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Published: 2010-06-21 00:00:00

Organisers of the project to re-establish bellbirds in Hamilton are appealing for the public to continue keeping an eye out for the birds and to report any sightings promptly.

Last month, 50 birds with leg bands were released at the Hamilton Gardens after being brought here from Auckland sanctuaries. The project is led by Landcare Research and the University of Waikato, with support from Environment Waikato, Hamilton City Council, Nga Mana Toopu o Kirikiriroa, and the Department of Conservation.

Fourteen of the released birds had radio transmitters on and monitoring has located all but three of these, with repeated sightings of some of the individuals. Additionally, there have a been a few records of birds without transmitters, including a regular visitor to a monitoring sugar-water feeder outside Environment Waikato’s offices in Hamilton East.

Most of the bellbirds have been seen in private gardens in and near Hamilton feeding on exotic flowers such as eucalypts, banksias and bottlebrush.

One spectacular exception was one of the banded birds released in Hamilton that has since been sighted on Tiritiri Matangi Island near Auckland, where it originally came from. This is probably a long-distance homing record for a native bird in New Zealand.

"That’s pretty impressive as it’s a long way for a little bird to fly," said Landcare Research scientist John Innes.

"However, we’re hopeful that the vast majority of the birds will have stayed around in Hamilton. Public vigilance and reporting of bellbird sightings can help us better determine whether that’s what’s actually happening.

"Now that the transmitter batteries are running out we are reliant more than ever on the public to report sightings of bellbirds to help us judge the success of our project."

People can report sightings of bellbirds through the Hamilton Halo website http://www.ew.govt.nz/Projects/Hamilton-Halo/Bellbirds-korimako/ or by calling Ben Paris at 0800 800 401.

It was also confirmed that one of the birds where bands couldn’t be seen definitely did not have a band, prompting speculation that last month’s release was leading to one or two bellbirds already in the city becoming more active and visible.

Meanwhile, the public can keep up to date with latest news and information about the Hamilton Halo project to promote the return of tui to Hamilton at www.facebook.com/hamiltonhalo or www.twitter.com/hamiltonhalo.