On the wing

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Gideon Climo

More translocations occurred over the past few months: 40 whiteheads (popokatea) ar­rived on Motuora from nearby Tiritiri Matangi, and around 30 kakariki, flown by helicopter from Little Barrier, were released into a glade of pohutukawa on Motuihe Island. Around 60 whiteheads were also released into the Cascades, in the Waitakere Ranges, and a month later, another 52 stitchbirds (hihi). John Staniland, chair of Waitakere Forest and Bird, described, “A grand sight shortly after the re­lease… about 15 birds spiralling up a young kahikatea and ‘stitching’ to each other.”

In June, DOC reported a record 13 taiko chicks fledging within the predator-proof Tuku Nature Reserve in the southern end of Chatham Island. For more than a century the species, otherwise known as the magenta pe­trel, was thought to be extinct. It was redis­covered in 1978 by school teacher and orni­thologist David Crockett and a band of volun­teers. With just 16 known breeding pairs, the species remains critically endangered.

Bud, the resident takahe at Wairarapa’s Pukaha Mount Bruce wildlife centre, has recently received two companions, trans­ferred from Mana Island (off Wellington’s west coast), hopefully filling the gap after the death of his long-time companion Georgie earlier this year.

Ten kakapo eggs were produced this year, resulting in eight chicks. One chick died when it was five days old and another when it was around two months old, but six survived and were hand-reared in Nelson. At the time of printing, they were about to be returned to Whenua Hou/Codfish Island.

Before they left Nelson, they were show­cased at the Brook Waimarama Sanctuary at a “meet the chicks” weekend, which attract­ed around 5000 visitors. There are now 91 kakapo, almost twice as many as a decade ago. As breeding seasons go, this is “medium-sized”, but officers on the Kakapo Recovery Programme have their fingers crossed for next year. If all goes according to predictions, it could be the mother of all breeding seasons as it will be a “mast year”—when the rimu trees produce vast quantities of fruit, prompt­ing a flurry of mating.

The last mast year, 2002, resulted in 24 kakapo chicks. However, there were only 20 breeding females then, but next year there may be as many as 38 females ready to breed. “We could get up to 60 chicks,” says Emma Neill, head of the Kakapo Recovery Programme.

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