental activity and wants eventually to work in historical preservation, while Darren is keen to work for the Department of Conservation, specialising in freshwater species, after graduating with his degree.

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