Kea curiosity can be fatal. The Kea Conservation Trust released an updated safe practice guide for ground-based predator control in kea habitat. The world’s only alpine parrot, the kea, are known for tampering with predator control traps. They poke sticks into traps to set them off, undo screws, bend wire grilles and other inquisitive behaviour. … Continue reading New tips for keeping kea safe
When four-legged predators first arrived in Aotearoa New Zealand, the native wildlife didn’t know what had hit them. That was over 200 years ago. Now there’s growing evidence that at least some of our wildlife are wising up to mammalian predators and changing their behaviour accordingly. So far, most of the research has been about … Continue reading Sunny side up: skinks are changing up their sun-bathing to avoid cats
New research published in the New Zealand Journal of Zoology shows that mast years are bad news for kea. Native beech trees produce millions of tasty seeds in a mast year, which rodents love. The rodent populations explode, setting in motion a devastating cascade of events. But it’s when the masting stops that taonga species … Continue reading Flying at half-mast: connecting kea decline to mast years
Kiwi are the most translocated bird species in Aotearoa New Zealand and the number of new projects and released birds are steadily increasing, according to a recent report in the New Zealand Journal of Ecology. We’ve been moving our kiwi around for over 100 years but could we be doing it better? Around the late … Continue reading Kiwi translocations – are we doing it right?
In modern covid times, we’re all very aware of how diseases can spread across borders through international air travel. Something similar could be happening with bird diseases and our kākāpõ, takahē and other endangered species on their remote sanctuary islands. ‘Air travellers’ – in this case visiting seabirds – could be bringing avian diseases with … Continue reading Seabirds, disease, sanctuary islands
Counting green parakeets in an equally green forest can be something of a challenge even for the experts. But when those parakeets are as rare as our orange-fronted kākāriki, it’s important to get a good estimate of how many there are and whether numbers are increasing or decreasing. There may be less than 100 adult … Continue reading The challenges of counting kākāriki
To survive and succeed in the wild, every meal an introduced predator eats has to be worth the effort and energy it takes to obtain it. Bird eggs and young chicks are an easy, protein-rich food source, especially when birds nest on the ground. So how do you convince riverbed predators that ground nests are … Continue reading ‘Fake news’ foils would be predators
Is there such a thing as being too successful? A recent Fiordland study on the recovery of forest birds after longterm predator control and eradication shows that toutouwai/South Island robins, benefitted hugely from the absence of Norway rats and stoats. But the strong recovery of the robins seems to be having a detrimental effect on … Continue reading Robins return – but where are all the tomtits?
Weka don’t tend to be the first bird chosen for reintroduction in recovering habitats. Their destructive and predatory tendencies make them controversial residents in restoration projects and they’ve even been removed from some sanctuary islands to make life safer for other native birds. But research looking at native plant seed dispersal shows the complexity of … Continue reading Time to rethink the weka’s bad-boy image
There’s a rare and colourful gecko known to live in only a few boulder fields and rock jumbles in the alpine areas of Queenstown Lakes and Central Otago districts. It’s been named the orange-spotted gecko and was only discovered as recently as 1998. Note: We are re-sharing our articles. This article was originally published on … Continue reading Rare orange-spotted gecko lives only in alpine zone
When mammal predators first arrived in Aotearoa New Zealand, our native species didn’t know what had hit them and their naiveté led to some rapid extinctions. Have our surviving species ‘wised up’ to mammal threats in the last century or so? Note: We are re-sharing our articles. This article was originally published on January 11, … Continue reading Thesis explores anti-predator adaptive behaviour
Not everyone can tell a mohua from a yellowhammer or even a kea from a kaka, but it would be a pretty rare New Zealander who didn’t know a kiwi when they saw one. It’s probably our most recognisable bird, but how well do we actually know our kiwi – really know them? Note: We … Continue reading How well do we really know our kiwi?
