Tui numbers on Napier Hill have increased four-fold and bellbirds three-fold since the crackdown on possums there in 2008, said Hawke's Bay Regional Council.

Staff at the two councils who worked together on the programme are pleased with the steady rise in the native bird population, as shown by the most recent bird survey carried out by ornithologist Brent Stephenson.

"We are really pleased with these latest bird count results which demonstrate that taking possums out of a built up, urban environment really does repay the effort. The bird song of bellbird and tui is now regularly heard across Napier Hill and in the nearby inner city.

"The support of Napier residents who had control work on their 'possum party trees' cannot be under-estimated and a continued thanks to those who still maintain bait stations," said Tony Billing, Napier City Council Parks Manager.

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Napier Hill saw the start of the urban biodiversity programme in Hawke's Bay, which had since been rolled out to Havelock North and the surrounding areas of Taradale. Hawke's Bay Regional Council and Napier City Council worked together, with HBRC biosecurity staff working with contractors controlling possums on residential properties, while Napier City Council parks and reserves staff controlled possums in their public areas.

Much of the success of the urban biodiversity programme across the Hill is due to the dozens of residents who continue to maintain bait stations on their own properties to help keep possum numbers low.

"We have people phoning us regularly to tell about their bird sightings, and it's been encouraging to see in the local papers the photos people have sent in of native birds in their gardens," says Rod Dickson, HBRC biosecurity advisor.

The possum control has also improved the health of parks and gardens. Residents can help further by planting trees and shrubs that are suitable for bird and insect food around their homes. Supplementary feeding of sugar solutions can also help these birds during winter and spring when food sources are scarce.

And amongst the throng of tui, bellbird, wax-eyes and fantails, a long tail cuckoo was sighted - birds which are fairly uncommon in lowland Hawke's Bay.