The recent “Angry Bird” campaign, to increase awareness of a pest bird in Auckland, has sparked an increase in confirmed public sightings of the red-vented-bulbul, an aggressive Asian species that threatens our crops.
Red-vented bulbuls are known to cause significant damage to fruit and vegetable crops. They are likely to feed on native fruits, berries, insects, flower nectar, seeds and buds, displacing native species such as kereru (native woodpigeon) with their aggressive competitive nature. They may also spread seeds of invasive plants.
The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has confirmed that red-vented bulbuls are located in three clusters: south Auckland (Manurewa/Alfriston), west Auckland (Henderson/Te Atatu/Massey), and on Auckland’s North Shore (Devonport/Belmont/Takapuna).
There have also been possible sightings on the Whangaparaoa Peninsula about 12 kilometres north of the confirmed North Shore sightings.
The red-vented bulbul is one of the most invasive bird species in the world and in New Zealand is listed as an unwanted organism under the Biosecurity Act 1993. MPI is working in partnership with the Department of Conservation (DOC) and Auckland Council to track down the red-vented bulbuls in Auckland and eradicate them.
“We think there are at least five red-vented bulbuls in Auckland,” says MPI Response Manager Jaap Knegtmans. “It’s difficult to know exactly how many there are because they are quite mobile, moving large distances around the city.”
Red-vented bulbuls are a medium-sized bird about the size of a starling (20 cm in length - body and tail). They have a black head with a slight crest, a dark back, grey-white belly and a distinctive crimson-red patch beneath their tail.
“This red patch is a key identification feature,” said Mr Knegtmans.
“If people have seen a bird with bright red feathers beneath the tail, we urge them to contact MPI on our free Exotic Pest and Disease Hotline - 0800 80 99 66. Taking a photo, if possible, would also be a huge help.”
Red-vented bulbuls also have a very distinctive call, unlike other birds you normally hear around Auckland. Their call can be heard on the MPI website at: http://www.biosecurity.govt.nz/pests/red-vented-bulbul.
Red-vented bulbuls are found in Asia from Pakistan to southwest China. They have invaded parts of the Pacific, including Hawaii, Fiji and Samoa.
Red-vented bulbuls have been found in Auckland before, in the 1950s and in 2006, and were successfully eradicated on both occasions. It’s believed the red-vented bulbuls now in Auckland arrived on a ship or yacht.
“These birds are aggressive and prolific breeders and we need to remove them before they become established. Continued help from the public is crucial to tracking the birds down and eradicating them.” said Mr Knegtmans.
“It’s vital we get sightings from the public as soon as possible. They’ll become harder to spot as Spring advances and leaves start returning to trees,” said Mr Knegtmans.