Otago University zoologists Anna Aichele, Philip Seddon and Yolanda van Heezik have been measuring the sugar intake of kākā at Orokonui Eco-sanctuary just north of Dunedin where sugar water feeders regularly entice birds down from the trees to the delight of visitors. Note: We are re-sharing our articles. This article was originally published on December … Continue reading Sugar intake of kākā measured at ecosanctuary feeders
Short-tailed bats are the main pollinators of New Zealand’s only fully parasitic flowering plant – the wood rose (Dactylanthus taylorii), known to Māori as te pua o te rēinga. Both the bat and the wood rose are endangered, but we still have a lot to learn about the feeding/pollinating relationship between them. Researchers Zenon Czenze … Continue reading Bats influenced by rainfall when visiting unique ‘wood rose’
Everyone knows about tuatara – right? Most New Zealanders know that our tuatara was around in dinosaur times and out-survived all the dinosaur ‘big names’ like Tyrannosaurus Rex. And we all know what a tuatara looks like. But how much do you actually know about them? The tuatara is much more than just ‘world famous … Continue reading Getting to know our largest reptile
Wrybills, the little shore birds with a bend in their beak, are only found in New Zealand. They breed on the South Island’s braided rivers with well-camouflaged eggs and chicks to help protect them from flying predators. But camouflage is no protection against mammal predators who hunt by scent. Does predator control help improve survival … Continue reading Breeding wrybills face multiple challenges
A common way to monitor what insects or lizards are around, is to use a live-capture pitfall trap which skinks, geckos and ground-based insects then fall into. With lizards, slices of pear or sometimes petfood are used to attract them to the trap. But lizards and insects might not be the only species to take … Continue reading Predator pitfalls for live-trapped lizards
Productive land such as farms, horticulture and lifestyle blocks make up 60% of the land area in New Zealand and often contains native vegetation. Such land could – and often already does – make a significant contribution towards conservation goals. But currently we know very little about the amount and types of native vegetation located … Continue reading Sheep, beef farms have significant conservation potential
Native plants are a good way to attract native birds to your garden. No matter how small, you can always make your backyard more attractive to native birdlife by providing food, water, shelter, and nesting places/materials. You can break down the diets of our native birds into nectar, fruit, foliage and insects. By planting a … Continue reading If our native birds were gardeners, what would they plant?
Researchers have recently been studying the social life of our native skinks – and yes, skinks really do have a social network. Who would have thought it? Otago skinks (Oligosoma otagense) living in a large enclosure at Ōrokonui Ecosanctuary were the subjects of this unusual study of skink society. The research was carried out by … Continue reading A glimpse of the social life of Otago skinks
Pāteke/brown teal are mainly nocturnal, small dabbling ducks found only in New Zealand. They once inhabited a wide range of habitats including wet forests, swamps, slow-flowing streams, lakes and estuaries and in pre-human times may have been the most wide-spread and abundant of our waterfowl. Even 200 years ago brown teal were abundant and widespread … Continue reading Researchers evaluate what pāteke need for successful reintroduction
Annual bird counts show that banded dotterels have been declining on our braided rivers for many years. But there’s good news amongst the bad. A recently published analysis of longterm population trends, using data from 1962 to 2018, reveals just how big that decline has been – and how one riverbed in Mid-Canterbury is going … Continue reading Longterm banded dotterel study shows predator control benefits
Small, slow-moving in cold weather and with limited defenses other than camouflage and hiding, our skinks and geckos are vulnerable to predators – but efforts to relocate some of them to sanctuaries haven’t always been successful. Researchers have been refining their methods, however, and a recent translocation of barking geckos suggests they’re definitely on the … Continue reading New home for barking geckos in successful penned release
Fenced sanctuaries don’t come cheap – but they do offer a way to create areas of rich, predator free habitat for vulnerable species. But what about the habitat outside the fence? Most research to date has looked at ‘inside the fence’ habitat and bird populations, but good habitat beyond the boundary can offer extra food … Continue reading What’s outside the fence matters too
Between 2010 and 2016, the community group Friends of Flora Inc., in partnership with the Department of Conservation, translocated 44 roroa (great spotted kiwi, Apteryx haastii) to the Flora Stream area in Kahurangi National Park. But that was just the beginning of the project. Each kiwi was fitted with a VHF transmitter and, for the … Continue reading Volunteers monitor kiwi dispersal for 8 years
Ocean plastic is a worldwide problem – and its impacting wildlife here in New Zealand too. A recent study checked out how much plastic is turning up in gannet nests at a Hauraki Gulf gannetry and found an alarming 86% of nests had at least some plastic included in their construction! Nigel Adams, Chris Gaskin … Continue reading Plastic nest material is potential threat to gannets
Weka can be engaging and entertaining, but their opportunistic appetite for other birds’ eggs and chicks can cop them some controversy. They’re not always welcome at ecosanctuaries, for example, even though their own numbers are threatened. Native predators like weka, harrier hawks and falcons were once part of a balanced ecosystem. Not all wildlife predators … Continue reading Are weka ‘good predators’?
