Be in for the royal count

Royal Spoonbill at Yatton Park. Photo: Paul Cuming.

New Zealand’s esteemed ornithological society BirdsNZ is gearing up for an avian adventure like no other.

Kiwis across Aotearoa are being summoned to join the ranks of this feathered fellowship and count the elusive Kotuku ngutu papa, known to many as the Royal Spoonbill, on June 22-23.

At the local helm is BirdsNZ regional representative Paul Cuming, a seasoned bird-watcher and guardian of avian knowledge.

Armed with dedication and an email address – – Paul awaits your reports, your sightings, and your tales of the majestic Spoonbill’s whereabouts in the BOP.

“These will go into a count database and be compared with previous counts,” says Paul.

He has already spotted the birds roosting at Yatton Park, and a group have been seen in Kōpurererua Valley.

Every observation becomes a vital clue, a puzzle piece in the grand mosaic of NZ’s avian landscape.

But why the spoonbill, you may ask?

While whispers suggest their numbers are on the rise across NZ, murmurs persist that they’ve yet to establish their court in the Bay of Plenty.

“It is thought that the species is increasing, although there is scant evidence they are breeding in the BOP,” says Paul.

He is challenging the community to prove that theory wrong.

The Royal Spoonbill is one of six spoonbill species worldwide, and the only one that breeds in NZ.

First recorded in New Zealand in 1861 they can live up to 36 years and in flight, hold their neck outstretched and trail legs behind, looking rather awkward, like a ‘Dr Seuss’ cartoon bird.

In 1977 the NZ population was estimated at 52 birds.

The most recent estimate in 2012 was 2360.

So, grab your binoculars and join Paul and the team on this epic quest one sighting at a time by checking estuaries, marshes, trees and water areas for a flap of a white wing or glint of a Royal Spoonbill feather.

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