Native birds endangered

New Zealand’s native birds are in danger of becoming extinct. We have 168 different kinds of native birds, and 93 of those are found only in New Zealand. This is because we are an island nation.

A new report by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment is called Taonga of an Island Nation: Saving New Zealand’s Native Birds. A taonga is a Maori word for a treasure, something we should value.

Many of our native birds do not fly and in the days before people arrived in this country, the only predators were two bigger birds. However, Maori brought with them dogs and a kind of rat called a kiore. These animals were able to feast on the many land birds. When Europeans arrived, they brought many more predators such as rats, mice, stoats, ferrets and possums. Today feral cats have joined the list of predators which eat eggs and young chicks, or insects, plants and seeds which are food for birds as well. They also destroy the forest which is a habitat for our forest birds.

Now 80% of our native birds are in trouble. Some of these birds, like the kiwi and the kea, are loved by many of us. The government has a plan to get rid of all predators by 2050 but it is not clear how this will happen or if it will happen soon enough. It will take money.

The report mentions two other reasons for concern. One is that the habitats – the places where wild birds live – are disappearing. Another is a lack of genetic diversity. When there are very few breeding birds, the same families are breeding with each other. This results in weak genetic diversity.

The report suggests a levy i.e. a tax on international visitors since many of them come here to enjoy our natural environment but that suggestion is not popular with the government. Instead, it is likely that international visitors will pay more than New Zealanders in our national parks.

New Zealand has been very successful in saving birds if they are taken to a small island where there are no predators but we would like to hear and see these birds back on our main islands.

Listen to 1080 poison to hear more about getting rid of predators in our forests.

To see images of NZ’s native birds, go to DOC’s website.DOC’s website


• extinct (adj) – gone, no more left alive
• predators (n) – animals which eat other animals
• to feast (v) – to eat a great deal of wonderful food; also a feast (n)
• feral (adj) – wild
• diversity (n) – many different kinds (eg. cultural diversity)
• genetic (adj) from genes (n) – DNA
• breeding birds – the birds which are young enough to have babies (to breed – to have baby animals)

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