What a difference 20 years makes! The lizards of Kāpiti Island have now had 20 years of living rat-free and researchers Jennifer Gollin, Nic Gorman and Doug Armstrong have been checking out the little reptiles to see how much better they’re doing. The report on the results of their island survey in the New Zealand … Continue reading Lizards counted on predator free Kāpiti Island
Ground-nesting river birds are tricky to protect. Their eggs and chicks are an easy meal for predators and even though some species, like terns, nest together in colonies, the birds may choose a different stretch of river to nest on from one year to the next. Conservation management on the South Island’s braided rivers would … Continue reading ‘Social attractants’ tested for terns
Translocation is an important tool for conservation management – but it comes with risks. The capture and transfer process can be highly stressful to wildlife. Some individuals can and have died. Finding ways to reduce translocation stress can save lives. And the lives that are saved are often those of rare and endangered taonga. So … Continue reading Less stress = translocation success for tiny rifleman
It’s not often you hear of native species benefitting from human modifications of its habitat – but one little-known wētā species has gone against trend and embraced the changes in its world. It’s been nicknamed the ‘wine wētā’ due to its fondness for hanging out in Marlborough vineyards and scientists have recently been trying to … Continue reading ‘Wine wētā’ makes itself at home in Marlborough vineyards
When you remove predators from islands and restore forest habitat, the expectation is that native forest birds will flourish and that the new ‘improved’ conditions may favour native birds over introduced species. But is that what happens? Researchers John Ralph, Carol Ralph and Linda Long looked at how bird populations on the seven islands and … Continue reading Tūī numbers treble in predator control study
University of Auckland researchers, James Brock and Kathleen Collier, have discovered yet another reason why we really should appreciate our native bat species. It seems short-tailed bats have a role to play in spreading fern spores throughout the forest, helping the spores to spread a greater distance than they might otherwise manage without a helping … Continue reading Native bats may have fern dispersal role
Wētā are one of our most studied insects and are regarded as ‘bioindicators’ of the health of forest ecosystems. So when introduced predators – including mice – were removed from Maungatautari, the response of the local wētā population was followed closely by researchers. But how well does the wētā response reflect what’s happening to other … Continue reading Study compares beetle and wētā responses to mammal eradication
Should we be making a greater effort to use Māori bird names in science communication and environmental reporting – promoting their wider everyday use in the community? The answer seems an obvious yes! If fact we already have tūī, kea and kākā, for example. So what’s stopping us? Priscilla Wehi, Lyn Carter, Te Waiarani Harawira, … Continue reading Putting the case for using Māori bird names
Little penguins in Kaikōura have been doing their bit to try and keep species numbers buoyant – with multiple nesting per breeding season and some birds even resorting to a bit of partner-swapping. It all helped bring successful fledgling numbers up to 1.66 chicks per pair, according to researchers, Lindsay Rowe, Jody Weir and Alastair … Continue reading Little penguin breeding success includes ‘triple brooding’
Feeding backyard birds is popular in New Zealand – one recent study revealed up to half of us feed the birds in our gardens. It’s usually the seed-eaters and sugar-water sippers that benefit. No-one seems to have invented a feeder for birds that catch their food on the wing – the insectivores like fantails and … Continue reading Kingfisher cashes in on bird feeder
Kea are known to be smart and the more we learn about them, the smarter we realise they are. But did you know kea can do maths? Yes – it turns out that kea are pretty good at basic mathematical statistics – especially when it comes to calculating the odds of getting the reward they … Continue reading Kea demonstrate their maths skills
