The rapture

02:00, Oct 11 2012
Laurie and Janice Hoverd
Laurie and Janice Hoverd release NZ Falcons from their holding cage on Mount Kakepuku .

Kiwis, it seems, are fond of death from above and that suits Waikato couple Janice and Laurie Hoverd just fine.

The couple are ornothologists who devote their time to the breeding and release of the Karearea, or New Zealand falcon, which has just taken out top honours in the hotly-contested NZ Bird of the Year poll.

''It's an amazing predator and an amazing flyer and were are thrilled,'' Mrs Hoverd said.

Karearea
The first flight for one of the young New Zealand falcons reared and released by a Waikato couple.

''It's great publicity for the cause.''

An increase in the raptor's numbers would have helped get it across the line, she said.

''People are seeing them a lot more and are more accepting of them,'' she said.

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 The first flight for one of the young New Zealand falcons reared and released by a Waikato couple.
The first flight for one of the young New Zealand falcons reared and released by a Waikato couple.

''I think in New Zealand we have been spoiled with no wolves or bears and other nasties but people now realise and accept raptors and that they kill things is part of everyday living.''

Since 2005 the Hoverds have released 36 of their beloved birds into the relative protection of the Kakepuku Mointain conservation project.

Their birds have been spotted as far as Cambridge, Maungatautari  and Pirongia.

''One was even spotted at Hamilton Gardens a few weeks ago.''

The face of the $20 bill, the NZ falcon is the country's fastest bird and can reach speeds of up to 230km/hr and catch prey mid-flight.

It is aslo hopeless romantic. during courtship, couples will perform an aerial ballet, swapping food mid-flight, performing mock attack dives or spiralling gracefully landward. 

Despite its aerial prowess, it nests on rocky ledges or on the ground making its chicks particularly vulnerable to predation by cats, stoats, weasels and possums. 

And if topping the public poll is not enough to convince you of the falcon's merits, perhaps this will:

''Rats and mice, they eat lots and lot of them,'' says Mrs Hoverd.

''That and feral pigeons. Imagine if we had one in every city?''

The Kereru, or wood pigeon, was endorsed by the Waikato Times and came in with an encouraging 350 votes out of about 10,000.

Waikato