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Kakariki seen at Porirua Scenic Reserve

9 November 2004

Kakariki seen at Porirua Scenic Reserve

Confirmed sightings of red crowned parakeets (kakariki) at Porirua Scenic Reserve have bird watchers and conservationists excited.

Ornithological Society members spotted a pair of these rare birds on 3 November and Greater Wellington Regional Council staff saw four birds in late October. An unidentified pair was first seen in the reserve in 2001.

“Until these birds were seen, red-crowned parakeets were thought to be extinct on the mainland in the Wellington region,” said Dr Colin Miskelly of Department of Conservation. “The recently sighted kakariki at Porirua are not banded, and it is believed they may have come from Kapiti Island.”

According to Dr Miskelly, kakariki have survived in good numbers on Kapiti Island. “They are the species that benefited most from rat eradication on Kapiti Island in 1996, with approximately four times as many birds counted after rat eradication as before.”

Red-crowned parakeets nest and roost in tree holes, and so are very vulnerable to predators such as rats and stoats. Adults can get trapped in a hole that has a single entrance.

“The fact that these birds have persisted at Porirua Scenic Reserve for over three years is a tribute to effective pest control by Greater Wellington,” said Dr Miskelly.

Greater Wellington began controlling possums in and around the 318-hectare reserve in March 1996, in a programme jointly funded with Porirua City Council. According to Greater Wellington biosecurity officer, Ken Wright, staff originally installed 164 bait stations, using brodifacoum pellets and cyanide as bait to reduce the high possum count.

“Possum numbers are now kept at low levels with three-monthly bait station fills, which has allowed native forest and birds to flourish,” said Mr Wright. “These methods target rats and stoats as well as possums.”

Other reserves in Wellington, Porirua and Hutt cities and the Kapiti district are also possum controlled as part of Greater Wellington’s Key Native Ecosystem (KNE) programme, aimed at protecting and enhancing native plants and animals at selected sites in the region. It is likely that this regional programme to reduce possums has improved the overall health of the bush remnant network for birds to immigrate or colonise through.

Mr Wright said that when the programme started the most common birds were grey warblers, fantails and blackbirds. There were also small numbers of kingfisher, morepork, shining cuckoo, harrier hawks and paradise ducks, a “few kereru (native wood pigeon) and a solitary tui”. There has been a rapid increase in kereru and tui in recent years and bellbirds were spotted in the reserve in 2003, he said. “The resulting recovery of both forest and bird life has exceeded our expectations and we are left wondering what rare native birds will colonise next.”

ENDS

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