Public called in to solve mystery of the morepork

00:00, Oct 08 2012
Nelson organiser Peter Gaze for the New Zealand Ornithological Society who are getting people in Nelson and Richmond to monitor morepork calls in parks and gardens near their homes later this month.

Moreporks may be disappearing from Nelson, and the national Ornithological Society needs residents to listen out for them.

Peter Gaze from the society's Nelson branch said he used to hear moreporks regularly around his home in Atawhai but noticed the calls had stopped in recent years. Other people told him they heard the nocturnal birds calling as regularly as ever, so Mr Gaze was unsure what to conclude.

He decided the best way to find out where Nelson's moreporks had got to was to set up a network of people listening for their distinctive calls over one or two days later this month. The society asked people taking part to pick an area of parkland or thick trees near their home and monitor birdcalls there for one hour after sunset, plotting the direction of each call.

Mr Gaze said the survey was based on a similar one in Hamilton that nearly 60 people took part in last year.

"It was very successful," he said. "They got a lot of information about a bird that we don't know a lot about."

He said the project appealed to him as it would allow a range of different people to take part in a fun and interesting exercise getting good data on one of New Zealand's most mysterious native birds. Around 30 people had already indicated they would be available to help out.


"This [survey] would at least give us a bit of a benchmark measurement, and we can monitor changes from there," said Mr Gaze. "If we know what the situation is then that's the first step towards possibly changing it."

He thought there were likely to be more morepork in rural areas near Richmond and Marsden Valley, but was interested to see whether they would come as far into the city as Isel Park and Queens Gardens. He intended for the survey to concentrate on the region between Nelson North and Richmond.

Nelson City Council land management adviser Lynne Hall said the council supported Mr Gaze's project.

The survey was "another strand in the biodiversity picture", and would help highlight the importance of safe "biodiversity corridors" like rivers and wooded areas that encouraged wildlife back into the central city. Ms Hall was interested in seeing the results of the survey, saying it would be good to have a base measurement of how many morepork there were.

Those interested in helping can email details of their chosen location to Mr Gaze at

The Nelson Mail