Wildlife appears to be rebounding in Northland as people are forced to stay at home and normally busy roads and beaches fall silent during the lockdown.
People around the region are reporting more birds than usual as well as sightings of species which usually avoid urban areas.
Similar phenomenon have been reported overseas with, for example, wild goats taking up residence in the centre of the Welsh city of Llandudno and lions asleep on the road in South Africa's Kruger National Park.
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Experts caution that bird behaviour changes throughout the year — autumn is an active time for many birds — and that people may be seeing more birds simply because they're less rushed and spending more time at home.
Bird behaviour has also been altered by the drought, with kiwi coming out during the day in search of food and water.
However, even experts such as Leslie Feasey, Far North representative for Birds NZ, say they've been struck by the increased visibility of birdlife.
''Birds seem to have moved back into areas that are normally heavily populated by humans but have now been vacated. They also appear to be more settled.''
One example was the red-billed gulls that were now occupying the usually busy beaches around Paihia.
Other birds, such as thrushes and blackbirds, seemed to be spending more time in the open rather than hiding near hedges and the bushline.
''I ascribe this to the absence of vehicles and people running around. It's been a pleasure to see, but I expect to see a reversal as the lockdown gets removed.''
Dean Baigent-Mercer, Northland advocate for Forest and Bird, said he had been noticing ''heaps'' of tūī, kukupa and riroriro (grey warblers).
''Part of this is seasonal movement and behaviour, but we're also taking the time to observe instead of being generally busy. Sometimes it also depends on how safe birds feel — if there's lots of pest control going on they aren't on edge all the time and they get more 'chillaxed'. Maybe this is what's happening with the lack of traffic,'' he said.
Another reason for increased visibility of birds was heavy fruiting around Northland of trees such as puriri, kahikatea and coprosmas. Native birds gorged themselves on the berries so they could get through winter, Baigent-Mercer said.
However, rodents and possums would also be making the most of the berries and could pose a renewed threat in areas where pest control had been suspended due to the lockdown.
''We can go without pest control for a month without going backwards too much. But as soon as restrictions are lifted pest control operations will need to make up for lost time,'' he said.
Russell resident Richard Robbins, co-ordinator of Project Island Song, said increased bird sightings were likely due to a combination of people having more time and wildlife behaviour changing when fewer people were around.
With fewer cars on the road, for example, animals were more able to move around freely.
The change was occurring worldwide with friends in Costa Rica telling him that jungle animals were more visible now that tourists had gone.
Since the lockdown started he had seen a kiwi on his driveway every time he had been out at night on permitted business.
''It's an interesting time. I hope that if people have more time to observe wildlife they'll also reflect on the importance of our planet.''
Ahipara dotterel guardian Doug Klever said thanks to the lockdown shore birds were now able to feed in beach streams without being chased out by cars or skurfers (a surfboard towed behind a vehicle).
The dotterels had just completed a record breeding season which he believed was due to the Kaka St ramp being washed out, which meant cars couldn't get on to Ninety Mile Beach during the crucial egg-laying period.
Abigail Monteith, spokeswoman for the Department of Conservation in Whangārei, said there weren't necessarily more birds around but people were being more observant and noticing them more.
Fantails were always highly visible in autumn when young birds left their bush nesting areas and spread out, including into urban areas.
Once they had finished breeding, fantails gathered in small flocks which were more conspicuous than the pairs they lived in during breeding season.
Baigent-Mercer said the current focus on Covid-19 did not mean big issues such as plastic waste, extinctions and climate change had disappeared.
''Healthy forests with good pest control lock in carbon, give us fresh air to breathe and are habitat to the amazing native birds, bats, lizards and bugs. Collapsing native forests without pest control release carbon as they die.
''We now have a once in a lifetime chance to transform the economy and create jobs after lockdown by protecting nature and rebuilding more sustainable industry. We don't need to go back to how we were.''
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