'Secretive' rare native bird found at west Auckland wetland for the first time

Banded rails are a native subspecies which inhabit wetlands throughout New Zealand.
OSCAR THOMAS/SUPPLIED

Banded rails are a native subspecies which inhabit wetlands throughout New Zealand.

 A rare native bird has been discovered at a west Auckland wetland for the first time. 

The banded rail, a small, secretive, ground living bird, was discovered at the coastal wetland by Rutherford College, in Te Atatu on July 1.

Senior biodiversity advisor at Auckland Council, Ben Paris, confirmed the banded rail, which has a conservation status of "at risk-declining" was captured on video footage from a camera trap.

Senior biodiversity advisor at Auckland Council Ben Paris said the onus was on west Aucklanders to help protect the Te ...
BEATRICE RANDELL/FAIRFAX NZ

Senior biodiversity advisor at Auckland Council Ben Paris said the onus was on west Aucklanders to help protect the Te Atatu wetlands.

It's the first time banded rails - or moho pereru - had been seen in the area.

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"We have suspected banded rails to be found in this mangrove habitat," Paris said.

Other than the video footage confirming their presence in the wetlands, there were also banded rail footprints in the ...
OSCAR THOMAS/SUPPLIED

Other than the video footage confirming their presence in the wetlands, there were also banded rail footprints in the salt marsh.

"We know that they are in the salt marsh habitat of Harbourview Reserve on the east side of the peninsula, but this was great to confirm their presence on the other side too."

The birds are usually found in mangrove and saltmarsh habitats, in estuarine wetlands.

Reluctant fliers, banded rails can travel long distances, mainly at night.

Banded rails were discovered for the first time at the Te Atatu wetlands, behind Rutherford College.
OSCAR THOMAS/SUPPLIED

Banded rails were discovered for the first time at the Te Atatu wetlands, behind Rutherford College.

Numbers of the bird declined from around the 1930s mostly due to habitat destruction like wetland drainage, reclamation and from introduced predators. Over the last 40 years, the birds appear to have gone from the lower half of the North Island.

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Paris said the discovery of the banded rail at Te Atatu indicated a healthy wetland, as the birds needed a diverse habitat and rich food supply.

"They are a secretive, rather camouflaged bird, and usually don't venture far out into the open – the best chance of seeing one is along the edge of mangroves at low tide.

"Their footprints are more often seen then the bird themselves."

Auckland Council were working closely with Community Waitakere and other partners to help conserve the habitat and connect people living nearby.

"Te Atatu Peninsula forms a vital part of the North-West Wildlink wildlife corridor connecting nature across Auckland.

"Making sure this banded rail habitat is healthy, safe and connected is essential to help these birds move freely across the Auckland region."

Introduced predators like feral cats, ship rats and mustelids pose significant threats to banded rails, as do roaming dogs and cats.

Paris said west Aucklanders living near the wetland should make sure their pets are kept indoors at night. He encouraged rat trapping in backyards to help minimise the predation risks to the birds.

With the wetlands at close proximity to the Northwestern Motorway, Paris also called on motorists to refrain from dumping their rubbish and cigarette butts out the windows.

"[The birds] are an important part of the wetland ecosystems that have been lost across Auckland."

Like all native species, they had their own unique role to play in the environment, Paris said.

"They are an important indicator of wetland health, and finding them at Henderson Creek is a good sign of the hard work the community are doing to restore and look after this area."

 - Stuff

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