Linklater-Urban Conflict

Research predicts which native birds could cause urban conflict

Pukeko, kaka and gulls are the native bird species most likely to cause problems in New

Zealand’s cities in the future, according to new research.

A study from Victoria University of Wellington’s Centre for Biodiversity and Restoration Ecology compared native birds in cities all over the world and found that species that consume a wide variety of food types were the most likely to cause conflict in urban areas.

The researchers were Dr Wayne Linklater and Master of Science graduate Kerry Charles.

“A broad diet allows the birds to take advantage of the wide variety of often novel foods in the urban environment, leading to population growth,” says Dr Linklater.

“The large and dense populations that result may amplify a range of problems, such as noise, fouling or nesting, exceeding residents’ tolerance levels and resulting in conflict.

“Traditionally native birds haven’t been a problem in New Zealand cities because most of them live in our forests or by the sea, but ironically the success of nature restoration projects in urban areas may well raise the chances of conflict as more birds re-colonise our cities.”

Kaka damaging tree

The researchers developed a model in their study, recently published in the scientific journal Wildlife Research, which estimates the likelihood of various native bird species causing problems. The pukeko (Porphyrio porphyria), red-billed gull, (Larus scopulinus), and kaka (Nestor meridionalis) were identified as the three species most likely to generate conflict.

Ms Charles says the kaka is already causing contention in Wellington by damaging property, particularly trees. Their behaviour has led to concerns about safety and, on occasion, the death of trees.

“Our study suggests that there may be further problems caused by birds in New Zealand cities as our cities become more urbanised and populations of birds with broad diets grow,” she says.

“The restoration of wildlife conservation where people live, work and play brings benefits to our community and quality of our environment for the future—and a measure of our success is that some of those wildlife will become so common that they cause problems for people.

“The research offers a tool for problem management, which allows species that may be more likely to cause problems to be identified, monitored and any emerging problems addressed before they worsen.”

For more information contact:

Kerry Charles

Dr Wayne Linklater