It's a bird eat bird world

03:34, Nov 30 2011

A female takahe called Puffin has blown her species' reputation as peace-loving vegetarians by devouring a duckling in front of a group of school pupils.

Zealandia education guide Ian Geeson was leading a tour of boys from St Patrick's College, Silverstream, through Zealandia when they came across the feasting bird.

"The boys weren't upset at all. Puffin was really tearing in to the body. We don't know if the chick was already dead but there wasn't any struggling," he said.

Mr Geeson said the behaviour had not been documented before.

Takahe were previously thought to be mainly vegetarian.

Zealandia's conservation manager Raewyn Empson said she was "gobsmacked" by the news.

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"I just couldn't believe it. I'd never heard of them eating birds before. I'd heard tales of small lizards being taken occasionally on Maud Island but never anything like this. It's really quite exciting.

"Takahe are related to the pukeko which we know sometimes take the eggs and chicks of other birds but we think this is the first recorded case for takahe and almost definitely the first on film."

The bird that was eaten was a paradise duckling.

The Takahe Husbandry Manual describes takahe as "predominantly vegetarian, however they appear to also exhibit an opportunistic streak and have been known to eat insects and small reptiles".

Puffin and her mate T2 hit the headlines earlier in the month when they escaped from their fenced area and had some "hanky panky" on the way back.

The Dominion Post