New Zealand bellbirds, also known as korimako, are endemic New Zealand forest birds. They are green with a short, curved beak, set apart black tail, and dark outer wing.
They are about 17-20cm from the tip of their beak to the end of their tail. They weigh between 25 to 32 g.
Called so because of its bell-like song, the bird adds to the chorus of a never-ending New Zealand bird soundscape.
Bellbird populations can reach very high densities, especially on islands with few predators. Densities of 5.5 to 9.1 pairs per hectare have been reported at Aorangi Island and Poor Knights Islands.
Bellbirds are part of the honeyeater family Meliphagidae. They are one of two living species of that family found in New Zealand, the other being the New Zealand Tui.
The species is distributed in great amounts in the South Island and Southern part of the North Island. They are found in native and exotic forests, shrubs, urban parks, and gardens. They are also present on many offshore islands.
The population of bellbirds had been affected by the introduction of European farming. This has led to the removal of the natural habitat of the bellbird - the native forests.
Another factor that affected bellbird distribution is the introduction of predatory species. These are stoats, ferrets, and rats. These pest animal species either eat the birds or prey on their eggs. At the same time, they compete with bellbirds for food sources of nectar, honeydew, and insects.
The decline happened around the same time as that of other native species. It was then reversed for unknown reasons. The species are still common across much of New Zealand.
Bellbird's feeding is based on the search for nectar, fruits, and insects. Bellbirds play an important role in pollinating the flowers by reaching into the bud to get the nectar out. They also spread flower seeds across native forests.
Bellbirds sing in unique ways, depending on the region that they come from. Their song consists of three distinct sounds like the sound of chiming bells. This is heard when many bellbirds are present at once, at dawn and dusk where there are few other bird species.
Bellbirds form a significant component of the famed New Zealand dawn chorus of bird songs. It was noted down by early European settlers that the song resembled small tuned bells. The species singing is sometimes confused with that of the Tui.
Apart from being exquisite singers, bellbirds also are good native species in home gardens. In the winter months, nectar sources become scarce and the birds are attracted to the sugar water feeders that are installed on home gardens.
The native bellbird is so much valued for its role in nature preservation. They contribute to preserving the native trees in two ways: one by pollination and the other through seed dispersion. They are famed by the early European settlers and are notable for puzzling locals for their beautiful singing. They are a good example of nature conservation efforts as they survived the introduction of predator animal pests.