"The data from the scanners gives us a lot of information about which birds are visiting the burrows and it allows us to monitor the frequency that the adults feed their chicks with minimal disturbance”.
Once the chicks are close to fledging, but before they start to come out of their burrows, they are moved to artificial burrows within the Sweetwater covenant, he said.
"Hopefully they’ll identify Sweetwater as their home and return there to breed in four to five years time.”
The chicks stayed in their artificial burrows for six to 18 days. While at Sweetwater they were weighed, measured and given an occasional sardine smoothie. The Taiko Trust also took the opportunity to arrange a visit from the local school. The children relished the chance to see taiko (and Chatham petrel) chicks close-up.
“The chicks need to be checked every day until they fledge and we fit them with temporary radio transmitters so we can monitor their departure," Dan Palmer said.
"There's a risk that their first attempt to fly could result in them crash landing out side of the covenant. If that was to happen the transmitter would allow us to locate them so they could be returned to the safety of the predator fenced area. But It turned out to be unnecessary because they all made it out to sea on their first attempt.”
In another technological advance, the DNA analysis of blood samples taken from taiko has been used to confirm each bird’s gender, revealing some issues with taiko genetics.
Recently published research has shown that unpaired taiko are mostly males (indicating they may be having trouble attracting females to their burrows) and some pairs that are too closely related (i.e. a female paired with her son) are less likely breed successfully.