Rare bird found on isle
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.
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.