Our first Bat of the Year!

For the first time since it was established in 2005, the annual Bird of the Year competition has not been won by a bird!

Bird of the Year/Te Manu Rongonui o te Tau is a competition organised by Forest & Bird every year to raise awareness of our native birds and the threats they face. This year was the first time a non-bird has been part of the competition when the pekapeka-tou-roa (long-tailed bat) was allowed to enter. Some people weren’t very happy that a bat was allowed to enter Bird of the Year, but since Aotearoa only has two native land mammals, and they’re both bats, holding a “Bat of the Year” wouldn’t be much of a competition!

Our native birds and our native bats face a lot of the same threats. They both have to deal with predators, pollution, habitat loss, and climate change. We do have a lot more birds than bats though, since there are 168 species of native New Zealand birds, and only two native species of bat. And Bird of the Year means that the competing birds get a lot of attention as people choose their favourite birds to vote for. When the pekapeka-tou-roa was allowed to compete in Bird of the Year it started getting a lot more attention as well, which is a very good thing since it is classed as “nationally critical” – the term used for the most threatened species in New Zealand. All this attention and newfound competitive spirit led up to…

Earlier this week the 2021 Bird of the Year competition was won by the pekapeka-tou-roa!

Congratulations to the 2021 Bird (Bat) of the Year!

A close-up of a furry, chocolate brown pekapeka that is hanging upside down on the trunk of a tree. Its wings are held in close against its body, and one ear and eye are pointed towards the camera.

Photo by Colin O’Donnell, Department of Conservation, licensed under CC BY 4.0

One very interesting and adorable fact about the pekapeka-tou-roa is that they’re tiny. It’s hard to know how big the bat in this photo is because there isn’t much to show the scale of it, but it really is much smaller than you’d expect – this bat weighs about the same as a $2 coin, and its body is only the size of your thumb! That’s so small! Our other native bat, the pekapeka-tou-poto (short-tailed bat) is slightly bigger, but only by a few grams.

If you’d like to know more about our native pekapeka, here are a few places you can go to learn more:

Department of Conservation

The Department of Conservation (DOC) looks after New Zealand’s natural and historic heritage, and has a lot of information about our National Parks, Great Walks, Conservation, and our native plants and animals! They’ve got a great section on our native pekapeka, and have even caught them on video!

Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand

Te Ara is a wonderful online encyclopedia with information on all things Aotearoa. You can find stories about the history of our cities, biographies of historical New Zealanders, as well as about our native animals and plants. Check out their story about our two native bats – full of facts and pictures!

Bats / Arkins, Alina
If you’d rather not read about our pekapeka on a website and would prefer a book, this book is a great introduction to both of our native bats. It describes them both and where they live, how they raise their babies, what they eat and how they manage to catch their food.


While the top award this year was taken out by the pekapeka-tou-roa, the other four competitors rounding out the top five were all (unsurprisingly) birds.

Second place went to the kākāpō, which won Bird of the Year in both 2020 and 2008.

The kākāpō is the world’s heaviest parrot and is also classed as nationally critical.


A small, pale green titipounamu perches on a branch with its beak slightly turned upwards.

Photo: 124445324 by thibaudaronson on iNaturalist, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

The titipounamu (rifleman) came in third place.

Titipounamu are New Zealand’s smallest bird and were recently seen in Wellington for possibly the first time in a century!

Photo: 124445324 by thibaudaronson on iNaturalist, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0


A kea in flight. Photographed from below so you can see the vibrant red feathers under its wings.

Photo: 112601911 by christopherstephens on iNaturalist, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Fourth place went to the kea, which won Bird of the Year in 2017.

Kea are the only alpine (mountain-living) parrot in the world, and are well-known for their cheeky natures.


A smug looking toroa sits on a tussock, surrounded by ferns.

Photo: 137728076 by M Rutherford on iNaturalist, licensed under CC BY 4.0

The toroa (antipodean albatross) came in fifth and is the only seabird in the top five.

Toroa spend most of their lives at sea, and only come in to land when it is time to raise their young.


If you want more information about the many native birds of Aotearoa, New Zealand Native Birds Online lets you look up birds by name, search by location, or browse by conservation status. What’s even cooler is that if you’ve seen a bird out on a walk, you can use the “Identify that bird” feature to figure out exactly what kind of bird you’ve seen!


