Secret love nest for native falcon

New home for rare but amorous NZ bird

IAN ALLEN
Last updated 12:00 16/08/2012
falcon
EMMA ALLEN/Fairfax NZ
BIRD HAVEN: Marlborough Falcon Conservation Trust progamme manager Sara Kross offers a steady hand to Napoleon.

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Love is in the air at a new bird sanctuary in Blenheim as breeding season fast approaches.

The extremely rare but amorous New Zealand falcons are being paired up in time for the crucial courtship period during the next few weeks.

However, the location of the Marlborough Falcon Conservation Trust's purpose-built aviary, which opened in February, must remain hidden so that members of the public can't disturb the doting birds.

The trust's programme manager, Sara Kross, said the aviary's private rooms, only the roofs of which have nets, would help limit any distractions.

The males should start showing their interest pretty soon by offering food to their prospective partners, Dr Kross said.

"Then there is an incubation period of about 30 days and they will start laying eggs around October," she said. "Once they have hatched they will be fully grown, fully feathered falcons in 35 days."

The pest-proof bird house was built with money raised through Brancott Estate's The Living Land wine series, Dr Kross said.

A dollar from every bottle sold went to the aviary.

Nine New Zealand falcons were moved into the shelter in February but not all were used for breeding, Dr Kross said.

Some were kept for the trust's advocacy and education programmes in schools.

They hoped to rear between two and five baby falcons, or eyasses, a year, Dr Kross said.

The trust, originally set up in 2008, was trying to re-introduce the birds of prey into low-lying country like vineyards.

"It's a misunderstanding that falcons are high-country birds," she said. "They have been pushed into the high country through the actions of humans."

Falcons living in vineyards reduced grape damage by 70 per cent, Dr Kross said.

"It's a win-win situation as the falcons have a better nest attendance rate in vineyards and there is more prey available."

Dr Kross said the falcon, or karearea, was rarer than any single species of kiwi and is on the back of our $20 bills.

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- The Marlborough Express

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