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A third seabird species has been tricked in to believing Mana Island is “home”, with two pairs of fluttering shearwater laying eggs in specially-designed burrows.

Date:  12 October 2010

A third seabird species has been tricked in to believing Mana Island is “home”, with two pairs of fluttering shearwater laying eggs in specially-designed burrows.

It has not yet been confirmed if they were among the 225 fluttering shearwater chicks transferred from Long Island in the Marlborough Sounds to Mana Island between 2006 and 2008, or other birds lured in from the sea by loudspeakers. But either way, the news has delighted those involved in the restoration project.

“We were ecstatic when we heard two birds had laid eggs, and that nest material has also been pulled into a number of other burrows,” Helen Gummer of the Friends of Mana Island (FOMI) said.

Fluttering shearwater. Photo: Department of Conservation.
Fluttering shearwater

“At this stage we suspect that at least one of the eggs has been produced by birds that we transferred to the island as chicks. We hope to confirm this after their egg has hatched. It’s great news that the birds are choosing to return to Mana to breed.”

This latest news suggests that fluttering shearwaters have taken the “bait” also offered to diving petrels and fairy prions, with all now breeding on the island. All three species were translocated to Mana from islands in the Marlborough Sounds over the past 13 years as chicks, reared by volunteer human parents in artificial burrows and hand fed sardine smoothes prior to fledging.

In the years since they fledged, the translocated birds will have spent their life at sea, reaching maturity at four-years-old. More birds are expected to ‘touch down’ on the island over the next few years.

Others of their species are being attracted to the island by a sound system broadcasting their calls. The initiatives are part of a plan by the DOC and FOMI to restore the island’s ecology.

The project was funded by Friends of Mana Island through grants and donations, with support from Ngati Toa Rangatira and Te Atiawa (ki te Tau Ihu).

The seabird transfers are part of a larger restoration programme for the island, which has also seen the introduction of takahe, North Island robin, brown teal, diving petrels, fairy prion, yellow-crowned kakariki, speckled and spotted skinks, Wellington green geckos and flax weevils. Wetland areas have been restored and 500, 000 native trees have been planted by volunteers. In 2009 Mana Island was named as one of the top 25 ecological restoration sites in Australia and New Zealand.

Background information

The fluttering shearwater is a gull-sized brown and white seabird that is common around New Zealand coastal waters and often in Wellington harbour. Its main breeding areas are on islands off the coast of Northland, in the Bay of Plenty, and in the outer Marlborough Sounds.

Burrowing seabirds are critically important for island ecosystems. Their burrows create safe, sheltered and humid homes for lizards, tuatara and insects. Because they feed at sea and nest in dense colonies, they create highly fertile ecosystems by delivering nutrients in the form of droppings, spilt regurgitations, broken eggs and remains.

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Conservation on Mana Island


Department of Conservation: Sue Caldwell, ph: +64 4 236 7277

Friends of Mana Island: Helen Gummer, ph: +64 4 239 9002

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