Home gardens collectively make up a big chunk of the total green space in our cities, which means they have huge potential to support urban diversity. So how do we encourage more people to become wildlife gardeners? University of Otago researchers Yolanda van Heezik, Claire Freeman, Katherine Davidson and Blake Lewis invited residents of two … Continue reading Otago researchers look at uptake of wildlife gardening
Yellow-eyed penguins (YEPs) are endemic and endangered and the Otago population is declining with poor breeding seasons and high adult mortality. But YEPs live in the sub-Antarctic too. Somewhere between 37% and 49% of the total YEP breeding population are thought to breed in the Auckland Islands for example – especially on Enderby Island. So … Continue reading Checking up on the other yellow-eyed penguins
How old can an old bird get? It depends on the species of course and the risks of predation and starvation and all the other hazards of a life lived wild. But assuming a bird lives to its ‘full term’ potential, what is ‘old’ in bird lifespans? Parrots are often long-lived. Kakapo are believed to … Continue reading Oystercatcher on Mokau Estuary reaches venerable old age
Cautious rats – bait shy and trap shy – are a problem worldwide and researchers at the University of Liverpool, UK have been looking at other ways to attract rats into bait or trap boxes. So far the research has only been carried out on lab rats and still needs to be tested in the … Continue reading Liverpool researchers study rat audio lures
The conservation decisions we make today will have an impact for millions of years! That’s the conclusion of authors Luis Valente, Rampal Etienne and Juan Garcia, who use New Zealand’s unique bird species as an example of the macroevolutionary impact of humans, in an article recently published in Current Biology. So why did this team … Continue reading Human impact on NZ birds measured in millions of years
The Ashburton/Hakatere River mouth in Mid Canterbury is a nesting site for large colonies of black-billed gulls and white-fronted terns and proved an ideal study site for testing the bird census capabilities of an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) compared to more traditional bird count methods. When the results came in, the researchers made a bonus … Continue reading Drone technology offers low impact method for seabird census
The rūrū is Aotearoa’s last remaining native owl. It’s not considered a threatened species. In fact, it’s reasonably common and widespread, especially in forested parts of the North Island and western South Island. But rūrū do tend to nest in tree cavities, which puts females at risk from introduced mammal predators. That’s a good reason … Continue reading Researchers tackle challenge of monitoring rūrū
Why are some native species so much harder to save? Kelly Hare et al have called them the ‘intractable species’ and investigate why they continue to flounder even with rigorous conservation efforts in some cases. The authors look at 7 case studies to try and identify what’s going on and what else we might need … Continue reading ‘Intractable species’ prove a challenge for conservation
Achieving Predator Free 2050 goals will take more than just a scaling-up of eradication efforts according to researchers Duane Peltzer et al from Landcare Research (Lincoln) and the University of Canterbury. They look beyond economic and technological feasibility to identify the key impediments we need to overcome, in a paper recently published in the Journal … Continue reading Identifying impediments to PF goals
Maungatautari Ecosanctuary is overflowing with tūī. They’re spilling over the predator proof fence into the surrounding community, according to an article just published in Notornis – the research journal of BirdsNZ. It’s great news for those who live near the sanctuary – especially those whose gardens include tūī favourites such as banksia, kōwhai and flowering … Continue reading Tūī spill out from Maungatautari
