Hamilton Halo aims to bring native birds back into the city. Find out how you can help, and if you see a bellbird, kākā, kererū or tūi in the Waikato region, we'd like to know!
On this page: latest news, tui, bellbirds, songbook, Hamilton Halo's work, you can help, sighting tui and bellbirds, who's involved, bringing bellbirds to Hamilton, find out more.
If you see a bellbird, kākā, kererū or tūi in the Waikato region, we would like to know.
These birds are relatively easily recognised, and can be found throughout the Waikato. They are important to the native ecosystem functioning as they are key distributors and pollinators of native plants. They can also help act as ‘bioindicators’ of ecosystem health.
Visit the Department of Conservation website for more information on kākā and kererū.
The information you provide will help us to monitor bird distribution and identify and investigate any patterns that might occur. Of particular interest is the birds coming into Hamilton city as part of our Hamilton Halo operation. Maps of sightings each season will be published.
Tui and bellbird sighting location information may be passed on to Landcare Research for research purposes only. Bellbird sighting location information may be also be passed onto the University of Waikato for research purposes.
Another great winter for tui in the city!
We've had 302 tui sightings recorded this winter by the public on our bird sighting form.
Tui sighting have been consistently high since the Hamilton Halo project began. During the last three winters, sightings have been 276, 313 and 302 birds respectively. This is a huge improvement from only 11 sightings over the whole year in 2007.
This spring should show even more birds, and we're really interested to know if you have seen any nesting tui. Keep an eye out for birds that are carrying nesting materials like large twigs or scales from tree ferns. As you would expect, once nesting the pair will frequent the nest often. Nests can be in found in most trees, native or otherwise.
Keep the sightings coming in!
Post operation report 2011
This report details site operations and performance. Read it here.
Hope Bush after pest control
A few Waikato Regional Council staff had the opportunity to see some of the ecological results of the Halo project at Hope Bush recently. Click here to read more about what they saw and heard.
Hamilton Halo project could be replicated
Waikato Regional Council staff are looking at whether lessons learned during the successful and highly popular Hamilton Halo project to protect tui can be applied to other parts of the region. Click here to read the full media release.
Hamilton Halo project - Five year review
Click here to read a five year review of the Hamilton Halo project.
Tui grow up to 30cm in length. The male tui weighs approximately 120g and the female approximately 90g. Tui are mostly black in colour but in the light have green, bluish-purple and bronze colouring with a lacy collar of white filaments and white throat tufts. Tui have black legs, a curved black bill and a white wing bar. Both sexes of tui look alike. Juvenile tui are a dull slate black colour with glossy wings and tail, a greyish-white throat, and lack the white throat tuft or poi that are a distinctive feature of an adult tui. Tui breed between October and February in native bush areas around Hamilton. Native plants are a good source of food for them at this time of year.
Many tui visit the city over winter (May to August) looking for food. Scientists believe they come to feed on the nectar of exotic species of trees that flower over winter. They currently commute from up to 20km away, and return to their breeding sites outside the city.
Until recently, over the past 100 years, only one tui fledgling had been recorded in Hamilton.
Report a tui sighting here. Check out photos of tui below (click on an image to enlarge).
Tui - photo: Fiona Jujnovich
Tui - photo: Brian Thompson
Bellbirds are endemic to New Zealand (only found in New Zealand), and until recently had not been seen in Hamilton for more than a century. The bellbird is known in Maori as the korimako, makomako, or rearea.
Bellbirds are approximately 20cm long. The male bird is olive green in colour with a yellow-green belly while the female bellbird is brown with a thin white stripe running from the bill across the cheek.
The bellbird breeding season is approximately September through to February. Bellbirds tend to nest fairly high up in trees, and prefer trees with dense foliage for cover. A good range of food sources is required in the near vicinity, with flowering/fruiting times spread throughout the breeding season. Bellbirds are strongly territorial during the breeding season.
A pair of bellbirds maintain the same breeding territory year after year. The female makes the nest and lays three to five eggs. Both parents feed the chicks, which fledge at about 14 days old. A pair can raise two broods in a season. The oldest bellbird recorded lived to over 8 years.
Bellbirds collect nectar and fruit from a variety of native plant species. Bellbirds feed on nectar, fruit and insects, with insects being particularly important to females and chicks during the breeding season. They often feed high up in tree canopies but do come down to flax and native fuchsia. In 2010 bellbirds were released into the Hamilton Gardens with the aim of re-establishing them in the city. Report a bellbird sighting here. Read more about bringing bellbirds back to Hamilton here.
Bellbird - photo: Ben Paris
Bellbird - photo: Karori Sancturay Trust
Tui and bellbird songbook
Listen to a tui
(959 kb, 137 seconds to download, 56k modem)
Tui song courtesy of Department of Conservation.
