Taranaki fernbirds to make new home in Porirua

Fernbirds are small with a distinctive long, trailing, ragged tail
DUNCAN WATSON

Fernbirds are small with a distinctive long, trailing, ragged tail

Up to twenty-five rare North Island fernbirds are leaving their Taranaki home to repopulate the Pauatahanui Wildlife Reserve in Porirua. 

The birds are being relocated from the Rotokare Scenic Reserve, 12 kilometres east of Eltham, comprising 230 hectares of forested hill-country, extensive wetlands and a 17.8 hectare natural lake.

Translocation leader Wendy Tate, of the Pauatahanui Reserve Committee, said much of the fernbird population was small and isolated. 

Contract ecologist Kevin Parker releases a bird into shrubs at the Reserve.
LEE BARRY/DOC

Contract ecologist Kevin Parker releases a bird into shrubs at the Reserve.

"The first problem was finding a population that was strong enough to contemplate taking this number of birds from. The only population we could find was Rotokare Scenic Reserve in Taranaki, which is a bush and freshwater swamp location, not an estuarine population.

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"Whether we can take from that kind of habitat and get them to recognise Pauatahanui as an equally valid habitat, we can't be a hundred percent certain. It is a fairly scientific trial, rather than a given."
Members of Pauatahanui Reserve Committee release a fernbird.
DAVID BROOKS/FOREST & BIRD

Members of Pauatahanui Reserve Committee release a fernbird.

Rotokare Sanctuary Manager Simon Collins said the birds should have no problems adapting to the new environment. 

"We never quite know what the outcome is going to be.

"We think they will adapt very well. They would've been there once upon a time."

Robin Chesterfield, Chair of the Pauatahanui Reserve Committee, and Siobhan Lynch from Ngati Tupaia, the gifting iwi, ...
LEE BARRY/DOC

Robin Chesterfield, Chair of the Pauatahanui Reserve Committee, and Siobhan Lynch from Ngati Tupaia, the gifting iwi, carry birds to the release site.

He said one of the risks was moving the birds, who had no experience of mammals as predators, into an environment where there was pests.

DOC categorise the North Island fernbird as "at risk/declining". 

Connors said the fernbird populations at Rotokare was one of the most abundant in the North Island. 

Ngati Toa kaumatua Taku Parai blesses the birds before they are released.
DAVID BROOKS/FOREST & BIRD

Ngati Toa kaumatua Taku Parai blesses the birds before they are released.

He said the Pauatahanui Reserve Committee did an excellent job of canvassing the North Island for a source population and he was "totally certain" the export would not affect the Rotokare inhabitants.

"One of the key things you're looking for is you're not going to cause irreparable harm to the population that you're harvesting from."

Connors said the operation was still underway and if the translocation was successful and a good percentage of the birds survive, there will be a second transport next year.

"This is the first wildlife export from the sanctuary. [We have a] goal to support other projects going forward."

 - Stuff

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