Sirocco
Image: Sabine Bernert © 

Introduction

Sirocco, our kākāpō conservation ambassador and media superstar, has gone ‘off the grid’ for some island solitude.

Sirocco has evaded a search on his island home by DOC staff this summer after his transmitter failed.

He’s likely to be keeping to himself as is typical of adult kākāpō when it’s a non-breeding time. 

While we’re keen to catch up with our star parrot, we not concerned for his safety on the predator-free island where he’s been living for the last 18 months.

Sirocco tunes out

Sirocco was last seen on 1 March 2016 interacting with booming kākāpō, when his transmitter was checked.

Following this, routine six-weekly flyovers to monitor birds on the island failed to pick up his signal. There have been four aerial searches, which have confirmed that his transmitter has failed.

Kākāpō rangers started looking for Sirocco while doing fieldwork on the island in July 2016. Since then our star parrot has evaded two dedicated ground searches in December 2016 and February 2017 over a large area of the island – one with a kākāpō dog.

No cause for concern

While we’re keen to catch up with Sirocco, there are no concerns for his safety on the predator-free island where he lives.  

About 5% of transmitters on kākāpō fail each year so the failure of Sirocco’s transmitter is not unusual. We would have been worried if a mortality signal had been picked up, which occurs when birds stop moving but this didn’t happen.

Kākāpō didn’t breed this summer so Sirocco has not been driven to seek out other birds or people by raised hormone levels. Although he likes people, he’s also a wild kākāpō and prefers to keep to himself at non-breeding times.

Sirocco’s a healthy, relatively young kākāpō living in a predator-free habitat with plenty of food so there’s every reason to think he’s doing fine.

Difficult to find

Sirocco is difficult to find without a transmitter on a large, heavily forested island. At the time the transmitter failed he hadn’t yet established a home range so we can’t narrow in on this area.

In previous cases it has typically taken 2-6 years before we have relocated missing birds. One kākāpō, Rangi, was found on Whenua Hou/Codfish Island after 21 years! 

What next? 

We will search for Sirocco again next summer when, if it’s a breeding year, he will be more interested in other kākāpō and people.

Doing further searches now is unlikely to be successful and would divert staff and resources from higher priority work in our kākāpō progamme.

Kākāpō transmitters

DOC is using the best conservation technology available in New Zealand. However, we will go back to the market to check that our transmitters are the most reliable available.  

5% transmitter failure was manageable when the kākāpō population was very small but with the population growing we need to see if we can improve on this.

Sirocco’s island life

Sirocco has been living on his Fiordland island home with other male kākāpō since October 2015 after his last public outing at Zealandia in Wellington.

We want to keep the location of the remote island confidential as attracting public interest could jeopardise its use for kākāpō management.

Sirocco has lived on several different islands including Maud Island/Te Hoiere in the Marlborough Sounds and Hauturu/Little Barrier in the Hauraki Gulf.

Upcoming kākāpō viewing

We are working towards providing an opportunity for a public kākāpō viewing later this year by assessing a young male bird, Ruapuke, that has done some display work previously.

We will confirm details in coming months once we’ve assessed the suitability of Ruapuke for further public display.

Introducing Ruapuke

Ruapuke is a three-year-old bird who hatched in 2014 from a cracked egg repaired with PVA glue and tape. He was hand reared and is friendly towards people and has previously been used as an ambassador bird.  

Ruapuke had two successful single day public outings in Southland in 2015 including a Waitangi Day event at Bluff’s Te Rau Aroha Marae and a fundraising display at the Birds of a Feather Charity Ball at Walter Peak Lodge in Queenstown.

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