A survey of 71 islands in southern Fiordland in the summer of 2017, by researchers from Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa and the Department of Conservation, found forty breeding colonies of three petrel species spread across 35 of those 71 islands, according to a report just published in Notornis, the scientific journal published … Continue reading Researchers surprised by petrel numbers on ‘refuge’ islands
The ruru (morepork) is a predator – but it’s certainly not on the ‘predator-free’ hit list. Those slots are just for introduced mammal predators which haven’t co-evolved with our vulnerable native species. Ruru do prey on other native wildlife however, including endangered species, as a recent study carried out on Tiritiri Matangi Island reveals. Sarah … Continue reading Video camera study reveals rare birds in ruru diet
If you park up at the beach with a feed of fish and chips it can seem like red-billed gulls are common and thriving. But 52 years’ worth of observations and monitoring data from New Zealand’s biggest gull breeding colony on the Kaikoura Peninsula tells a somewhat different story. Mammal predators are part of that … Continue reading Kaikoura red-billed gull study reveals predator impacts over 52 years
City dwellers and urban lizard gardens could play a significant role in future skink and gecko conservation in New Zealand, according to research just published in the journal Landscape and Urban Planning. Turning part of your garden into some desirable reptile real estate could really make a difference. Researchers Christopher Woolley, Stephen Hartley, Rod Hitchmough, … Continue reading Future conservation role possible for urban lizard gardens
A male yellow-eyed penguin from Boulder Beach on the Otago Peninsula, recently became a video star for researchers Thomas Mattern, Michael McPherson, Ursula Ellenberg, Yolanda van Heezik and Philipp Seddon, who were investigating the use of high definition video loggers to study marine wildlife. Even the scientists were surprised by how much they could learn … Continue reading Video logger films at-sea foraging of yellow-eyed penguin
The little spotted kiwi (Apteryx owenii) was probably the most common kiwi species in Aotearoa/New Zealand in the mid-1800s. Now it’s our second rarest kiwi of the 5 kiwi species. Numbers plummeted last century and it had almost disappeared from the mainland by the mid-1900s. Then 5 birds were collected in 1912 and transferred to … Continue reading DOC and volunteers count kiwi on Tiritiri Matangi
When you think about roads and wildlife, the first thought that springs to mind is a collision with fatal consequences. But roads can impact wildlife in a whole range of ways and more evidence is needed on the most effective ways to mitigate those impacts. Lights at night, noise as a barrier to foraging, loss … Continue reading Road hazards for wildlife more than just a collision risk
Monitoring wildlife population densities in our ‘mainland island’ fenced sanctuaries is an important part of measuring sanctuary success and assessing the longterm costs and benefits of predator-exclusion fencing. Such fences don’t come cheap, after all. But finding and maintaining the funding, personnel and motivation for longterm monitoring projects can be a challenge. If specialist expertise … Continue reading Citizen science monitoring method outlined and tested
Let’s be honest – New Zealand’s wildlife is weird. There are alpine weta that can freeze and thaw, kiwi with their amazing sense of smell and mammal-like behaviour, booming kakapo, carnivorous snails – and then there are our bats. The closest relatives of our short-tailed bats live in tropical locations. Our little short-tailed bat is … Continue reading Hibernation or torpor? Understanding our weird and wonderful bats
Graeme Elliott has been studying our native birds for 45 years and using his knowledge we’ve put together an overview of how we can best protect our native birds in a mast year. The right tool for the job For him the message is clear, the main tool that can be used to reduce the … Continue reading How can we help native species in a mast year?
