The release of three kokako in Puketi Forest is a major milestone in a long-running campaign to re-establish the species.
Three kokako were released near the centre of the forest last Thursday.
They are the first of 10 kokako to be transferred from Mataraua Forest to Puketi this year as part of a project to restore a kokako population in Puketi.
The project has been organised by the Puketi Forest Trust with support from the Conservation Department, Te Roroa of Waipoua, and Piki te Aroha Marae, which is adjacent to Puketi.
The kokako were caught in mist nets early on Thursday morning and flown by helicopter to Puketi. They were flying about exploring their new home by 11am.
The birds were accompanied on their journey by Jordan Paniora of Te Roroa and were met in Puketi by Budge Toki of Ngati Hao who lives next to the forest.
Another 10 kokako will be transferred from Mataraua next year. Two kokako of Puketi origin, being held on pest-free Lady Alice Island in Bream Bay, and a pair at Hamilton Zoo, will also be released in Puketi.
It is hoped these 24 birds will establish a permanent population of kokako in Puketi Forest.
Puketi was once home to many kokako, but predation and competition from introduced mammals such as rats, possums, stoats and feral cats caused the population to plummet during the 1980s and 1990s.
Mataraua Forest, north east of Waipoua, has the only remaining sustainable population of kokako in Northland.
Numbers have recovered from a low level after several years of Conservation Department pest control.
The Mataraua kokako are now numerous enough to allow the removal of some adult birds to establish a second Northland population in Puketi.
Re-introduction of kokako is possible because of an intensive pest control programme maintained by the Puketi Forest Trust.
Stoats and feral cats are trapped over 5500 hectares of the 15,000ha forest and rats and possums are trapped in a 650ha core area.
The newcomers are being released near the centre of the core area.
They are being encouraged to stay and set up territories in the area by a sound anchoring system, that plays short sequences of kokako song early each morning from four outdoor speakers placed in the forest.
New Zealand's largest independent nature conservation organisation Forest & Bird is conducting its eighth annual Bird of the Year vote. The kokako fell to second place on Tuesday for the first time since the online polls opened; the kokako trailed the Karearea, or New Zealand falcon, by 21 votes on Monday.
Go to birdoftheyear.org.nz to vote. Polls close on October 10.
Go to puketi.org.nz if you would like to donate or volunteer.
- Bay Chronicle