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Published: 2002-02-28 00:00:00

Environment Waikato is to grant $10,000 towards a research project aimed at increasing the populations of key native bird species in the central Waikato Region.

Landcare Research had applied for $15,500 to towards the research project, "Tui in My Backyard". The project involves determining the distances between forest fragments that are important for bird movement and the necessary plant composition for continued food supply. The information would identify the habitat network for native birds, and priority sites for new forest corridors could be located and designed.

This week’s Environment Committee was told the four year project will extend from Port Waikato to Kawhia Harbour and include the agricultural area around Hamilton to northwest of Huntly. The focus will be on bellbirds, tui and kereru as they had important roles in pollination and seed dispersal.

Numbers were declining, which could be addressed through controlling predators and planting food plant species, but there was a lack of basic information about where birds live and how they interacted with the landscape.

The project will determine the seasonal distribution of the birds, their abundance, habitat use and diet in the central Waikato. It will determine tui breeding success in large forest areas and forest fragments, and the information could be used to guide predator control and planting programs to increase the abundance and distribution of honeyeaters and kereru in the central Waikato.

The project would also raise community awareness of native birds in urban and rural landscapes.

Public sightings would be used and existing databases examined with major forest areas visited annually or biannually to determine distribution and abundance. Tui would be captured, colour banded and some would have radio transmitters attached. They had been chosen because they were large enough to carry transmitters, and breeding success and probation rates would be monitored in at least one large unmanaged forest area.

The results of the research would be communicated through publications, conference presentations, media reports, liaison with other relevant organisations such as DoC, local authorities and the Ornithological Society as well as direct contact with interested landowners.

The committee heard the project would make an important contribution to understanding of bird life in the central Waikato area and help future biodiversity enhancement initiatives. The project was worthwhile and provided an opportunity for the council to demonstrate its commitment to the maintenance and enhancement of biodiversity.