Men­ac­ing pu¯keko wreak­ing havoc

Western Leader - - YOUR LOCAL NEWS - MAHVASH ALI

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.

MAHVASH ALI/ STUFF

The pu¯ keko was named bird of the year in 2011. McCarthy says they roam in his or­chard like they own the place.

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