The Department of Conservation begins its Battle for our Birds pest control in the Catlins to protect an important at risk population of mōhua/yellowhead in the beech forest.

Date:  07 November 2014

The Department of Conservation tomorrow (Saturday 8 November) begins its Battle for our Birds pest control in the Catlins to protect an important at risk population of mōhua/yellowhead in the beech forest. 

As well as mōhua, the operation will protect long-tailed bats/pekapeka at risk from rising predator numbers fuelled by heavy beech seed-fall. 

DOC Catlins ranger Cheryl Pullar said monitoring results show there has been a full silver beech mast in the Catlins and rapidly rising rat and mice numbers. 

“Monitoring of rodents has shown that mice are increasing throughout the forest and are particularly dense in lower altitude areas where tracking is at 78%. This will trigger a stoat plague over the summer, just as mōhua are nesting and trying to raise their young. Rats are not at worrying numbers yet but will soon bounce back,” Cheryl said. 

These birds are particularly vulnerable to predation by rats, mice and stoats because they nest in holes in trees. 

Mōhua: Photo: James Reardon.
Mōhua will benefit from the 1080 operation in the Catlins

The aerial 1080 predator control will knock down rodent and possum numbers. Stoats will also be reduced as a result of eating poisoned carcasses. 

A pre-feed operation begins tomorrow with aerial application of non-toxic baits over 10,100 ha of conservation land in the Catlins. 

Aerial control was undertaken in the Catlins last year in a joint TBFree-DOC operation over 47,000 ha of forest. As a result of this operation, mōhua increased to the highest level recorded since the population suffered a big decline 15 years ago. 

“If we don’t act now, we lose the benefit of all the good pest control work undertaken last year and will be back at square one,” Cheryl said. 

The operation will follow stringent safety procedures and buffer zones are in place around significant waterways.

Warning signs regarding the presence of poison are present at all entrance points to the area. 

The Catlins is one of 25 confirmed Battle for our Birds operations using aerially-applied 1080 over a total of about 700,000 ha of conservation land, largely in South Island beech forests. So far, DOC has completed 427,186 ha of BFOB operations – or 61% of 700,000 ha. 

Get more information on DOC’s Battle for our Birds pest control response. 

Background information 

  • The Catlins mōhua population is estimated to be several thousand, one of the largest remaining in the South Island. Flocks of dozens of the birds are visible along the upper end of the Catlins River Walk.
  • The Catlins is home to a number of other species particularly vulnerable to predation by rodents such as bellbird/koparapara, tomtit/miromiro, wood pigeon/kereru, New Zealand falcon/kārearea, and red crowned and yellow crowned parakeet/ kākāriki.
  • The Battle for our Birds pest control operation will use the biodegradable poison 1080 laced in cereal baits, which were sown at a rate of 2 kg per hectare using GPS-guided feeder systems. The poison content of the bait is about 3 g per hectare. 
  • Aerial 1080 is an effective method of knocking down plague levels of rats following a beech mast (seeding) as well as possums. Removing the rodent food source prevents a stoat plague, and stoats are also killed after feeding on poisoned rats and mice. Pest control operations are timed to best protect native birds and bats, which are particularly vulnerable during the breeding season and when roosting in holes in tree.s 
  • The pest control operation had two separate phases – the sowing of non toxic “pre-feed” bait, followed by biodegradable poison 1080-laced cereal baits at least five days later.
  • Monitoring the effects of the pest control operation will be undertaken in coming weeks including the knock-down of rodents. 


Allan Munn
DOC Services Director, Southern Region
Phone: +64 3 211 2414 or +64 27 839 6147

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