Kaka drops in

Waikato Times - - Front Page - EL­TON RIKIHANA SMALLMAN

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

PHOTO: CHRISTEL YARD­LEY/STUFF

A ka¯ka¯ at Waikato Univer­sity chews on the bark of a tree.

PHOTO: CHRISTEL YARD­LEY/ STUFF

Tu¯¯ı and ka¯ka¯ feed on ko¯whai nec­tar as Waikato Univer­sity stu­dents and staff go about their day.

PHOTO: CHRISTEL YARD­LEY/STUFF

Tu¯¯ı at the univer­sity are com­mon­place.

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