New Zealand Garden Bird Survey

It's time!

Get ready for the NZ Garden Bird Survey: 25 June - 3 July 

It’s time to release your inner David Attenborough for this essential citizen science project! Thriving bird populations can indicate that the environment is healthy (and, obviously, vice versa). That’s why the NZGBS asks New Zealanders annually to observe and record information about the birds visiting their little patch of the country. 

How often do you get a chance to sit quietly and take in your surroundings? Dust off your binoculars and unfold your camping chair, because the NZ Garden Bird Survey is here to give you extra impetus to find some stillness. And it’s all in the name of science. 

This survey has been around since 2007 and acts as a ‘backyard barometer’ of the country’s birdlife. For an hour on any one day between 25 June and 3 July, citizen surveyors from around the country take stock of avian visitors to their gardens, parks and schools. These numbers are then fed back to Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research, who use them to create metrics for researchers, environmental organisations and policy makers all over Aotearoa.

By monitoring bird populations in residential areas we can see where problems may be occurring for our birds and make changes to help them. Like the canary in the coal mine, the finch on your fence (or the tūī in your totara) could become part of an early warning system for greater environmental issues. 

If this sounds like a bit of you, the process is simple. Find a time that suits you within the survey period and get set up in your backyard or local green space with a notepad and pen. Make a tally of each breed that flies by, comes down to the ground or alights in the trees near you. Kids will love this - especially with the aid of a pair of binoculars.

If you don’t recognise a bird then make a note of its features or perhaps snap a photo - it could be something uncommon to your area and therefore noteworthy. A list of commonly seen backyard birds is here. Or you can make things even easier by printing this tally sheet. Once your hour is up, enter your data here then watch for the results when they are released. A Little Bird (our newsletter) will keep you updated with all the important info.

By the way, it’s also okay to cheep (or cheat) a little by supplying a bit of encouragement. Winter is a time where birds are looking for more sustenance in our gardens - which is why the backyard survey is carried out at this time. Providing a nectar feeder in your yard or putting some wild bird feed in a nearby tree will help give them what they need to get through the cooler months. It may also make your count a little more exciting!

And the best part is that your results will inform policies that help birds all over the country. True David Attenborough stuff. Happy surveying!