Rare bird makes a come­back

Marlborough Express - The Saturday Express, Marlborough - - CONVERSATIONS - PAULA HULBURT

The fu­ture of one of New Zealand’s small­est en­dan­gered birds is look­ing brighter af­ter rangers dis­cov­ered they were breed­ing.

Three pairs of breed­ing yel­low­heads, or mo­hua, were dis­cov­ered by de­lighted Depart­ment of Con­ser­va­tion (DOC) rangers on Blu­mine Is­land in the Marl­bor­ough Sounds.

The find in­di­cates the en­dan­gered yel­low birds are fi­nally mak­ing the is­land sanc­tu­ary home.

DOC ser­vices ranger Dan Palmer says the dis­cov­ery meant the birds had set­tled in well.

‘‘We saw the adults catch sev­eral large cater­pil­lars and grubs to feed to their young ones,’’ says Dan.

‘‘It was es­pe­cially pleas­ing to find the nests as the year be­fore only nine adult mo­hua could be found and no chicks were seen so we couldn’t be sure if they were breed­ing.

‘‘But we now be­lieve they had been breed­ing as the male of the pair in­cu­bat­ing eggs was un­banded.

‘‘All the mo­hua moved to Blu­mine Is­land had bands put on their legs to iden­tify them so this un­banded bird must have hatched on the is­land.’’

The yel­low­head is a small bird en­demic to the South Is­land of New Zealand.

Rangers moved 31 birds to Blu­mine Is­land, 22 kilo­me­tres north of Pic­ton, from West Otago’s Blue Mountains in 2013.

The move aimed to es­tab­lish a mo­hua pop­u­la­tion on the preda­tor-free is­land to help en­sure the sur­vival of the species which, says DOC, is ‘‘wor­ry­ingly low’’.

DOC rangers last month found five pairs of mo­hua on the is­land, three of which were rais­ing young. One pair had two fledglings, a sec­ond pair had three fledglings and a third pair was in­cu­bat­ing eggs.

‘‘The mo­hua on Blu­mine Is­land ap­pear to have taken a cou­ple of years to fully ad­just and adapt to their new en­vi­ron­ment.

‘‘Num­bers are still un­com­fort­ably low putting the pop­u­la­tion at risk from threats such as a stoat get­ting onto the is­land or a storm.

‘‘But knowing the mo­hua can breed to build up their num­bers gives us en­cour­age­ment they can have a se­cure fu­ture on Blu­mine Is­land.’’

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