Coronavirus: How lockdown is letting New Zealand's native birds flourish

Tui can be heard louder than usual.
Tui can be heard louder than usual. Photo credit: File

Katie Doyle for RNZ.

New Zealand birds are loving this lockdown, no longer having to compete with cars, buses, trains, planes or people.

Kererū have been landing on back fences, pīwakawaka have been seen playing on Lambton Quay, and tūī have definitely been singing loudly at the crack of dawn.

"One of the main things that people are noticing at the moment is just how vocal the birds are," Zealandia centre director Danielle Shanahan said.

"They're not having to compete with the constant traffic noise and as a result we're hearing them much more."

Dr Shanahan said some of the birds living at Zealandia had also become far more adventurous since the lockdown began.

She said staff tasked with looking after Zealandia noticed that younger birds in particular were far more curious, and were following rangers around on their daily walks.

Ecologist Margaret Stanley said the increase in bird numbers may be partly due to drought conditions forcing them to look for food in people's gardens.

She said it could also be that we are just noticing bird life more, now that life had slowed down.

Dr Stanley said the birds would be enjoying the decrease in noise, light and air pollution - along with slightly messier public parks, where maintenance had been stopped.

The real test would be to see if it lasted once the lockdown lifted, she said.

"Will we go back to always driving our cars? Or will people be maybe getting used to working at home, and work at home a few more days a week?"

"Might we be more accepting of less maintenance by council around parks and gardens?"

Forest & Bird spokesperson Megan Hubscher said it was wonderful to hear birdsong in the lockdown and she hoped it would make people appreciate the environment more, but not all birds were better off.

"Seabirds in particular have not fully fledged yet. We've got a lot of seabirds still in their burrows that haven't learnt to fly or leave their nest," she said.

"And those seabirds like penguins, shearwater, around the country are at imminent risk of being predated because trapping isn't occuring."

Forest & Bird along with other conservation groups wanted the governement to priortise the environment in its post-lockdown recovery plan.

In an open letter, the groups said economic recovery should also work to tackle climate change, a decline in native species, poor freshwater quality and ocean stress.