10 Nov 2023

The wetland origins of Christchurch and Banks Peninsula have contributed to an important part of our city’s wildlife.

That’s why Christchurch City Council is taking the opportunity to remind ourselves about our recent past and we’re backing our less visible and more endangered wetland birds for Bird of the Century 2023.

“With the recent flurry of activity to plant trees and forests across the city to combat climate change and bring back our bush birds, we mustn’t forget that we’re also a wetland city,” says Biodiversity Team Leader Dr Antony Shadbolt.

“Loss of the wetlands over the years and modification of the riparian environments went hand-in-hand with the loss of our waterbirds and other wildlife.”

Yet with the city’s ongoing wetland and waterway restoration, a good number of these species are making a strong comeback.

“Populations of pāpango /New Zealand scaup, kuruwhengu/shoveler, tētē moroiti/grey teal and putangitangi/paradise shelducks have established a strong population throughout the city over the past thirty years or so,” says Dr Shadbolt.

“These species now outnumber exotic waterfowl like mallards on many of our waterways.”

Many of our waterbirds and swamp birds are important for us to direct our conservation effort towards.

“Ōtautahi Christchurch supports small but expanding populations of some special yet threatened species, including kotoreke/marsh crake, pūweto/spotless crake, matuku/Australasian bittern and kāmana/Australian crested grebe,” says Dr Shadbolt.

“Having these species front-and-centre of our thinking as we identify and protect our remaining wetlands, establish new wetlands and continue to build our city will enable us to achieve conservation outcomes of international significance within our urban environment.

“Because they’re cryptic, shy and reclusive animals, we seldom ever see the crakes and the bittern – but rest assured they are here. However, their cousin – the more extroverted pūkeko – remains a constant reminder to us that we are indeed a ‘swamp city.’ These other species may be lurking in the reeds and rushes just beyond our sight.”

With two pūkeko are on our city’s coat of arms, it’s important while you consider your Bird of the Century vote to remember our city’s roots and take note of species we often overlook or just don’t see.