There are a lot of books that you can find in our libraries all about our native birds and bats. We also have books about our extinct animals and why we have to be so careful caring for the species we still have. Here’s a selection of titles you can find at your local libraries:

In the bush : explore & discover New Zealand’s native forests / Candler, Gillian
“In the Bush is the fourth in the popular Explore & Discover series. It includes insects and other invertebrates, fungi, ferns and mosses, birds, bats, introduced pests, vines, epiphytes, and trees. Includes removeable, waterproof reference guide.” (Catalogue)


Lost wonders : vanished creatures of Aotearoa / Ell, Sarah
“The story of the lost wonders of New Zealand’s natural history: the extinct species which are now gone forever. Lost Wonders also features some key species which are on the brink – critically endangered – and the efforts that are being made to save them for future generations. The stories of these fascinating creatures – birds, insects, reptiles and plants – are told in an entertaining and accessible style, drawing on first-hand accounts and supported with useful illustrations. It draws on accounts of their demise, and of the social climate in New Zealand in which these extinctions occurred.” (Abridged from Catalogue)

Also available as an eBook


Bird’s-eye view : through the eyes of New Zealand birds / Gill, Maria
“Reveals what 13 New Zealand birds see in their natural habitats, and uses the latest avian-vision research to show various bird’s-eye views in a series of panoramic images. Suggested level: primary, intermediate, junior secondary.” (Catalogue)


On the brink : New Zealand’s most endangered species / Gill, Maria
“Discover our most threatened animals in New Zealand. From the beautiful forest ringlet butterfly to the down-right ugly southern elephant seal, the cheeky kākāpō to the super-sensory-powered ambush hunters the great white sharks. Every one of the unique species in our waters and on our land is threatened by predators, land changes, pollution, and other human-induced disturbances. As well as finding out how unique these animals are, you’ll read what is harming them, and most importantly what we can do to help them.” (Catalogue)

Also available as an eAudiobook


All about New Zealand birds / Gunson, Dave
“This fun and educational book features dozens of vibrant illustrations by talented artist, children’s book writer and bird fanatic Dave Gunson. Over 50 of our most interesting and most loved native and introduced birds have been illustrated especially for this book by Dave. Each page features one large illustration of a bird and 100 words of text. All About New Zealand Birds is an ideal introduction to many of the birds of New Zealand for people of all ages.” (Abridged from Catalogue)


The cuckoo and the warbler : a true New Zealand story / Warne, Kennedy
“The Cuckoo and the Warbler tells the story of one of the most remarkable wildlife relationships in New Zealand, between pipiwharauroa, the shining cuckoo, and riroriro, the grey warbler. It is a story of tragedy, trickery and faithful care – and it plays out each spring and summer in the forests of Aotearoa. Although rarely seen by humans, the interaction of these two native birds is a striking example of nature’s inventiveness.” (Catalogue)

Bird Watchers, Get Counting: It’s Bird Survey Time!

Manaaki Whenua | Landcare Research is running its annual Garden Bird Survey right now (from 26 June – 4 July). To participate you need to spend 60 minutes  in your garden, local park or reserve recording the birds you see at any one time between 26 June – 4 July.

To take part, go to gardenbirdsurvey.landcareresearch.co.nz. There are heaps of resources on this website including helpful pictures of the birds you are most likely to see, printable tally sheets, quizzes, competitions, and how to enter as a school group, if that’s your jam!

Taking part is easy:

  1. Select your garden, park, or school
  2. Choose one day from 26th June to the 4th July
  3. Look and listen for birds for ONE hour.
  4. Record the HIGHEST number of a bird species observed at one time.
  5. Submit your survey results below.

Your survey results will be analysed by the Landcare Research scientists. This will help them know and understand things like how our bird populations are changing over time, and keep an eye on any population trends (good and bad).

Fantail 1So do your part to help care for our wonderful birdlife! Did you know that at the end of Day 1 alone

  • 282 Surveys were submitted
  • 12,187 Birds counted
  • 68 Species counted
 And if you still have some questions, jump onto the FAQ page on the website to answer the ones you have, and ones you hadn’t even thought about around all things birds + survey.


Book Jacket for: A bird in the hand : keeping New Zealand wildlife safeBook Jacket for: Discovering New Zealand birdsBook Jacket for: NZ birds

Wellington City Libraries have loads of books and resources about New Zealand birds.

Or you could browse the Non-Fiction shelves under the Dewey Number of 598.


Other useful websites:

Birds New Zealand

Department of Conservation

Forest and Bird

New Zealand Geographic

Become an ornithological expert and help understand and protect Aotearoa’s wonderfully diverse birdlife.


 

Become an Environmental Scientist with the City Nature Challenge!

Finish off the school holidays in environmental style by taking part in the City Nature Challenge this weekend! From Friday 30 April to Monday 3 May, Wellington will be transformed into a giant nature playground — and you will be turned into scientists, should you choose to take up the challenge of embarking on a four-day bioblitz!

