The annual national kiwi listening programme launched in Northland this week, with up to two hundred people staying up for hours each night around the region.
The programme is a key method for determining the presence of kiwi in particular places and involves thousands of people around the country at the same time each year.
Listening occurs at designated sites, aligned with the phases of the moon when nights are the darkest. This is in May or June.
There are about 110 listening sites throughout Northland, usually with one to two people at each. The region’s programme co-ordinator Emma Craig, says although the concept is simple, it can be a demanding job requiring stamina and patience.
“Listeners are out there in the dark, often cold, for hours at a time over a three week period. They need to have a good ear for distinguishing and picking up kiwi calls as well as the direction and distance they come from.”
The information gathered not only confirms kiwi presence but also helps build broad patterns of where kiwi are over time, and show if there are big changes in populations.
Listening has occurred at 23 of Northland sites since 1995 and shows trends in kiwi call count rates generally declined in all areas in the 1990s, with particularly significant declines occurring in western and eastern areas, Ms Craig says.
“Call rates appear to have stabilised since 1999 for northern, eastern and southern areas, however the western area has continued to decline, dropping from an average of over 12 calls per hour in 1999 to about six calls per hour in 2008.”
The main cause of adult kiwi deaths in Northland is dogs, while young birds are at risk from predators including stoats and cats.
In other parts of New Zealand, North Island brown kiwi live to be 40-65. In Northland, the average age is 14. The single greatest cause of kiwi deaths in Northland is dogs.
The BNZ Save the Kiwi Trust is currently running a campaign encouraging hunters to be more aware of the dangers dogs pose to kiwi and to have their dogs kiwi aversion trained. BNZ Save the Kiwi Trust was established in November 2002 by Bank of New Zealand and the Department of Conservation, building on a sponsorship relationship that started in 1991. BNZ Save the Kiwi Trust is responsible for public awareness and education, fundraising, sponsorship and grant allocations for kiwi recovery nationally. In 2008 alone, more than $1 million was allocated to community and DOC kiwi projects. This money came from Bank of New Zealand, its staff, customers and supporters of BNZ Save the Kiwi Trust.