Spring is here, the birds are out!

Friday, September 23, 2016

Kereru and Kowhai trees in flower signal springtime in wild New Zealand. Kowhai is our national flower. One of NZ's few deciduous trees, kowhai bursts out in spring with its yellow pea flowers even before producing its new leaves. The flowers are a magnet for honey-eating birds.

Flowering kowhai all around Lake Moeraki in South Westland attract in flocks of long tongued tui and bellbird and we have counted up to 18 birds in a single tree. These birds pollinate the kowhai flowers by spreading the yellow pollen from flower to flower as they seek nectar.

However kereru, the large and beautiful NZ woodpigeon, don't bother to pollinate the flowers. They just eat bunches of the large protein-rich flowers. Later on kereru will also consume many kowhai leaves. These leaves are also rich in protein because kowhai is a nitrogen-fixing tree..

The DOC aerial 1080 programmes right through Southern South Westland south of the Paringa River since 1998 cover around 500,000ha and have dramatically improved native birdlife.

The forests are alive with bird song. The dawn chorus is deafening. The kowhais have up to 20 tui and bellbird in each tree and the kaka population around Lake Moeraki all successfully bred last summer.