Kaka drops in
Tu¯ı¯ feed at a small grove of ko¯whai trees and a ka¯ka¯ swoops overhead.
The tu¯ı¯ are loud and boisterous. They can be heard next to Waikato University’s B-Block – its bird song juxtaposed against the roar of a performance car cruising past and chatter from students.
Ko¯whai trees lining a staff car park are filled with bird life. More than a dozen tu¯ı¯ battle for branch supremacy.
A North Island ka¯ka¯ flies past, three metres above the ground, and ducks into the cool shade of a tree. It’s bigger than the tu¯ı¯ but less aggressive.
Full from a morning’s feeding, the ka¯ka¯ perches on a branch, preens and rests for an hour, just metres from gawking people.
Waikato University professor Bruce Clarkson said these recent sightings are ‘‘dramatic’’.
‘‘They have been sighted on our campus before but never as long,’’ Clarkson said. ‘‘Never have they stayed around and have been so obvious and so near people before.’’
The native parrot sighting is put down to the more than 150 significant restoration projects in the Waikato, such as the Hamilton Halo Project, pest eradication and the ‘‘jewel in the crown’’ – the ecoisland, Sanctuary Mountain at Maungatautari.
From the air, the eco-island is like the central hub in a massive region-wide restoration wheel, he said in a speech to the Maungatautari Ecological Island Trust AGM on Monday.
Birds are spilling out into riparian zones and further afield. The campus ka¯ka¯ is an early sign of changing conditions across the Waikato, Clarkson said.
‘‘Ka¯ka¯ are building in number at the Maungatautari ecological island and other places in the North Island,’’ he said. ‘‘All of these things, I think, are coming together.’’
Waikato Regional Council’s Hamilton Halo project manager Andrea Julian said sightings of native birds have increased on the eastern edge of the city but its focus is on tu¯ı¯. She doesn’t want to take credit for the ka¯ka¯ sightings – ka¯ka¯ are powerful flyers and can cover long distances – but the work Hamilton Halo does is providing a safe haven for native birds.
‘‘We can’t really take credit for the ka¯ka¯ but we are working with community groups in the city who are looking at predator control and that will encourage some of these birds to stick around and become resident rather than just visitors.’’
The North Island ka¯ka¯ is a recovering species, still at risk, and is related to the kea in the South Island. It has been spotted in reasonable numbers outside the Hamilton city limits at Ma¯tangi and Tamahere, Julian said.
‘‘We know they come in but we don’t know where they come from, necessarily. They could be coming from outside the region.’’
‘‘They have been sighted on our campus before but never as long. Never have they stayed around and have been so obvious . . .’’
Professor Bruce Clarkson
A ka¯ka¯ at Waikato University chews on the bark of a tree.
Tu¯¯ı and ka¯ka¯ feed on ko¯whai nectar as Waikato University students and staff go about their day.
Tu¯¯ı at the university are commonplace.