Cuckoo sightings sought
Birdwatching is a serious and important pastime, according to Forest & Bird's South Canterbury field officer.
A call from Massey University for birdwatchers to look out for long tailed and shining cuckoos has unearthed some passionate environmentalists in the area.
Field officer Fraser Ross, who has been watching birds for about 40 years, said birdwatchers were misunderstood. "We gather information," he said.
His concern, along with other birdwatchers, was that there was only a fraction of native birds left since colonisation.
"We need to be more vigilant about nature and our wildlife."
The retired pharmacist has a broad knowledge of birds and is keen on the outdoors. "It's all part of the ecology of the natural environment."
Highlights include seeing three pelicans at the Washdyke Lagoon in the 1970s and being involved in the black stilt project in Twizel which has seen the population grow from 23 to 100.
His favourite bird is the wood pigeon (kereru) and its aerobatics mid-flight.
Though the cuckoos the university wants reported are not very common Mr Ross and fellow birdwatchers will look out for them.
The shining cuckoo is smaller than the long tailed cuckoo. It is about the size of a sparrow with a metallic green sheen with gold and copper glint. The sides of its face and parts of its underside are white. They are likely to be found in tree vegetation. Caterpillars of the magpie moth are their favourite food.
"They breed here in summer and lay eggs in the nests of other birds," Mr Ross said.
Because their eggs are larger than those of the grey warbler, whose nests they target, the cuckoo eggs are incubated and chicks are raised by the foster parents. Meanwhile the warblers' own eggs are neglected and are doomed.
Dr Michael Anderson, from the ecology, behaviour and conservation group at the Institute of Natural and Mathematical Sciences, said the long-tailed cuckoo and the shining cuckoo are New Zealand's only forest birds that migrate out of the country.
"We don't know very much about the migration patterns of either species, so we are keen to find out more about the dates they arrive at each part of the country," Dr Anderson said.
To report cuckoo sightings go to: goo.gl/ClBMWZ for long tailed cuckoos or goo.gl/CDjbuh for shining cuckoos.
- © Fairfax NZ News