Monday, 6 October 2014

Kereru Count & Citizen Science

I have a new appreciation of kereru - New Zealand pigeons. I've been observing them more closely during the Great Kereru Count over the last fortnight.
Kereru on Banks Peninsula

These mighty birds - half a metre long and weighing over 600g - have a reputation for being clumsy. It's not just that they are noisy fliers, we also see and hear them crashing around in trees, sometimes falling right through the foliage.
Kereru at Zealandia, using its wings to maneuver
But I've figured it out - they are Risk Takers. Yes, they see some juicy fruits or tasty flowers and they take their chances that the twigs they land on will hold their weight. That's a bit of a risk on a twiggy species like tree lucerne. But worth it for the tasty treats that they find.
Kereru at Nga Manu Sanctuary
The kereru has a particularly big mouth (gape) - it can swallow fruit such as tawa, puriri and karaka whole. It then poos the seeds out in a nicely fertilised heap somewhere else. (Kereru, Tui and Korimako/bellbird are the three birds that are most important for forest growth. They are the main seed distributors and pollinators which have survived the introduction of mammal pests.)

Citizen Science
The Great Kereru Count is a citizen science project put in place by the Kiwi Conservation Club, the size of kereru and their unwillingnesss to fly away quickly, certainly makes them easy for children to spot. I regularly saw a couple in my neighbourhood and entered the data in to Thundermaps - see everyone's sightings on the map here.

Today I read about another citizen science project - the Yellowhammer Dialect project. What an intriguing project, researching whether birds in different areas have different dialects. I like their website it makes the project seem easy to participate in. We have a few yellowhammers around here, so I'm already to have a go recording them (when the wind isn't blowing a gale).