Tiny chick the real deal

19:45, Jan 23 2013
Motuora Gannets
FIRST CHICK: Motuora’s milestone, its first baby gannet.

Reporter Delwyn Dickey looks at what the birth of one chick means to establish a gannet colony on Motuora Island.

Despite not being on speaking terms with their indifferent neighbours, a gannet pair on Motuora Island have decided to start a family.

The first real chick to hatch in a fake gannet colony on the island has been welcomed by Motuora Restoration Society (MRS) volunteers who set it up in June 2010 using 16 fibreglass decoys from the United States.

Motuora Gannets
REAL DEAL: Spot the real gannets amid the fakes.

It's hoped the chick, now three weeks old, will be the start of a real colony.

Volunteers made the fake colony as realistic as possible, with seaweed nests and white paint splatters like real gannet droppings.

A solar powered audio system playing gannet colony sounds during the day and fluttering shearwater sounds at night, clearly appeals to a number of real gannets who have since moved in.


The birds like to breed in the colony where they were born.

"A similar fake gannet colony was established at Young Nick's Head near Gisborne in 2008. That became a breeding site for gannets once the first chicks were hatched there," society spokesman John Stewart says.

"So hatching our first gannet chick is a significant milestone in the work we're doing to restore the native wildlife to Motuora.

"It's also reward for the MRS volunteers, led by Robyn Gardner-Gee, who did a great job setting up the fake gannet colony."

Department of Conservation Warkworth spokeswoman Liz Maire says the chick's birth is a fantastic achievement.

"It's a great example of the tremendous work these volunteers are doing to restore the natural heritage of this beautiful pest-free island."

The 80-hectare island five kilometres off Mahurangi West is jointly administered by DOC and the society.

It is also a nursery for North Island brown kiwi. Eggs are collected from wild birds around Whangarei.

Only half hatch in the wild and of these just 5 per cent reach adulthood. Adults can live for 60 years.

This sees the wild population declining at about 5 per cent annually, which could lead to their extinction.

Roaming dogs are the biggest killer of adult kiwi in the wild.

DOC regularly collects eggs and sends them to incubate at Auckland Zoo.

The kiwi are released on to the island at around three weeks old and stay there about a year until they weigh over a kilogram and can fight off many predators in the wild.

The young kiwi are then retrieved and taken back north for release.

Rodney Times