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Record number of Chatham Island taiko chicks fledge

12 June 2008

A record 13 taiko chicks have fledged from a predator-proof covenant on Chatham Island.

In a bid to establish a new colony, all of the chicks hatched in the Tuku Nature Reserve in the south of Chatham Island, have been moved to artificial burrows within the adjacent Sweetwater Conservation Covenant. The 4 hectare covenant is fenced to keep out pigs, possums, cats and rats.

Chatham Island taiko were thought to be extinct for more than a century before being rediscovered in 1978 by school teacher and ornithologist David Crockett and a band of keen volunteers.

Following on from this success, David Crockett formed the Taiko Trust which has played a critical role in helping to fund research and management of taiko.

Department of Conservation ranger Dan Palmer said aerials attached this year to the entrances of 30 taiko burrows electronically scanned an identification tag (passive integrated transponder) inserted under the taiko’s skin.

With a population of around 150 individuals and just 16 known breeding pairs, Chatham Island taiko are critically endangered.

"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.

Above: Chatham Island taiko Pterodroma magentae also known as the magenta petrel.  Photo: Crown Copyright © Department of Conservation

See other articles:
Critically endangered seabird losing its pulling power
The many comebacks from the brink of extinction, and extinctions of Chatham Islands birds

Critically endangered seabirds surviving with the fatal threat of commercial fishing .....

The Chatham Island taiko and Chatham petrel, feed in the ocean surrounding the Chatham Islands and beyond, where The islands sit on the edge of the New Zealand Continental Shelf, with the Chatham Rise, a seafloor plateau, connecting the island seafloor with the mainland. The Rise is New Zealand's most heavily exploited fishery.

A world first - Chatham Island taiko fledge from predator-proof site

25 May 2007

All eight chicks produced this year by the critically endangered Chatham Island taiko have successfully fledged from a predator-free site, to where they will hopefully return to breed.

In a move that the Department of Conservation and the Chatham Island Taiko Trust hope will lead to the establishment of a new taiko colony in a secure location, the chicks were relocated from their natural burrows in the Tuku Nature Reserve in the south of Chatham Island.

The chicks' new home in the nearby Sweetwater Conservation Covenant, is an area enclosed by a predator-proof fence constructed by the Chatham Island Taiko Trust.

With a population of around 150 individuals and just 15 known breeding pairs, Chatham Island taiko are the world's rarest seabird, and under threat from cats and rats in their Chatham Island forest habitat.

DOC Chatham Islands technical support officer Dave Houston said it was planned to move all known chicks over the next three years to form a nucleus of a new population.

“It will be a slow process though as the chicks are not expected to return from the sea until they are three to five years old.”

They will be lured back to the fenced site by a loud speaker system playing taiko calls, a technique that has successfully been used on other seabird species.


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