Date: 22 July 2013
The outlook for the endangered North Island kokako looks brighter, with numbers of breeding pairs increasing by 20 per cent, thanks to a little help from Auckland Council and the Department of Conservation.
The result is credited to new management techniques and better protection for the birds. In an effort to increase genetic diversity in local populations, the first successful wild-to-wild egg transfer was undertaken during the summer 2012/13 breeding season between two different Auckland populations of kokako.
Hazel Speed, DOC Biodiversity Ranger, says five fertile eggs of about the same age were swapped between natural nests of Hunua and Tiritiri Matangi Island kokako birds, with the parents being left to complete incubation and chick rearing.
As a result, two chicks fledged in the Hunua Ranges Kokako Management Area, south-east of central Auckland and, one on Tiritiri Matangi, off the Whangaparaora Peninsula north west of downtown Auckland. More egg swaps are planned for the 2013/14 breeding season and Ms Speed says that the technique is a fairly simple way to improve genetics with very little stress involved for the birds.
Su Sinclair, Auckland Council Ecologist, says “Monitoring of the Hunua kokako this year indicates that the population is continuing to increase. The last official census in 2010 recorded 24 pairs; we are now confident of at least 30 breeding pairs in the Hunua Ranges,” she says.
The Kokako Management Area in the Hunua Ranges Regional Park is a council restoration project run in partnership with the Department of Conservation, with the help of volunteers.
This unusual and rarely-seen native bird hit the headlines recently when Duncan the kokako, from the Ark in the Park open sanctuary in the Waitakere Ranges Regional Park, made his way to urban Glendowie, in east Auckland.
With the help of kokako experts from the Department of Conservation, Auckland Council and Forest & Bird, Duncan is now safely back in the Ark in the Park open sanctuary.
“The control of mammalian predators, such possums, rats and stoats, and protection of native bush is essential to the survival of these birds. If successful breeding programmes like the Hunua one continue then we may see kokako as regular visitors to our urban backyards in the future,” says Ms Sinclair.
Nick Hirst, DOC Auckland Conservancy
Ph: +64 9 307 4846 or +64 27 511 1222