Success grows for Kaikoura shearwater project

10 Apr 2012

 By Marieke Esveld

The Forest & Bird-backed Hutton’s Shearwater Charitable Trust has taken another important step in the development of its Kaikoura Peninsula colony after the translocation of 102 more chicks to the site last month.

Volunteers braved wet and snowy conditions to move the shearwater chicks by helicopter from their mountainside nests to the colony on Kaikoura peninsula. 

There they are being monitored and hand-fed every morning on sardine smoothies until they learn to fly and become independent.

The shearwaters (titi) need to be moved to the peninsula before they learn to fly, so they recognise the site as their home and return there to breed after travelling to the ocean off northwest Australia for between two and four years.

These juvenile birds typically imprint on the area where they first learn to fly and, it is hoped they will return there to breed.

The colony on Kaikoura peninsula is the third breeding site for nationally endangered Hutton's shearwaters.

It was established as an 'insurance population' in case a catastrophe wiped out the two remaining breeding colonies high in the Seaward Kaikoura Ranges.

Between 2005 and 2008 a total of 273 chicks were transferred to the new peninsula colony, and two years later a predator proof fence was erected around the 2.4 hectare site.

The colony was set up on land owned by the Kaikoura Charitable Trust, as a community project involving the Hutton’s Shearwater Charitable Trust, Te Runanga O Kaikoura, Forest & Bird and DOC.

During the summer of 2010/2011 roughly 24 birds returned to the new breeding site, proving its success. In the latest breeding season a total of four returning pairs laid eggs, one of which successfully hatched – the first ever at the new colony.

The trust has scheduled another relocation of 100 chicks to the new colony in March next year.