Fernbird Numbers Increase in Waimea Inlet

Battle for the Banded Rail are excited to share the results of their 2024 Fernbird Survey, with the number of fernbirds increasing from just a single bird in 2018 to at least eight birds in 2024.

Fernbirds or Mātātā are rare in the Tasman region with small populations found in Mohua Golden Bay, Wakapuaka and Mārahau. The survey looked at changes to fernbird and other bird populations in the Waimea Inlet over the past six years – during which extensive pest trapping and habitat restoration was carried out by Battle for the Banded Rail’s community volunteers and team members.

The exciting results showed increases in numbers of fernbirds, and their breeding success and distribution throughout the Waimea Inlet. The number of fernbirds found increased from a single bird in the 2018 to at least eight birds in 2024. They were seen at three different sites around the inlet, including; five at Manuka Island, one in Waimea Delta-West and two at Pearl Creek. Even more promising was the sighting of two adults and a juvenile at the same place – indicating a breeding pair and the first evidence of breeding success in over ten years!

Banded Rail Image Bradley Shields | Fernbird Image Ingrid Hutzler

The project’s extensive habitat restoration and predator control is good news for other birds too – banded rail sightings increased from zero in 2018, to sightings at five different locations across the inlet. Black-fronted tern and Royal spoonbill were found at four locations (compared to only one in the previous survey) and the total number of bird species has increased from forty-three in 2018 to fifty in 2024. Some of the new species include weka, Eurasian coots and Australian wood ducks.

Since 2015 the project has trapped 10,900 pests and planted 164,000 plants across the Waimea Inlet – half of these were planted by community volunteers. The project team are very grateful to the community volunteers and Birds NZ members who helped make this survey possible.

Read more in this fantastic Stuff article

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