Rare bird found on isle

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS -

A rare seabird thought to be ex­tinct for more than a cen­tury has been found breed­ing 50km from Auck­land’s cen­tral busi­ness district on Lit­tle Bar­rier Is­land Hau­turu in the Hau­raki Gulf.

Re­searchers led by Chris Gaskin and Dr Matt Rayner from the Univer­sity of Auck­land say they are elated to find the spar­row-sized New Zealand storm pe­trel, thought ex­tinct un­til 2003, is breed­ing in the Hau­raki Gulf Marine Park.

The seabird is listed as crit­i­cally en­dan­gered by the In­ter­na­tional Union of the Con­ser­va­tion of Na­ture and find­ing the breed­ing site is vi­tal for their con­ser­va­tion, re­searchers says.

In or­der to find the bird the team of re­searchers camped on the Poor Knights Is­lands, the Moko­hinau Is­lands and Lit­tle Bar­rier Is­land, us­ing ra­dio re­ceivers to zero in on the breed­ing site.

‘‘It was like look­ing for a nee­dle in the haystack,’’ Mr Gaskin says.

A crit­i­cal break­through came last year when the project team found in­cu­ba­tion patches on birds caught at sea.

This de­ter­mined the tim­ing of in­cu­ba­tion and the best time to find breed­ing birds on land.

The site be­ing mon­i­tored is very frag­ile with birds at a del­i­cate stage in their breed­ing cy­cle, Dr Rayner says.

‘‘We are us­ing au­to­mated equip­ment for the most part and main­tain­ing a hands-off ap­proach.’’

Mem­bers of the re­search team will re­main on the is­land over the coming weeks. Ae­rial sur­veys are be­ing used to try and es­tab­lish distri­bu­tion and size of the pop­u­la­tion.

Photo: NEIL FITZGER­ALD PHO­TOG­RA­PHY

Rare find: The spar­row-sized New Zealand storm pe­trel, thought to be ex­tinct for more than a cen­tury, is breed­ing on Lit­tle Bar­rier Is­land Hau­turu in the Hau­raki Gulf Marine Park in what is be­ing la­belled as an ‘‘in­ter­na­tion­ally sig­nif­i­cant’’ find.

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