Frisky birds surprise conservation staff

NEIL RATLEY
Last updated 15:14 21/02/2014

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Kakapo on Little Barrier Island/Hauturu o Toi are getting friskier earlier than anticipated.

In a surprising discovery by conservation staff, kakapo transferred to the island 80km north of Auckland in 2012, are breeding well ahead of schedule.

One of three female kakapo released onto Hauturu o Toi/Little Barrier Island has been discovered nesting with three fertile eggs, bringing unexpected joy to the Kakapo Recovery Programme team.

Nine critically endangered kakapo were transferred to Hauturu o Toi/Little Barrier Island in the Hauraki Gulf as part of a trial to determine the suitability of the island as a long term unmanaged site.

At the time, Kakapo Recovery programme manager Deidre Vercoe Scott  had initially thought it could take up to 10 years before it was known whether kakapo were able to successfully raise their chicks without support, on Little Barrier Island/Hauturu o Toi.

Kakapo on Hauturu o Toi weren't being given supplementary food but all nests would be closely monitored.

"If they can raise chicks on their own, we will then know that Hauturu o Toi is a viable option for kakapo recovery in the future," she said.

''It's potentially a very important island to secure the survival of kakapo. Apart from Whenua Hou/Codfish Island, it's the only island suitable for kakapo that's beyond the swimming range of rats and stoats.''

The discovery of kakapo Heather's nest this week, meant the trial would hopefully deliver results earlier than anticipated, Ms Vercoe Scott said.

"It's such an exciting find. Heather has obviously settled in well and is showing confidence that's there's enough food about this season to raise her chicks."

It was also a significant boost for the Kakapo Recovery team which has been left disappointed with the high number of infertile eggs laid on Whenua Hou/Codfish Island, which is home to the main breeding population.

Of the 15 eggs found across seven nests, only three were known to be viable, with six proving infertile and one dying as an early embryo. Five eggs were still to be checked, Ms Vercoe Scott said.

"We should know either way by next week."

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