That's not Vernon. It's Louie

Little lost Louie may be searching for home

Last updated 15:59 20/08/2012
Louie the pukeko

Alter ego: Vernon the pukeko is believed to be Louie because the rear spur on his left foot points forwards and his tail sticks out at 45 degrees instead of straight.

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A friendly pukeko that browsed in Blenheim shops on Friday may be the same bird that was hand-reared in Queen Charlotte Sound.

Lochmara Lodge property manager Ken Rowe believes the native bird nicknamed Vernon is actually Louie, a seven-month-old orphan which flew off from the lodge's wildlife recovery centre in Lochmara Bay in July.

Mr Rowe saw pictures of the bird visiting the National Bank and the Good 2 U discount store on on Friday and recognised Louie's deformed front-facing rear spur on his left foot, which normally points backwards, and his tail which sticks out at a 45-degree angle instead of straight.

Pukeko are remarkably territorial and it was very likely the bird was trying to return to its original home near Blenheim now it had reached maturity, he said.

''It's been effectively hand-raised, we don't cage our birds so inevitably they fly off when they're ready.

''Louie is about seven months old now, he's got his adult colouring.''

The bird may have chosen to fly home to find its own territory or been pushed out by Fig, the lodge's dominant pukeko found alone in a fig orchard.

Mr Rowe had fed and cared for Louie for about four months after it was brought to the centre by a Blenheim woman who found the month-old ''little ball of fluff'' wandering alone on her paddock.

Its parents were likely killed after being hit by a car and the bird became too much to take care of, he said.

''As they grow they crap everywhere, nest and make a mess - they can be quite demanding.

''I've got one here now that follows me around like a puppy.''

She did not know the sex of the bird so it was called Louie which could have been changed to Louise.

The Lochmara Lodge wildlife recovery centre cared for a range of injured birds and bred kakariki.

The pukeko turned heads in central Blenheim on Friday morning, before a Fish & Game field officer picked him up and took him to a wetland out of town.



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- The Marlborough Express


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