New Zealand Journal of Ecology (2021) 45(2): 3441

Factors limiting kererū (Hemiphaga novaeseelandiae) populations across New Zealand

Research Article
Joanna K. Carpenter 1*
Susan Walker 1
Adrian Monks 1
John Innes 2
Rachelle N. Binny 3,4
Ann-Kathrin V. Schlesselmann 1
  1. Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research, Private Bag 1930, Dunedin, New Zealand
  2. Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research, Private Bag 3127, Hamilton, New Zealand
  3. Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research, PO Box 69040, Lincoln, New Zealand
  4. Te Pūnaha Matatini, Centre of Research Excellence, New Zealand
*  Corresponding author

Kererū declined rapidly following European settlement in New Zealand, and they remain at a reduced density. We assessed three sources of information to test the hypothesis that predation by introduced mammals and abundance of food resources are the two major factors determining kererū abundance across New Zealand. First, we reviewed the literature on factors affecting the vital rates of kererū. This analysis showed that predation is the cause of most nest failures and deaths in kererū. Second, we examined data from a major database of bird sanctuary outcomes across New Zealand to evaluate long-term responses of kererū to intensive pest control at local scales. Kererū detections did not always increase following predator control, which suggests that food supply or forest area may be more important limiting factors at some sanctuaries. Third, to understand the factors underlying temporal and spatial kererū distribution patterns at a national scale, we assessed changes and patterns in kererū local occupancy through time using data from the 1969–1979 and 1999–2004 editions of the Atlas of Bird Distribution in New Zealand. Specifically, we asked (1) whether there have been declines in kererū occupancy between the two Atlases, and (2) how patterns of kererū occupancy relate to indigenous forest cover, temperature, urbanisation, and forest type (podocarp or beech dominated). Kererū occupancy remained stable across the North Island between the two time periods but declined in the South Island. Across both islands and time periods, kererū occupancy decreased significantly as forest cover decreased, which suggests that forest availability is still a major limiting factor across some parts of New Zealand. Overall, our results support previous studies showing that predation by introduced mammals is the primary limiting factor for kererū in forests, but also highlight the importance of forest area and food supply for kererū recovery.