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Record Breeding Season for NZ's Rarest Shore Bird

Pūkaha National Wildlife Centre is today releasing 4 juvenile shore plover (tuturuatu) on to Motutapu island. The birds, which are critically endangered and number just 250 approx. in the world, are endemic to New Zealand and one of the world’s rarest shore birds. Pūkaha are hoping to release more shore plover juveniles, aiming for 21 released birds by 25/3/19, meaning that they are breeding roughly 10% of the current population.

“This season has been very full on,” says Mireille Hicks, lead shore plover ranger at Pūkaha, “Together with the Isaac Conservation and Wildlife Trust, this would be our most successful year yet. Between us we have so far raised 46 shore plover chicks – and there are more on the way! We have 7 breeding pairs in total, 2 of which are breeding in their first season, which was incredible. We also have a breeding pair that was very unexpected, as the male had an injured wing and the female had an issue with her feathers. Due to these injuries they could not be released into the wild but by breeding in captivity they are actually contributing to the survival of their species”.

Motutapu Island in the Hauraki Gulf is the site of the world’s largest pest eradication programme and is also home to saddleback (tīeke).

“The shore plover is a very special bird because it’s naturally very curious, but it nests on the ground and is very small – it almost ‘shakes hands’ with predators!” continues Hicks, “They are also very nervous birds and can be easily frightened away from their nests. Many people do not know about how critical the situation is which is something we’d like to change. Each bird is precious”.

In 2018, Pūkaha released 6 juveniles hatched from 5 pairs on to Waikawa Island. The Shore Plover Recovery Programme began at Pūkaha in the early 1980’s.

About Pūkaha: Pūkaha National Wildlife Centre is a wildlife reserve and captive breeding facility managed between Rangitāne o Wairarapa, Department of Conservation and Pūkaha Mount Bruce board. Through captive breeding, they have successfully reintroduced North Island Kākā and North Island Brown Kiwi into their unfenced forest reserve (formerly part of the original 70 Mile Bush). Pūkaha aims to educate and inspire the general public about conservation and New Zealand wildlife through their Visitor Centre, daily talks and educational programmes. Pūkaha also works with whio (blue duck), pāteke (brown teal), and kākāriki.

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