Five NZ Garden Bird Survey datasets now available on GBIF

Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research (MWLR) has uploaded the 2018–2020 and 2022 New Zealand Garden Bird Survey (NZGBS) datasets to GBIF with public access.

These datasets include the full surveys and bird counts submitted in these years and represent nearly 200,000 new records. These datasets join the 2021 data that was published in late 2022.

Photo of a tūī (Prosthemadera novaeseelandiae) submitted by NZGBS participant Roger Smith for the 2022 photo competition. © Roger Smith, 2022.

The NZGBS is the longest-running annual survey of biodiversity in Aotearoa New Zealand’s urban and rural landscapes, and thousands of Kiwis contribute their observations to the NZGBS each year. For nine days each winter, New Zealanders across the country spend an hour in their garden, school, or local park counting the highest number of birds of each species they see or hear. They submit this information, along with characteristics of the survey site and whether the birds were fed, to the NZGBS team at MWLR via an online form.

The research team at MWLR analyses the 10- and 5-year trends in fourteen common garden bird species observed during the NZGBS to produce the annual State of NZ Garden Birds | Te Āhua o ngā Manu o te Kāri i Aotearoa report. The trends give scientists, councils, community groups, and anyone interested a clue as to how the health of garden bird populations and the wider environment are changing over time.

The 2023 survey wrapped up on 2 July with surveys still coming in from bird counters around the country. We have received more than 6,000 completed surveys with Otago and Tasman having the highest per-household engagement of all the regions. The NZGBS team thanks all the citizen scientists who generously contributed their time to collecting these data.

The regional return of surveys for the 2023 NZGBS at the close of data entry. © Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research 2023, CC BY-SA 4.0.

Considering the on-going length of the Survey, we are always thrilled to hear from participants that have been counting the birds since the start.

TV producer Ian McGee who hails from Dunedin started doing the Survey when it first began around 2007. “I really like the idea of being able to track what is in my garden over time,” he says. “Once you’ve done the survey, you start noticing birds for weeks afterwards. It’s an entry step that really opens your eyes to a whole new world.”

A large part of what keeps Janice Swanwick from Wellington motivated to keep coming back to do the Survey is the opportunity to be part of a bigger endeavour. “It’s a nice feeling to know you are contributing to a citizen science project that will be used for meaningful research,” she says.

New NZGBS datasets will be uploaded each year following the release of the State of NZ Garden Birds | Te Āhua o ngā Manu o te Kāri i Aotearoa report. This year the New Zealand Garden Bird Survey runs from Saturday, 29 June, to Sunday, 7 July.