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Female bellbird sighting sparks extra vigilance

Hamilton residents are being asked to keep an extra sharp eye out for bellbirds (korimako) heading into winter.

It follows the sighting of a female of the species in Hillcrest, the first time a female bellbird has been reported in the city in recent history.

“This sighting, which came at the tail-end of summer, is exciting as it indicates the female could have been nesting in the city,” said Waikato Regional Council senior biodiversity officer Andrea Julian.

“Heading into winter, when bellbirds can be more active looking for alternative food sources, we’d ask the public to keep a good look out for the birds in the city and report any sightings, particularly of any more females.”

Bellbirds are shy little beauties and are only found in New Zealand. They’re about 20 centimetres long. The female is brownish green with a thin yellowish-white stripe running from the short curved bill across the cheek.

To get a better idea of what male and female bellbirds look and sound like visit www.nzbirdsonline.org.nz/species/bellbird(external link)

To make a report of a native bird sighting go to the council’s Hamilton Halo page: www.waikatoregion.govt.nz/hamiltonhalo(external link)

Hamilton Halo is a multi-agency project aimed at building up native bird numbers in the city, including bellbirds, through targeted pest control.

“This year we are going to undertake bellbird counts in the city and in the Halo control blocks using our Hamilton Halo partner Landcare Research,” said Andrea.

“However, when a species is still at very low numbers, reports from the general public are particularly valuable, giving us a picture of where and when the birds are starting to visit the city.” 

Bellbirds were once found throughout New Zealand but had either disappeared or drastically declined by the mid-late 19th century.

In 2010 a multi-agency programme led by Landcare Research and the University of Waikato, released bellbirds from Auckland’s Tiritiri Matangi and Tawharanui bird sanctuaries into the Hamilton Gardens, with the aim of re-establishing the birds in the city.

But unfortunately none stayed and no bellbirds were seen for several years after their departure.

“However, since then occasional unbanded birds have been seen, about one or two a year, almost certainly as a result of predator control in native forest areas around the region,” said Landcare Research technician Neil Fitzgerald.

“It appears the sightings in more recent years are part of a natural dispersal of bellbirds back into the city. So we’re very keen for the public to help us track what’s happening with this species in Hamilton.”

Our picture shows an adult female snapped near Cambridge in 2010 by Vanessa Moore.

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