Urban landscapes are becoming recognised as important places of biodiversity. The concrete jungle can potentially be a great habitat for wildlife and having good biodiversity in our cities allows urban-dwellers to interact with nature in their daily lives. So how does New Zealand’s largest city stack up in the biodiversity stakes? Todd Landers, Samuel Hill, … Continue reading Auckland’s bird biodiversity revealed
Thermal squeeze: it’s what happens when temperatures rise, predators spread out to higher altitudes and their vulnerable prey species are squeezed into less-than-ideal pocket habitats at the outside edges of their range. Like most predicted consequences of climate change, it’s not good news. So will it happen to New Zealand species? If so, what species … Continue reading Thermal squeeze could put pressure on native wildlife
Translocations have been an important part of North Island kōkako population recovery, but when you’re obtaining your founding birds from small relict populations it’s important to maintain and even improve genetic diversity. University of Otago Zoology Masters graduate Meghan Milner-Jones studied the genetics of kōkako in her 2018 Masters thesis, available online through ‘OUR Archive’. … Continue reading Kōkako genetics investigated
The kākāpō population is outgrowing its island refuge – but where might future kākāpō live? In a predator free future, the answer could include protected mainland sites provided there are sites that are big enough, safe enough and with the right kind of habitat for kakapo to thrive. If those likely sites can be identified … Continue reading Study seeks future homes for kākāpō
A 22-year study in Tongariro Forest has followed 142 radio-tagged North Island brown kiwi through 4 landscape-scale aerial 1080 operations, covering an area of 20,000 hectares. Not only did all 142 kiwi survive the 1080 drops, but the long-term study reveals a swag of other interesting information on kiwi chick survival and fantail nesting success … Continue reading Long-range study follows kiwi for 22 years
An ambitious 5-year project to map the birds of New Zealand across every part of New Zealand was launched at Queen’s Birthday weekend. It’s called the New Zealand Bird Atlas and organisers are hoping to involve as many New Zealanders as possible in spotting, counting and recording the birds they see – be it at … Continue reading New Zealand Bird Atlas project launched
Recently there have been several research projects looking at predators in the alpine environments of the South Island. It’s a completely different ecosystem to the much-studied lowland forest systems and there’s still a lot to be learnt about the key predator threats to our alpine species and how best to address those threats. In his … Continue reading Latest research from Otago University and DOC investigates rock wren and 1080
The interaction between habitat restoration and predator control is a topic of great interest to us at Predator Free NZ Trust. In 2017 Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research created a series of info-graphics that looked at just that. Focusing on the Cape to City Project, they asked what do bird populations need to thrive? They identified … Continue reading What do bird populations need to thrive?
Rats are bad news for nesting birds – but quantifying exactly how rat density relates to nesting success of our smallest and rarest birds is difficult for a number of reasons. They’re rare – so there’s not a lot of them to study; they are likely to live in remote locations making observation difficult and … Continue reading Nesting fantails balance predators and weather risks
Our native skinks and geckos have evolved with predators that rely on eyesight to spot them – predatory birds, other lizards and tuatara. For a lizard, having camouflage skin and standing very, very still is a great defence if something bigger is trying to see you – not so great, however, if your predator is … Continue reading Flee or freeze – lizard responses to new mammal predators investigated
Weka are omnivores with a curiosity for anything new, which makes them vulnerable to 1080 poison. They’re known to swallow the types of pellets used in 1080 operations and for that reason, learning more about the costs and benefits to weka has been a recent research priority. Department of Conservation scientists Joris Tinnemans et al, … Continue reading Weka and 1080 – costs and benefits assessed
Insects get eaten too. Scientists have reported that invertebrates have been found in 10-30% of cat guts and scats in the Mackenzie Basin, suggesting high country invertebrates, including some rare endemic grasshoppers, could be vulnerable to introduced mammal predators. Christchurch-based researchers, Jennifer Schori, Richard Maloney, Tammy Steeves and Tara Murray investigate whether reducing mammal predators … Continue reading Insects get eaten too – so does predator control help grasshoppers?
