Kaikoura working together to help Hutton's shearwater chicks

An adult Hutton's shearwater.
FILE

An adult Hutton's shearwater.

COLUMN: Every year, Hutton's shearwaters are killed or injured when they become disoriented and crash-land in Kaikoura.

As a result the Hutton's Shearwater Charitable Trust, the Department of Conservation and the Kaikoura township are teaming up to raise awareness on how to protect and care for the shearwaters.

The Fly Safe Tītī/Hutton's Shearwaters awareness programme will kick off with the opening of the newly built Hutton's Hub at the Kaikoura Department of Conservation office Friday, March 4 at 10am.  The event will also celebrate the start of fledging season.

Special guest speakers include Hutton's Shearwater Charitable Trust founder Geoff Harrow, DOC director general Lou Sanson,  DOC's threatened species ambassador Nicola Toki, and manager of the Kaikoura Peninsula Hutton's shearwater colony Lindsay Rowe.

Kaikoura Mayor Winston Gray will cut the ceremonial tape, a string of paper Tītī, to mark the opening of the hub.

There will be music, a barbecue, icecream, artwork by our Kaikoura students, movies and a chance for everyone to see inside the Hutton's Hub and learn more about the birds.

The endangered Hutton's shearwater (Puffinus huttoni) is the only seabird to breed in an alpine environment (1200 metres to 1800m), with the only two breeding colonies remaining in the Seaward Kaikoura Range in the South Island of New Zealand. 

Kaikoura is therefore literally their last place on Earth.

Fledglings become disoriented by bright lights on their first flight from the mountains to the sea.  Many crash land around Kaikoura during overcast or rainy nights, becoming stranded on flat ground.

To reduce the loss of birds over the next month, people are asked to turn off any non-essential outside lights, drive carefully to avoid birds that may have landed on roads and keep cats and dogs indoors at night.

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If you find a crash landed Hutton's shearwater in the street or on your property, simply pick it up, and keep it safe in a cardboard box.  Do nt try to warm it up or feed it.

Any crash landed birds should be dropped off at the Hutton's hub, next to the Kaikoura DOC office. 

Birds will then be fitted with a uniquely numbered stainless steel band, weighed and measured before being released at sea. The sites where crash landed birds are found are being documented and will be analysed by students from the University of Canterbury.

Logs for recording crash landed birds are also held at the DOC office, Kaikoura District Council, Encounter Kaikoura, Whale Watch Kaikoura and Kaikoura schools.

On Wednesdays March 9, 16, 23 and 30 at 5.30 pm there will be free public presentations at Encounter Kaikoura on Hutton's shearwaters and other local seabirds.

Fly Safe 2016 will close with the annual dawn Haere rā e ngā Tītī – Farewell to Tītī Hutton's, on Sunday, April 3.  People are asked to meet at South Bay Reserve at 6.45 am and walk as a group to the Kaikoura Peninsula colony to mark the end of the fledging season.

Fly Safe Tītī/Hutton's Shearwaters will run March 4 through April 3, 2016.

 - The Marlborough Express

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