Bird of the Year 2022 – Australasian Bittern (Matuku-hūrepo)
Smitten with the bittern!
The Bird Of The Year campaign is an annual event organized by Forest & Bird to increase the public’s awareness of New Zealand’s native birds. Each bird has their own Campaign Manager whose job it is to intersperse silly humour with important information and conservation news.
This year the team at The Forest Bridge Trust are championing The Australasian Bittern for Bird Of The Year. But, why the bittern and not the kiwi?!
As you know, the work we do at TFBT is centred on predator control to support our vision of a kiwi-safe ‘forest bridge’ stretching from east to west coast in North Rodney. The communities who make up this area are doing incredible work – from farmers managing hundreds of hectares, through to villagers on small sections, people are learning how to trap and they’re doing the work.
When communities embrace predator control in this way it means kiwi can thrive, and in the process, other native birds benefit. Rats, possums and mustelids kill and compete with many, if not all, of our native species. When predator numbers are significantly reduced, the native birdlife in our communities (including the bittern) can start to recover.
The bittern is an endangered, native bird whose numbers nationwide have now dropped to well below 1000, although nobody really knows the actual number remaining. The wetlands and rivers of North Rodney are one of the areas in NZ that the bittern calls home. After a post on our community FB page about the bittern’s distinctive mating call, two landowners have contacted me (one from the west coast and one from the east!) to say they have bittern on their land.
A heavy set, exquisitely camouflaged heron, the bittern is so elusive that most people have never heard of it, let alone seen one. For its survival, and the protection and restoration of its habitat, it’s crucial to raise awareness for the bittern. Bird of the Year is one way we can pull together and do that, and you can go to www.theforestbridgetrust.org.nz to follow the campaign. Between now and October we’ll be sharing facts about this almost invisible creature, including photographs and videos, as well as recordings of its booming mating call. There are children’s books to be won, special offers on art work and interviews with fascinating conservation gurus who, like us, are smitten with the bittern! Click this LINK now – and be sure to encourage your friends to join the fun too.