Sometimes ‘old’ just can’t be beat! That certainly seems to be the case for old forest remnants, at least as far as our indigenous insects are concerned, according to research recently published in the New Zealand Journal of Ecology. Urban gardens can be full of plant variety and buzzing with insects. But take a closer … Continue reading Old forest remnant shows its worth
Predator control in kea habitat is mostly by aerial 1080 – and some kea are known to have died from eating the bait. It’s not an outcome that anyone wants to see. So what are the risk factors? What might be done to mitigate those risks and why do leading conservationists, including kea experts, think … Continue reading Kea survival during aerial 1080 – identifying the risks
Most wild birds and animals don’t survive long if they go blind. Not so, our kiwi. The discovery of otherwise healthy, but blind wild kiwi living successfully on the South Island’s West Coast has revealed just how little kiwi rely on their visual senses. For kiwi, it’s all about smell, hearing and vibration. Most birds … Continue reading Blindness no big deal for Okarito wild kiwi
Not only do kea nest on the ground, but it takes about 4 months from egg-laying until kea chicks fledge. Four months is a long time to be sitting on the ground facing off the local stoats. Kea eggs, chicks and even adult incubating females are very vulnerable to predation. Aerial application of 1080 can … Continue reading Kea and 1080 – nesting success demonstrated
Researchers from the University of Otago and Department of Conservation have been investigating how to improve the plight of our endangered black-fronted terns in research recently published in the New Zealand Journal of Ecology. Traps, bait stations and a Komatsu bulldozer can all help make riverbed nest-sites safer. But one key predator was still undeterred … Continue reading Clearing river islands may help nesting terns
New Zealand’s regional councils have just released a ‘think piece’ on the future of biodiversity management in New Zealand. “Our native flora and fauna is a taonga that does much to define us as a nation. It’s also under threat, and we are losing ground in many cases. This timely thinkpiece suggests how we could … Continue reading Regional Councils tackle biodiversity challenge
Suburban gardens, city parks, reserves and thoughtfully planted urban spaces can mean that our cities are surprisingly diverse in plants and habitats. But so far reintroductions of native species have been restricted to islands, fenced sanctuaries and remote habitats. If there’s a sanctuary close to your suburb, like Zealandia for example, you may reap the … Continue reading Urban reintroductions – going wild in city spaces
The research happened a decade ago now – this paper was published back in 2008 – but how many people have even heard of the large, carnivorous Mercury Island tusked weta (Motuweta isolata), let alone the extraordinary story of its step back from the cliff-face of extinction? Despite its large size (adult body length 46–73 … Continue reading How a tusked, carnivorous weta was saved
Conservation articles can be full of doom and gloom and struggle. But what about the success stories out there? An article just published online in the Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand looks at 7 conservation success stories from the last 30 years. But first of all, how do you define a conservation … Continue reading Identifying the success stories in conservation
Statistics are a whole lot more than just a bunch of numbers. They can tell a story. They can paint a picture – and sometimes that picture just isn’t pretty. Take for instance, some of the statistics revealed in ‘Our Land 2018’, a report jointly prepared by the Ministry for the Environment and Stats NZ. … Continue reading ‘Our Land’ statistics paint a stark picture
In research just published in international ornithology journal Ibis, Department of Conservation scientist Kerry Anne Weston, Colin O’Donnell, Paul van Dam-Bates and Joanne Monks investigated the impact of introduced mammalian predators in our little-studied alpine region. Their study revealed that stoats and house mice are the 2 introduced predators having the most impact on New … Continue reading Stoats and mice top rockwren predator list
We’ve a lot still to learn about our lizards. In some of the remoter parts of Aotearoa/New Zealand, new species of skinks and geckos are being discovered even today and the role of our reptiles in the wellbeing of the wider ecosystem has not been widely investigated. A recent article by Debra M. Wotton et … Continue reading Seed-spreading role of lizards investigated
Passerines are songbirds which can perch. More than half of all bird species are passerines and many of those found in Aotearoa/New Zealand are unique. Some, such as the South Island saddleback, South Island robin and mohua also have a few other attributes in common: they’re rare, very vulnerable to stoats and are relatively poor … Continue reading Poor fliers reluctant to cross water
Not every species can be saved by moving it to a predator free island. It has helped the black robin – but it won’t help the black-fronted tern. Islands simply don’t have the habitat that the terns need to breed. Black-fronted terns have a small, declining population and are classified as globally endangered. Predation is … Continue reading No sanctuary option for terns
When it comes to predation risks, it helps if you’re big and have attitude – especially if your breeding colony is on the mainland. Westland Petrels are both big and feisty and appear to be able to cope with some of our more common introduced villains. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re not at risk. … Continue reading Feisty petrels still at risk from predators
How much trapping does it take to make a difference? Sometimes even a small difference can make all the difference to a species that is at a borderline point for sustaining its population. In a recent edition of the New Zealand Ornithological Society’s journal Notornis, DOC scientists Jane Tansell, Hannah Edmonds and Hugh Robertson reported … Continue reading Takahe protection benefits the neighbours
When possums live in an urban landscape, their fondness for fruit, flowers and foliage quickly makes then unpopular with gardeners. They can be noisy on the roof at night too. But the impact they’re having on local birdlife may not be quite so obvious. Well fed on apples and roses, urban possums may or may … Continue reading Urban possums – it’s not just about the roses
As kaka become a more familiar part of everyday suburban lives in some parts of New Zealand, the city-living parrots are also attracting the attention of researchers interested in the parrot/urban mix. How well are urban kaka learning to adapt to city life and what might be some city threats that they face? Researchers from … Continue reading Urban kaka – how are they adapting to city life?
