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Birds New Zealand is embarking on the country’s largest ever citizen-science project to map the distribution and abundance of New Zealand birds.

The New Zealand Bird Atlas 2019–2024 is an ambitious five-year initiative to map the country’s unique birdlife. This exciting project will become the go-to authority on the state of New Zealand birds and is the first such attempt for more than 20 years.

Map of New Zealand with coloured squares illustrating different bird species observed

Species recorded in first three months of the Bird Atlas project.

The country has been broken down into 10x10km grid squares, with a total of 3229 grid squares covering the whole of New Zealand and its outlying islands (including Stewart Island, Chatham Islands, Kermadec Islands, and the sub- Antarctic Islands).

The aim is for each grid square to be surveyed at least once during each of the four seasons. Within each grid square, we will attempt to visit all major habitat types present, and collect at least one complete bird species checklist for each habitat The biggest difference between the current Bird Atlas and its predecessors is the transition from paper to electronic records, with the use of eBird ( as the primary recording platform.

Records can be submitted online through the website, or the eBird app can be downloaded and checklists can be recorded and submitted in the field on your smartphone. One of the greatest benefits of entering checklists directly into an online data platform is that they are uploaded in real-time. This allows all observers to get continuous updates of survey coverage and target specific grid squares or habitat types within grid squares that require more survey effort.

The New Zealand Bird Atlas has the potential to have a lasting, positive impact on bird conservation in New Zealand for decades to come. We already have more than 300 people and groups contributing, but its success will ultimately depend on getting as many people as possible involved and recording bird checklists.

Banded dotterel/pohowera standing on a small mound on the beach

Banded dotterel/pohowera. Photo: Nikki McArthur

Anyone can take part, and we would like to encourage Forest & Bird members to help by contributing to the New Zealand Bird Atlas. Please visit to get involved. Here you will find the Atlas Handbook, which has all the information you need to get started.

There are links to the eBird app, tutorial videos, and many more other resources to help you with contributing to the Atlas. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in contact with us at

*A version of this article first appeared in the Spring 2019 issue of Forest & Bird magazine. Click here for more free articles.

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