This winter we conducted a landscape-scale Kiwi Census, with volunteers coming from near and far to take part.

Way back in 2005, at the inception of the Moehau Environment Group Kiwi Sanctuary, local DOC staff helped us complete a baseline kiwi listening census. The census surveyed 27 sites and results indicated that there were around 160 kiwi within our Sanctuary at that time. Since then, annual monitoring at 5 sites has shown an upward trend in both the number of individual kiwi heard and the average call rates.

So 10 years on, and with a decade of predator control under our belts, we repeated the census to see if that kiwi population has grown. During May to July of 2015 volunteers undertook kiwi listening at these historic sites. The survey area was massive, covering over 10,000ha including the townships of Colville, Waikawau Bay, Tuateawa, Kennedy Bay, right down to Coromandel town.

Kiwi listener solicits for kiwi

Kiwi listener solicits for kiwi

Kiwi listening is not a glamorous sport. It involves sitting in the dark for 2 hours, recording any kiwi calls heard. Seasoned listeners come armed with blankets, hot-water bottles and flasks to ward off the cold, which inevitably seeps into your bones by the second hour.

We were not expecting our census to generate so much media attention. News spread fast and volunteers came from as far as Hamilton and Auckland to participate! Of course we also had lots of locals taking part.

Most volunteers heard kiwi at their sites. The record this year comes from a known kiwi hotspot near Colville where 23 calls were heard in 125 minutes! We hope that as kiwi numbers continue to grow, reports like this will become more commonplace.

Thankfully with our kiwi listens now complete, we can begin the task of sorting through the data looking for trends. Many, many thanks to all the wonderful volunteers that braved one of the coldest winter on records to take part. We look forward to sharing our results with you.