Brown teal/pāteke
Image: Sabine Bernert | ©

Archived content: This media release was accurate on the date of publication. 


After being considered functionally extinct from the South Island since the 1990s, the rarest waterfowl on mainland New Zealand, the pāteke/brown teal, is doing well in the Arthur Valley of Fiordland.

Date:  24 February 2020

This week 48 pāteke were released in the Arthur Valley, home to the Milford Track, building on the 63 released in March 2019. Pāteke have been released into the area since 2009 in an attempt to rebuild the population. Over the past two years this work has gained significant traction, with this week’s release bringing the Pāteke Recovery Group one step closer to its goal of re-establishing a self-sustaining population.

Department of Conservation Senior Ranger, Andrew (Max) Smart says that he was, “really pleased” by how many pāteke survived the winter and attributes this to the strong programme of predator control in the area.

“There is a large trapping effort in the Arthur as well as landscape scale predator control that helps keep predator numbers in check. In the spring of 2019 pāteke were monitored through a 1080 drop for the first time, with the results showing 97.4% survivorship, with the only confirmed death most likely due to falcon predation.”

Funding from Air New Zealand is strengthening predator control efforts, with traps maintained across 4500 hectares in the Arthur Valley. As part of their partnership with DOC, the airline also provided flights for the birds from Christchurch to Queenstown today.

Air New Zealand Head of Sustainability Lisa Daniell says the airline is proud to be part of initiatives such as these – helping to protect and enhance native species like pāteke.

“It’s rewarding to see the funds we provide for pest traps achieving real results for our native bird populations, and our employees also delight in working on translocation flights, where they play a tangible part in delivering birds to their new safe haven.”

The Arthur is one of only two sites on the South Island where we’re trying to re-establish a wild population of pāteke and we’re the first to try, Max says.

“What we find out here will make a big difference for the future of the species.”

The work to restore pāteke requires many helping hands and is undertaken with support from Ngāi Tahu through the involvement of Ōraka Aparima rūnaka. Before pāteke can be released in the wild, crucial conditioning takes place at Peacock Springs in Christchurch run by the Isaac Conservation and Wildlife Trust. The Pāteke Recovery Group has 14 captive breeding facilities across the country that make transfers possible. Without them, there would be no birds to release. Thanks to the committed collaborators who work together to support pāteke and continued predator control efforts, the aim is for 300 birds to be released over the next few years to give them the best chance of establishing a self-sustaining population.

“I’m pretty happy with the survivorship we’ve seen so far in the Arthur, but there is definitely a lot of work still to do for pāteke to make a solid comeback on the mainland,” Max says. Only time will tell what the outcome will be.


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