Match-making on Mana Island

A blind date with one of six eligible bachelors awaits a young female takahe when she is released onto Mana Island today. The seven-month-old bird, named Moa, will be paired with a single male on the island in the hope that they’ll eventually breed.

Moa became sick early last week and was airlifted from her home at the Burwood takahe recovery unit near Te Anau to Massey’s wildlife ward. Lecturer in avian and wildlife health Kerri Morgan says she was near death’s door.

“She arrived exhibiting severe neurological symptoms and was very underweight. Tests showed a high level of the parasite coccidia in her system. We treated her for that and she’s recovered quickly.”

Ms Morgan says takahe don’t usually respond well to hospital treatment.

“They lose weight because they get stressed easily, but we gave Moa the penthouse suite in the ward and brought in native grasses for her to feed on, which she obviously appreciated.”

Department of Conservation staff will take Moa to Mana Island this morning, where she’ll be kept in isolation with her new mate.

The Department’s ranger on the island Sue Caldwell says the scientific reserve, off the coast of Porirua, is short of female takahe.

“It makes sense to bring her here. We’ll try and pair her with one of the six single males on the island. Males who aren’t paired cause trouble in the pre-breeding season that begins in late August, so hopefully we can get a fairytale ending here.”

Massey University – article

Plague of stoats decimating takahe

Plague of stoats decimating takahe numbers | NATIONAL | NEWS |

A plague of stoats is decimating the wild population of one of New Zealand’s rarest birds and a new plan has been formulated to save them from extinction.

Scores of the native takahe have been wiped out by feral stoats and Phil Tisch from the Department of Conservation says it has been a shock and a surprise.

“It’s really hard going out and finding dead birds,” says Tisch.

Some takahe are now being reared at Fiordland’s Burwood Bush unit and although the numbers are quite low DOC spokeswoman Linda Kilduff says it is vital for the bird’s continuing survival. She says it’s a real privilege to experience the contact with the birds.

“The resident pairs here actually have a really important task to foster the chicks and teach them the skills needed to be returned to the mountains,” says Kilduff.

Takahe Valley in the middle of the Murchison Mountains is a historic place for the takahe as it was where the bird was rediscovered in 1948. Before that, takahe were considered extinct.

Since humans arrived in New Zealand a thousand years ago more than a third of the land and freshwater birds have become extinct.

DOC is determined that won’t happen to the takahe. Intensive conservation programmes have halted the bird’s decline and about 70 are kept on off-shore, predator-free islands to keep them away from their worst enemy – the stoat.

full story

direct link to the video

Native birds under threat. tv3 video

click on the image of john campbell  for direct link to tv3 video

In a few days it will be spring and the birds will be in full song.

But in some parts of the country it will be an extremely muted song.

In fact there are now areas known as ‘bird deserts’ where there are virtually no native birds.

We know these regions exist because birdwatchers have just spent five years in the field finding out how many birds there are, and where they live – information for the latest edition of the New Zealand Bird Atlas.

Richard Langston with a story on the plight of our birds.

OSNZ publishes significant scientific resource

Scoop: OSNZ publishes significant scientific resource

Scientific knowledge about New Zealand birdlife took a great leap forward today as the Ornithological Society of New Zealand published the Atlas of Bird Distribution in New Zealand 1999-2004.

The atlas was launched today at Government House in Wellington by the Administrator of the Government, Rt. Hon. Dame Sian Elias. Birds are some of the best natural indicators of the health of our environment – an environment we like to promote as clean and green.

President of the Ornithological Society, Professor Richard Holdaway said that the bird distribution atlas has demonstrated dramatic and rapid changes in bird distribution in all parts of the country since the 1970s. As land use has changed, so have the communities of bird species in those areas.

Examples of this included areas that have changed from exotic forest to dairying, and areas that have reverted from cleared land to native scrub. Species that did well in the first habitat have been pushed out as the land was converted. Atlas project Convenor, Christopher Robertson notes that “Green in colour we may be, but these atlas surveys continue to demonstrate that some of that greenness is both increasingly monocultural, and the battleground of territorial invaders among the avifauna. New Zealand endemics are retreating to enclaves where introduced mammalian predators increasingly threaten the food supply, productivity, and individuals of remnant species.”    more

Fun format for garden bird survey

Media release: Fun format for garden bird survey

Male bellbird

Calling all bird watchers! Your help is requested for a national Garden Bird Survey.

With a simple and fun format, anyone from seasoned bird watchers to families and school groups can take part in the survey, which has proved popular overseas. In the UK more than 400,000 people participated in last year’s survey, with a tally of eight million birds.

“Are our common bird populations increasing or decreasing? That’s the question we want to answer,” says Landcare Research scientist, Eric Spurr. more

Takahe leave island for mountain homeland

Scoop: Takahe leave island for mountain homeland

The flightless takahe, the largest living member of the rail family, was rediscovered in the Murchison Mountains in 1948. DOC’s work to recover the species has been focussed on establishing self-sustaining populations in Fiordland and on predator-free islands. Since the late 1980s DOC has been managing takahe nests to boost chick production. The population in Fiordland is about 170 birds…. more