Bellbird song varies enormously from one place to another and also varies according to season/behaviour and the sex of the bird. Bellbird song comprises three distinct sounds resembling the chiming of bells. They sing throughout the day, but more so in the morning and evening. The alarm call is a series of loud, rapidly repeated, harsh staccato notes. Listen below.
Bellbird alarm call
(293 kb, 41 seconds to download, 56k modem)
Bellbird repetitive call
(649 kb, 92 seconds to download, 56k modem)
Bellbird song courtesy of Department of Conservation.
Hamilton Halo’s work
View a map of the Hamilton Halo area showing key sites and what is happening at each site. Click on the image to view a larger map.
You can also learn more about the project in the video below:
Since the Hamilton Halo project started in 2007, tui numbers have increased significantly. There have also been several reports of tui breeding in the city.
Hamilton Halo’s work focuses on increasing the number of bellbirds and tui that survive in bush breeding areas and making the city an attractive place for those birds to stay, feed and breed.
Increasing survival rate of tui chicks
Tui nesting success is very low because of predators that have been introduced to New Zealand. In recent studies, only about a quarter of monitored nests fledged young. This is mainly due to ship rats and possums, which climb trees and invade tui nests, eating the eggs and chicks.
To improve nesting success, Waikato Regional Council carries out annual pest control (rat and possum) at key breeding sites in the Hamilton Halo area before the tui breeding season. Other native species of birds (such as bellbirds), plants and invertebrates will also benefit. Having more birds survive to maturity in the bush means that there will be more dispersion into surrounding areas where tui have not bred, such as Hamilton.
Improving tui and bellbird feeding and breeding conditions in Hamilton
Hamilton Halo is working with Hamilton City Council, community groups and land owners on pest control and plantings at key sites within the city. This will provide year-round sources of food and safe habitat for the tui and bellbird populations that have increased numbers in the bush and that now need more habitat to breed in.
Re-establishing bellbirds in the city
Hamilton Halo has also been involved in the release of bellbirds in the city. Read more about the bellbird release here.
If you live in Hamilton, you can help to make it safer for tui and bellbirds to breed in the city by controlling possums and rats on your property. Find out about controlling these pests on your property.
Planting tui and bellbird food
By planting certain native species you can help to provide year-round food for tui and bellbirds in the city. Native species provide tui and bellbirds with a summer food source, as many of the introduced species only flower over winter. A study has found that honeyeaters such as tui prefer native vegetation over introduced fruit bearing trees. Check out the gardener's guide for more information on planting for bellbirds and tui.
Waikato Regional Council leads the Hamilton Halo project. Landcare Research is a project partner and conducts and shares research related to the project. The project is supported by the Department of Conservation, Hamilton City Council, Weedbusters and Tui 2000, a Hamilton-based environmental group involved in the restoration of Maungakawa Scenic Reserve, a Hamilton Halo key site.
Bringing bellbirds back to Hamilton
Before human arrival the bellbird was found throughout New Zealand but had either disappeared or drastically declined by the mid-late nineteenth century.
In 2009 a multi-agency programme led by Landcare Research and the University of Waikato, released bellbirds from Auckland’s Tiritiri Matangi and Tawharanui bird sanctuaries into the Hamilton Gardens, with the aim of building up a breeding population in the city.
Preparatory work for the release involved pest control at the Hammond Park bush area upstream of the gardens. Supplementary feeders were used at the Hamilton Gardens to help the birds adjust to their new surroundings. 'Acoustic anchoring' was also used at bush sites near the gardens to help stop them flying away from the central city – this involved playing recorded song from the bellbirds’ home dialect for 10 days.
To monitor how many bellbirds stayed around after the release, about 20 birds had radio transmitters attached, with a two-week battery supply. The Ornithological Society’s Waikato branch was also invited to monitor birds at the feeders in the gardens by recording leg bands.
Find out more about the project and watch some stunning footage from the bellbird release in the video below (Thanks to Salina Ghazally for this clip):
Why were bellbirds released in Hamilton?
It’s all part of the bigger picture of urban restoration ecology. Bellbirds are good pollinators and are an important part of an urban eco-system. The return of birds like tui and bellbird to Hamilton will complement other biodiversity restoration initiatives such as the Waiwhakareke Natural Heritage Park, and gully restoration projects occurring in Hamilton.
Why are some bellbirds wearing leg bands?
Leg bands were attached to a group of bellbirds that were moved from Tiritiri Matangi and Tawharanui to their new home in Hamilton. The leg bands are used to help monitor bellbird sightings and track their movement.
How do you read leg bands?
Leg bands are read from top to bottom and left to right. Birds may have more than one coloured band on each leg, it is important to note the colour and order of each band so that we can identify the bird from our database.
How do I report a bellbird sighting?
You can report bellbird sightings by contacting Waikato Regional Council freephone 0800 800 401, or by completing a sighting form.
Find out more
Read about the Ornithological Society's 2011 Hamilton morepork survey.