How do you count a million seabirds?

How do you count a million seabirds?

The most abundant bird on the Snares Islands is the sooty shearwater (also known as the muttonbird or tītī). Four Te Papa scientists had the daunting task of counting over a million sooty shearwaters on the islands to determine the trends in their population. Watch the video to see how they did it.

We wish to thank the Department of Conservation, Hokonui Rūnaka, Te Rūnanga o Awarua, Te Rūnanga o Ōraka-Aparima, and Waihōpai Rūnaka.

Expedition Snares Islands: Science Live @ Te Papa

Read our scientists’ blogs on their sooty shearwater research on Shares Islands:

This video was filmed as part of Expedition Snares Islands, a Science Live episode live-streamed in March 2014.

Watch Science Live – Expedition Snares Islands

More from Science Live

Discover more about New Zealand’s other unique landscapes and get up close with wildlife found nowhere else on Earth.


  1. Dear Ruth,

    I am currently writing a popular article on Titi for my marine conservation masters at Victoria University, Wellington.
    I watched the clip of the team on Snares Island doing a recount of burrows and I was wondering if the information gathered from that trip has been analysed/is available?
    I was also wondering if you could put me on to someone who might be able to enlighten me on some recent experience with Sooty Shearwaters – perhaps a study in progress? As much of the information I am finding is rather outdated.

    Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

    Kind Regards,

    Jane Gardiner.

    1. Hello Jane,

      Thank you for your comment and for watching the Snares Islands videos. I have passed on your comment to our natural history curators and they will get in touch shortly. I look forward to reading your article!

      Best wishes,

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