Menacing pu¯keko wreaking havoc
A lone apple hangs from a tree on Wayne McCarthy’s orchard.
But it won’t be there for long. Eleven fruit-loving pu¯ keko are running rampant on his 3.8 hectare Auckland property, he said.
‘‘They steal our fruit, take the chicken eggs and eat the ducklings.’’
McCarthy said pu¯ keko have been wreaking havoc at his Oratia home for years.
There were 20 pu¯ keko on his property, but just 11 troublemakers had been up to no good.
He said he often found his driveway littered with broken chicken eggs – a sign the pu¯ keko had menaced the chickens out of their own coop.
‘‘The chickens just give them a wide berth and let them do what they want.’’
He said pu¯ keko – crowned New Zealand bird of the year in 2011 – ran around his orchard like they ‘‘owned the place’’.
They were ‘‘prolific breeders’’ and had multiplied from just four to 11 in four years, he said.
Pu¯ keko were also known for their loud and unusual sounds and McCarthy said he could often hear them from inside his home.
The sound did not bother him so much as the attacks on his orchard, he said.
McCarthy said people had offered to ‘‘take care of the problem’’, but he suspected that involved killing the birds.
‘‘We’re too soft-hearted for that.’’
‘‘The best option would be if someone had a property with some bush or some swamp land that we could rehouse them to.’’
Ian McLean, of Birds New Zealand, said he was not surprised at McCarthy’s predicament.
‘‘Pu¯ keko are native birds, but not many people realise they are also predators,’’ McLean said.
He said the if the pu¯ keko were moved to another location it was likely they would find their way back to McCarthy’s orchard.
McLean said pu¯ keko traditionally lived in wetlands.
However, they had become a more common sight, especially around damp pastures, due to a decline in wetlands.
‘‘They are an iconic bird, but they have some bad habits.
‘‘They love to eat bird eggs and ducklings,’’ he said.
Pu¯ keko thrived because they lived in groups.
‘‘They look after each other and have a clan system and for that reason they’re so successful.’’
He said they could be shot during hunting season, but pu¯ keko meat was not very delicious.
The pu¯ keko was named bird of the year in 2011. McCarthy says they roam in his orchard like they own the place.