The Great Kererū Count was New Zealand’s biggest citizen science project, aiming to help gather information on the abundance and distribution of the endemic New Zealand pigeon. The 10-day count used to take place around mid-September each year. Your observations – regardless of whether you see kererū or not – helped build a clearer picture of where kererū live, how many there are and what they are feeding on.
This annual event began in 2014 and ran until 2021. Datasets for each of the prior counts are available and provide practice for interpreting data and viewing trends over time.
Reach: Regional, national
Nature of science focus: Online citizen science (OCS) projects can be used to develop any of the Nature of Science (NoS) substrands. What is important is to identify aspects of NoS that your students need to be better at or understand more fully and then frame your unit to be very clear about these things when you do them.
Science capability focus: Gather and interpret data, Interpret representations, Engage with science
Science focus: ecology – species distribution, habitat and animal behaviour
Some suggested science concepts:
- Ecosystem dynamics – the kererū is an important species. The loss of kererū from a location can have a significant impact on the local ecosystem. Kererū are essential for seed dispersal of native trees such as karaka, miro, tawa and taraire.
- Adaptations – native birds like the kererū have evolved to become well suited to a particular habitat. They have unique structural and physiological adaptations.
- Competition for resources such as food, shelter and mates – changes in habitat can affect the survival of living organisms in an area and the relationships between them.
Many concepts could be learned – focusing on a few can often be more powerful. Develop your learning outcomes and success criteria from these concepts as well as the Nature of Science strand and the science capabilities.
Some examples of learning outcomes:
- accurately gather and log data
- make and record observations about flight behaviours
- make and record observations about food sources and feeding.
About The Great Kererū Count project
Kererū are protected birds but their numbers have fallen over the last few decades. The Great Kererū Count is the only centralised data gathered to monitor the national trends of this keystone species. Kererū are the only birds in New Zealand that are capable of dispersing the large fruits of our native trees as some seeds actually have to pass through the gut of a bird to properly germinate. Information and data collected from this nationwide citizen science project will be used to better protect kererū and to help save our native forests.
Large flocks of more than one hundred kererū were once a common sight in the skies over New Zealand … our vision is to see them againThe Great Kererū Count
The Great Kererū Count has three ways to record kererū observations:
- Via computer, tablet or smartphone.
- Add your observations via the iNaturalistNZ website.
- Via the iNaturalist app.
Each method had the option to add photos and video.
The website has an education pack with teacher resources, activities and a quiz. It also has links to LEARNZ Kererū Count virtual field trip videos.
UPDATE this project is now completed and data from the eight years that it ran is being gathered, see this Stuff news article More kererū than ever recorded as final national count wraps up.
Nature of science
Engaging in this OSC project provides opportunities to consider why scientists have chosen to monitor this species over time and what implications population numbers and distribution may have on local and regional ecosystems. Students can also consider the challenges for scientists in collecting large datasets themselves and appreciate how involving citizen scientists makes the scientists’ findings more valid.
Find out more about the kererū.
The Hub has an extensive range of resources featuring birds including Native bird adaptations, Birds’ roles in ecosystems and Predation of native birds and articles on conservation of our native species and bird classification. You can also find out more about other native birds such as the kiwi, takahē, kākā, New Zealand ducks, penguins and godwits. For all of our articles and activities, browse through our birds topic. For more on populations, see Population biology. Protecting native birds references the important role of citizen scientists.
Other similar citizen science projects
Participate in eBird to log bird sighting data year round and compare data from around the world. Sitting within this global site is the New Zealand Bird Atlas – a world-first approach to a 5-year project collating information about how many bird species are in New Zealand and where they are. Bird sightings (checklists) can be submitted year round using the New Zealand Bird Atlas.
For another New Zealand-specific project, take part in the annual New Zealand Garden Bird Survey run by Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research. The Garden Bird Survey has been running since 2007, providing extensive data to look back through and consider.
Here are some planning tips for when you intend to use a citizen science project with your students.