New Zealand’s most endangered bird, the fairy tern, will receive a boost to their breeding season following the creation of three new man-made shell nesting sites in Waipu, north of Auckland.
It was reported earlier this year that around 40 of the native birds, otherwise known as tara it, were initially thought to be left. But an additional chick hatched in late December and then another two were born on New Year’s Day.
The shell patch breeding sites is said to create safer places for the Tara iti to nest, protecting them from tidal inundation and sand blow.
These shell patches will contain 130 tonnes of locally sourced shell, transported by helicopter into the new and safer sites.
“Other than predator control, habitat enhancement is the most important action that can be taken to ensure the tara iti’s survival,” said Linda Guzik of Shorebirds Trust.
Fairy terns can’t be bred in captivity because they’re very particular about their nests. They can be found near beaches in Northland’s Waipu, Mangawhai and north Auckland’s Pakiri.
“In past we’ve had nests impacted from high winds, which means the parent birds can’t find their eggs, and king tides washing the nests away,” Tara Iti Recovery Group leader Troy Makan said in a statement. “The new sites will be placed in the rear of the dunes, providing more protection for the chicks and their parents.”
It was about one metre long, stood 80-90cm tall, and weighed about 7kg. That makes it about the same size as a dodo, and far bigger than its modern-day cousin, the kākāpō. Unsurprisingly, given its heft, it was likely also flightless.
We discovered Heracles in the St Bathans Fauna, a collection of 20 million-year-old fossils from Central Otago.
Over the past 20 years, our research has discovered around 40 species from the St Bathans Fauna, including a wealth of fascinating prehistoric bird remains. These include eggshell and fragments of moa ancestors, a tiny kiwi, many ducks, a couple of pigeons, flightless rails, hawks and eagles, shorebirds, songbirds, and several small parrot species. Crocodilians, turtles, bats and even rare land mammals complete this eclectic group.
Heracles now reveals that another avian giant existed in this fauna. For the first and only time since, a giant parrot occupied the herbivore/omnivore niche on a forest floor.
emarkably, the fragments of bone that allowed us to discover this giant parrot had sat on a shelf since 2008, patiently waiting for their turn to be described. We had known that St Bathans also contains eagle fossils of similar size, so the Heracles fossils were put on the eagle pile while we waited to find some more fossils that might tell us more.
But upon pulling them out and looking more closely, it was immediately clear that these were not eagle bones, so we started trying to work out what they were. Parrots were not on our radar at first, purely because these bones were far larger than those of any known parrot. But after a while the bones told their story — they were of a parrot, and nothing else was remotely similar. Moreover, they were in some ways fairly similar to the kākāpō.
And so Heracles inexpectatus was born, the name derived from Greek mythology.
But in New Zealand 20 million years ago there were no sheep, and in fact no large mammals at all. Probably, like most parrots, Heracles ate plants. Its size meant no fruit was too big, no nut too tough to crack. And the botanical evidence shows that it lived in a rich and diverse subtropical forest, where cycads, palms, casuarinas and up to 60 species of laurels thrived.
All these plants would have provided a rich bounty for this large parrot. But we warrant that it likely still snacked on moa occasionally, as kea still did more recently, when they got mired in swamps.
Trevor H. Worthy is an Associate Professor and leading vertebrate palaeontologist at Flinders University. Continue the conversation | firstname.lastname@example.org
This article originally appeared in The Conversation and is republished here with permission
This endemic bird is still critically endangered, and was once thought to be extinct. But a few birds were found in the valleys of Canterbury’s Arthurs Pass, and now with the efforts of DOC, Forest and Bird, Christchurch Helicopters and Toi Toi Wine, they are now recovering.
But they are not out of the woods yet, as during mega mast seeding events populations of rats and stoats also multiply, and once the seeds disappear, they then turn their attention to the fledgling birds.
The Isaac Conservation and Wildlife Trust has played a crucial role in rearing captive-bred birds for release into the wild.
This year, 62 birds from the Trust, Orana Wildlife Park and Auckland Zoo have been released into the south branch of the Hurunui Valley.
Extensive trapping of stoats and rats in the valley has meant this is a good year to release the birds. In the wild the birds are extremely difficult to monitor, so radio transmitters have been attached to the birds to track where they go in the valley. They will be monitored for about 54 days or until the transmitters cease to operate.
The orange-fronted parakeet is one of the rarest birds in New Zealand, but its population may have doubled after an “epic” season of mating.Staff with the nation’s Department of Conservation say they found at least 150 orange-fronted parakeets have been born this season alone. They discovered 31 new wild parakeet nests — three times the number of nests in recent years.The new births have the potential to double the current population, said Minister of Conservation Eugenie Sage in a statement. And the lovemaking could continue for several more months, as beech trees in the region continue to have one of their largest mast seasons in over 40 years.
Mast is the botanical name for nuts, seeds, buds, or fruits that are produced by trees and shrubs and eaten by wildlife.”There has been so much seed on the beech trees, the birds just keep on breeding, with some parakeet pairs onto their fifth clutch of eggs,” Sage said. “This year’s epic breeding provides a much-needed boost to the kākāriki karaka population.”Without such a large beech mast, the birds typically only have just one or two clutches of eggs.
There are currently less than 300 orange-fronted parakeets in existence
The orange-fronted parakeet was once thought to be extinct, but was rediscovered in 1993. The current population is thought to be anywhere between 100 and 300 birds, which is why this mating season is so significant.Conservation efforts in the country have helped increase the population, with organizations breeding the birds and then releasing them into the wild.The birds aren’t the only ones benefiting from the higher beech mast. The increase in seeds also means more rats, stoats and feral cats — all of which pose risks to the bird. Sage said the department’s next steps are to focus on protecting the birds from the rising number of predators.
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