WCC gardener photographing a plant using the iNaturalist app at a Wellington City garden.

Nate Rigler, WCC gardener, investigating some local flora! Photo credit: Tim Park.

So what is the City Nature Challenge? It’s a global event that sees people from over 250 cities across the world search for, report, and log any sightings of wild plants, creatures, or organisms, living or dead, on the land, up the mountains, and in the sea — and around our backyards.

It’s super easy to get involved using the iNaturalist app (free on the app store). Join the Wellington City Nature Challenge group, go for a walk in the city (looking out for local flora and fauna as you go!) and when you spot something cool, upload it to the app. There are prizes to be won and a natural environment to be discovered, so pick up a flyer from your local library, or head over to the City Nature Challenge website, to find out more!

If nature is your kind of thing, Wellington City Libraries has a huge range of books and other resources on the topic. Use the following links to find books on our catalogue about various topics relating to the plants, animals, and environment of New Zealand — or use the Dewey Decimal numbers to help you search the shelves the next time you visit the library!

Here are some that you might find particularly useful as you participate in the City Nature Challenge this weekend:

New Zealand nature heroes / Candler, Gillian
“New Zealand Nature Heroes is designed to inspire and empower New Zealand kids to be naturalists and conservationists. Aimed at the 8-12 age range, the book features stories of 15 different nature heroes, people who, in the past, or currently, are working to protect and understand New Zealand’s natural world. These inspirational profiles are complemented with information about key animals, plants or habitats, and then each matched with an authentic activity that kids can do to make a difference.” (Catalogue)

A New Zealand nature journal / Morris, Sandra
“A New Zealand Nature Journal will teach you how to keep a nature journal to record your amazing discoveries. Have you ever noticed that ladybirds have different numbers of spots? Or that leaves can be pointed or round, long or short, soft or hard? There is so much to explore in the natural world. And keeping a nature journal is the best way to record all your amazing discoveries.” (Catalogue)

New Zealand birds in pictures / Chen, Kimball
“From the barely-visible wings of the flightless kiwi to the immense wingspan of the wandering albatross, New Zealand’s fragile island ecosystem is home to a diverse array of spectacular birds. Delve into the fascinating world of our feathered friends with author and wildlife photographer Kimball Chen. From intimate portraits of endangered creatures and their glamorous breeding plumage, to dramatic wide-angle birdscapes encompassing rugged sub-antarctic habitats, to magical fleeting encounters of birds courting and mating and hatching, Chen’s passion for nature shines with artistic and aesthetic photographs sure to pique a greater appreciation of New Zealand birds. ” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The life-size guide to insects & other land vertebrates of New Zealand / Crowe, Andrew
“Identifying New Zealand’s insects, spiders and other land invertebrates is made simple with this new guide. Over 300 life-size colour photographs make it fun for all the family to learn more about the natural world of New Zealand.” (Catalogue)

The life-size guide to native trees and other common plants of New Zealand’s native forest / Crowe, Andrew
“Identifying native trees and other common plants of New Zealand’s native forest can be fun for all the family with this new pictorial guide. Match leaves, flowers, seeds, berries and bark against beautiful, life-sized photographs for fast, accurate identification. Written by one of New Zealand’s foremost writers on native plants, The Life-Size Guide offers a new opportunity to explore and enjoy the natural world of our native plants.” (Catalogue)

Wildlife of Aotearoa / Bishop, Gavin
“Long before waka touched Aotearoa’s shores, the land of the long white cloud was home to an array of creatures uniquely adapted to its environments and protected by its isolation. Encounter New Zealand’s incredible wildlife in this spectacular visual exploration. Journey through ocean, sky and land to meet a marvellous range of organisms. Discover fascinating facts, and learn how we influence the survival of our living treasures. In this magnificent companion volume to Aotearoa- The New Zealand Story, Gavin Bishop weaves a compelling visual narrative of our land, our people and our wildlife – past, present and future.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Conservation Week 1st – 8th November

Conservation week is coming up and this year the theme is Healthy Nature, Healthy People. Check out all the great ideas for things to do and competitions to enter on the Department of Conservation website.

Besides finding out about events you can also find heaps of other information about our native plants and animals and how to save them. There is lots of little things we can do to help protect and save our environment.

I really like the section on attracting lizards into your garden. Did you know that we have more than 99 species of lizard in New Zealand. We also have many geckos and skinks and 33 of our skinks are found no where else in the world so it is really important that we learn how to protect them.

You can check out all the things you can do to attract them into your garden from the plants they like right through to building them a lizard house.

The library has heaps of great books on conservation as well – so slip, slop, slap and get out into the great outdoors and start saving.