Rare falcon chicks to be released

Greg Hay with one of two falcon chicks he brought down from Wingspan National Bird of Prey Centre in Rotorua.
Greg Hay with one of two falcon chicks he brought down from Wingspan National Bird of Prey Centre in Rotorua.

Raptor lovers will be able to keep an around the clock eye on two rare Falcon birds to be released at Millbrook Resort.

Millbrook Resort chief financial officer Brian Spicer said a webcam would provide live photo coverage of the two female New Zealand Eastern Falcon chicks, or Karearea, growing in a hack box over the next fortnight before their release.

The chicks arrived at Millbrook on Friday from the Wingspan National Bird of Prey Centre in Rotorua.

Peregrine Wines co-owner Greg Hay, who arranged the relocation and escorted the chicks to their new home on an Air New Zealand flight, said the chicks were born from parents originally from Southland who were taken to the centre to breed off after they were injured and could not fly.

They had the same parents as the two chicks released last year at Peregrine, he said.

''We are releasing chicks at a different location this time because it is good to spread them out. They are very territorial and we don't want to put too much pressure on those ones already there. There are already some eastern falcons flying around Arrowtown so it is better to mix the genetics with an established population.''

Before they were released, the chicks would spend the next  fortnight in the hack box to ''imprint'' on their new home and grow feathers.

At only three weeks old they were already up to their mature body weight of 500 grams, Mr Hay said.

''They are basically big balls of fluff. In three weeks' time their cage door will open and they will be free to do what they want to.''

The falcons would still come back to the hack box for supplementary feeding which would last about nine months to a year, Mr Hay said.

''Supplement feeding them replicates what their parents would be doing -  bringing food to them.''

The falcons would not fly immediately after the doors opened, he said.

''They will come outside on to a perch and will spend time flapping their wings getting up strength. Then they will start doing short flights - 10 to 20 metres and back to the perch. ''

''Then they will start increasing their flights. Within a week they will easily cover a radius of one kilometre.''

The relocation of the endemic New Zealand bird was crucial to trying to build up its population, he said.

''They are extremely rare. There's only about two to 3000 in total in each of the islands - North and South. People worry about the Kiwi and rightly so - there are only about 60,000 of them but these are actually endangered.''

Peregrine Wines has provided financial support to the Wingspan Centre for 12 years, and also provides funding to the Fiordland Conservation Trust.

The Mirror