The 2017 State of NZ Garden Birds report released this week made for interesting reading.

Essentially, the findings are bittersweet.

The sweet part being that endemic kereru, tui and bellbirds were reported to be on rise.

The bitter part being that the native silvereye, tauhou, not just here but nationwide, is on the decline.


The report drew on 31,000 bird counts gathered by volunteers in their backyards since 2007, as part of the New Zealand Garden Bird Survey which was collated and released by Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research.

Said decline is prompting researchers to warn it could be a sign something was changing for the silvereye species.

NZ Garden Bird Survey founder and Manaaki Whenua Research Associate, Dr Eric Spurr, said numbers had declined by 43 per cent nationally, with rapid declines in Southland, West Coast, Otago, Nelson and Gisborne.

In Hawke's Bay this species was reported to be in "shallow" decline, having dropped in numbers by 23 per cent over the last 11 years.

Reports like this should prompt us all to try to be more proactive in own backyards.

In mine, a cage-trap for rats was bought recently and has shown up some disturbing numbers.

At least 10 rats (some sizeable monsters among them) have been snared in a matter of weeks. Initially it was just a conservation project for the kids, but the frequency of catches has underscored a problem much bigger than I'd expected.

With each rodent dispatched, I'd like to think that's a brood of young tui chicks or tauhou that we've saved from the rats' rapacious appetite.

The merit of backyard efforts was emphasised by Manaaki Whenua Research Associate, Dr Eric Spurr, who said the increases in some endemic species could be a result of improved predator control in urban and rural areas.

It'd be nice to think too that an increase in the importance of planting native trees has had some impact.

Manaaki Whenua ecologist Dr Catriona MacLeod said the birds acted as "backyard barometers" of the health of the environment.

Seems logical, then, that we make a collective effort in our backyards to lift the barometer somewhat higher.