Rare kakariki have fallen prey to falcons at wildlife sanctuary Zealandia.
Conservation manager Raewyn Empson said staff believed there was just one pair of native falcons at the sanctuary, but they were believed to be responsible for attacks on two kakariki.
New Zealand falcons are rarer than kiwi, and can catch prey while flying – sometimes at speeds of up to 230kmh.
“They are our top predator so they will take various items of prey, primarily birds.”
Falcon pairs were absent from Wellington for decades, but their return has come at a cost. Two years ago four falcon chicks fledged at Zealandia, while last year one did.
Falcons found their way to the predator-proof sanctuary in 2009, when their successful breeding attempt made them the first pair to breed in Wellington since the 1970s.
However, juveniles are thought to stray far from their parents and were not thought to be responsible for bird deaths at the sanctuary.
Last year, a bellbird was killed at the sanctuary, and now two red crowned kakariki are thought to have suffered the same fate. “One got caught and taken away, we don’t know what happened. The other one, just a pile of feathers were found. Unfortunately no legs.”
The kakariki were likely to have been young birds, and others watching the events would have learnt valuable lessons, Ms Empson said.
“All it takes is a couple of instances and the rest think, ‘Oh, better watch out for that one’.”