Introduction

A young New Zealand falcon or karearea has taken up residence on the outskirts of Palmerston North.

Date:  21 July 2009

The Department of Conservation has received a number of calls from people around Aokautere and Ashhurst reporting frequent falcon visits. “I was quite excited to hear of this rare bird turning up just outside the city,” says DOC ranger Lorraine Cook.

New Zealand falcon populations are declining, with numbers of only around 5000. The main threats to falcon are habitat destruction, deliberate killing by humans, and predation of eggs and chicks by introduced pests. Although usually found in remote rural areas, there have been some sightings of falcons around the city over the last decade, but only a few each year suggesting they were just passing through.

According to Palmerston North falcon expert Dr Rich Seaton, juveniles often show up in more urban areas around this time of year. After leaving the nest, more populated areas provide a good supply of easy targets in the form of pet chickens, bantams or pigeons for falcon to practice on.

“This bird will most likely move on as the winter weather gets milder and the young bird becomes less reliant on easy pickings. Once spring arrives fewer falcons are seen in towns as they tend to move back to areas of bush which are more suitable for breeding”, says Dr Seaton.

Falcons usually eat small birds, insects, and rodents, but they can bring down prey six times their own weight, making things like chickens an easy meal. “Some people have actually seen the falcon catch and steal a large bird from their back yards. Many people have had numerous bantams, chickens or pigeons disappear after seeing the rogue falcon lurking and neighbours have found the carcasses hidden around their properties,” says Ms Cook. Although disappointed to lose their animals, people seem to be happy to see a falcon in their neighbourhood, knowing what this means for their conservation.

“If your chickens have become fast food for the falcon, you could try to encourage it to leave early by keeping your chickens inside for a few weeks or covering the top of your pen in netting,” suggests Dr Seaton. Past efforts to relocate falcons have proved unsuccessful as they have just flown straight back to where they came from. The falcon is an extremely fast flier, with some species overseas being measured at more than 200 km/hr. “Aside from hiding your chickens, our only course of action is to wait for the falcon to move on of its own accord – and enjoy it while it is here,” says Ms Cook.

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Contact

Lorraine Cook - Biodiversity ranger
lcook@doc.govt.nz

Manawatu Base
Phone:   +64 6 350 9700
Fax:   +64 4 471 1117
Email:   manawatu@doc.govt.nz
Address:   717 Tremaine Avenue
Palmerston North 4414
Postal Address:   Private Bag 11010
Palmerston North 4442
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