A $1,000 reward is on offer to Bay of Plenty residents who report sightings of an aggressive pest bird, the red-vented bulbul.
The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is working in partnership with the Department of Conservation and local authorities to eradicate the red-vented bulbul bird, an introduced pest that’s native to Asia and has spread into Australia and the Pacific.
MPI Response Manager Brad Chandler says the bird is renowned for the damage it inflicts on fruit and vege crops.
"It’s not a bird we want in the Bay of Plenty with its extensive kiwifruit industry and other horticultural crops. In addition, it competes aggressively with native birds for food and is known to chase and attack them."
Mr Chandler says a single red-vented bulbul bird was found and removed near Te Puke earlier in the year. Now the Ministry has received an as-yet unverified report of a single bird being spotted near Katikati.
"We are very keen to hear from anyone who believes they have seen one of these birds. We're taking this seriously and there's a $1,000 reward on offer for information that leads directly to a successful removal by a member of our response team.
"If you think you’ve seen a red-vented bulbul, please report the sighting to 0800 80 99 66 – MPI’s 24/7 Exotic Pest and Disease hotline. A good indication of location as well as a photo would be fantastic."
Red-vented bulbuls are a medium-sized bird around the size of a starling (20 cm in length – body and tail). They are generally dark brown/grey coloured with a lighter chest and rump, a small crest (upstanding feathers) on their head, and significantly, a very distinctive crimson-red patch of feathers beneath their tail.
"This red patch is the key identification feature," Mr Chandler says. "If people have seen a bird with these crimson-red feathers beneath the tail, we'd like to hear from them.
"I can't stress enough how much of a pest these birds are and how significant the threat they pose to horticulture. They may appear cute or novel, but they're anything but."
In recent years MPI has eliminated small populations of the bird from areas in Auckland. Although red-vented bulbuls are established in Australia and on some Pacific islands, they are not likely to have flown to New Zealand but it's possible they have stowed away on large-sized sea vessels.