National | Birds

Plight of Cook's Petrel highlighted

Light pollution’s toll on Auckland’s seabirds has been mapped in detail for the first time, with the Sky Tower and central business district hot spots for bird deaths and injuries.

Auckland's light pollution is playing havoc on the Cook's Petrel migration from their burrows on the east coast of New Zealand to their feeding grounds in the Tasman Sea

Now it's hoped that appearing in and winning the NZ Bird of the Year competition will shine a spotlight on its plight.

To avoid the New Zealand winter, the Cook's Petrel flies more than 10,000 kilometres to Chile and North America. But leaving this country isn't easy. Auckland city's light pollution is causing birds to crash into buildings like the Sky Tower.

PhD student Ariel-Micaiah Heswall, of Waipapa Taumata Rau, University of Auckland, mapped where 365 seabirds, apparently disoriented by light, crash-landed over a four-year period (2018-2021).

Light pollution has sent manu to their death.

"Since 2020, 100 Cook's Petrels were grounded by light pollution, and this year alone, it's gone up by 50. So we've had over 150 Cook's Petrels grounded by light pollution."

"Sadly, many of the fledglings often are vulnerable to light pollution, especially as they're taking their first flight across Auckland City or coming back from the Tasman Sea back to their breeding grounds, yet sadly, many of them just scattered all across Auckland City."

That's why Heswall and the staff at Birdcare Aotearoa in West Auckland are promoting the Cook's petrel as New Zealand Bird of the Year.

"We really do care for the birds here and help conserve them and release them back into the wild, especially since many of the birds come here because of anthropogenic threats and impacts such as with the Cook's Petrels and light pollution."

"These birds are endemic and only found breeding here in New Zealand. They deserve our attention."