Trust aims to save NZ falcon

SVEN HERSELMAN
Last updated 07:57 11/07/2012

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They are capable of flying at up to 200kmh and are incredibly well adapted to taking prey up to six times their size, but with a population of about 4000 the magnificent New Zealand falcon could be headed to the extinct species list.

The falcons are rarer than any single species of kiwi.

However, there is help at hand for the few remaining falcons in Marlborough, with the Marlborough Falcons Trust working hard to save these beautiful birds of prey.

They are engaged in an education drive to teach the public about the birds, and create awareness so everyone can become falcon conservationists in their own right.

"A lot of people don't even know that these are indigenous birds," trustee Amanda Simcic said.

"They have been here since long before New Zealand was settled."

The trust held a well attended public information morning in the Blenheim Children's Library on Thursday last week.

One of the trust's male breeding falcons, Wilson, was shown off to a packed room of young children and their parents.

"We had an amazing turnout," Amanda said.

"We also managed to raise $255 (through a gold coin donation) and this will be put directly to feeding and housing the falcons in our care."

The not-for-profit Marlborough Falcons Trust was set up four years ago with the aim of preventing the endangered birds from disappearing.

They have a breeding programme that is in its early stages, with purpose-built aviaries that will hopefully see captive-bred falcons being reared and released into the wild.

Six dedicated volunteers run the trust.

The trust works with the Conservation Department, with department programme manager for community relations Shelly Sidley attending the talk on Thursday to help answer questions from the public.

She explained that a primary reason behind the decline of the falcons is their ground nesting habits, which make their eggs very vulnerable to predators such as possums, stoats and even hedgehogs.

"The falcons evolved this ground nesting habit to avoid the Haast's eagle.

"Ironically the Haast's eagle is now extinct," Amanda said.

The eagle is believed to have become extinct in the early 15th century.

The falcon nests, which are little more than shallow depressions made in sheltered areas on the ground, are also vulnerable to being accidentally destroyed by trampers.

"If you are near a falcon nest you will hear the parent birds calling to warn you away.

"If this happens please move carefully out of the area," Amanda said.

Adult birds are greatly at risk of electrocution as they often use power transformers as a perch from which to sweep down on their prey.

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One of the goals of the trust is therefore to release birds into areas without the threat of man-made technology.

If you would like to learn more and see one of these exceptional falcons up close then be sure to attend one of the Falcons in the Forum on July 27, August 17, September 28 and October 19, all at 3.20pm to 4pm. You can also visit the website: mfct.org.nz.

- The Marlborough Express

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