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New Zealand Science Teacher

Science Education & Society

Potential conflict as native birds move into urban settings

New research looks at how native birds might cause problems in New Zealand cities.

Left: A kaka, in Wellington’s Botanical Gardens.

A win for conservation could result in problems for our cities, according to new research from Victoria University.

Pukeko, kaka, and gulls are the native birds most likely to cause problems in urban environments, the research shows.

The scientists, De Wayne Linklater and Kerry Charles, compared native birds in cities all over the world and found that birds that eat many different foods were the most likely to cause conflict in urban places.

“A broad diet allows the birds to take advantage of the wide variety of often novel foods in the urban environment, leading to population growth,” says Dr Linklater.

Potential issues caused by native New Zealand birds sharing our cities include noise, fouling, and nesting, he says.

“Traditionally, native birds haven’t been a problem in New Zealand cities because most of them live in our forests or by the sea. But ironically, the success of nature restoration projects in urban areas may well raise the chances of conflict as more birds re-colonise our cities.”

In their work, the scientists developed a model that estimates the likelihood of different bird species causing problems in urban environments. The pukeko, red-billed gull, and kaka were found to be the three species most likely to generate conflict.

Kaka are already causing concern in Wellington, leading to some exotic trees in the Botanic Gardens having to be cut down.

“Our study suggests that there may be further problems caused by birds in New Zealand cities as our cities become more urbanised and populations of birds with broad diets grow,” says Ms Charles.

“The restoration of wildlife conservation where people live, work, and play brings benefits to our community and quality of our environment for the future – and a measure of our success is that some of that wildlife will become so common that they cause problems for people.

“The research offers a tool for problem management, which allows species that may be more likely to cause problems to be identified, monitored and any emerging problems addressed before they worsen.” 

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