Kakariki, our native parakeets mostly nest in holes in trees, where the female incubates the eggs for around 3-4 weeks. That makes female kakariki, as well as the young, particularly vulnerable to predators and could potentially lead to a male bias in the adult population. Red-crowned kakariki are now only common on predator-free islands and … Continue reading Predators vs Parakeets
Before humans arrived, 78% of Aotearoa was covered in native podocarp forest. In the 700 years since we got here, 60% of that forest has gone. The good news is that at least some of our native species are managing to make do in the blocks of exotic forestry plantations that now cover approximately 7% … Continue reading Falcons learn to live an ‘exotic’ life
Birds can spend a significant portion of their lives at roosting sites – up to two thirds of their time – so it makes sense that suitable sites are important to them. With translocation being a key strategy in rare species management, it would be good to know what features our bird species value in … Continue reading What makes a great kiwi burrow?
Weka are largish, robust-looking and with a keen curiosity that suggests they’re no birdbrains. They’re also opportunist pilferers if there’s chook food around or even leftovers in the dog’s bowl. They’re tough enough that in some cases they’ve had to be eradicated from offshore islands because of their predation on more vulnerable native birds. So … Continue reading Weka are tough – but are they tough enough?
Blue ducks (whio) live in both the North and South Island – they’re isolated by distance, but how isolated are they genetically? Physically there are visual differences – the South Island whio is larger, for example. But just how deep do those differences go? Genetic difference matters when it comes to conservation management – especially … Continue reading Blue ducks – how different is ‘different’?
Kea numbers are decreasing. Nesting adult females, their eggs and chicks are highly at risk from mammal predators. But are there other, invisible risks too? Extinction risk isn’t simply a numbers game – it’s not just the population size of a species that indicates whether it’s at risk of becoming extinct. It’s also the genetic … Continue reading Genetic diversity – what do we know about kea?
Kiwi call counts are an important monitoring tool in kiwi recovery projects, but just how accurate are they? The time of night you choose, the weather, the season and other environmental factors can all potentially affect kiwi calling and best practice recommendations have been formulated to reflect this to some extent. So how much influence … Continue reading Study investigates kiwi call count parameters
We’ve got a pretty good idea of the damage being done to our native wildlife by introduced predators, but when it comes to introduced diseases, there has been little research done on the impact those diseases might be having. Take, for example, the parasitic disease avian malaria. Like human malaria, avian malaria is a mosquito-borne … Continue reading Avian malaria – is it a threat?
As our only native land mammal, bats are both vulnerable to introduced mammal predators and potentially vulnerable to the methods used to control those predators. It is critically important therefore, that any ‘collateral’ harm done by the control method is significantly less than the damage that would have been done by the predators that are … Continue reading Long-term study reveals bat response to predator control
When planning began for Maungatautari Ecological Island Sanctuary, no-one knew that a population of New Zealand’s endemic Hochstetter’s Frog lived within the sanctuary’s planned fenceline. For once, one of our threatened species was in the right placed at the right time and it’s discovery was an exciting surprise… Hochstetter’s Frog is classified as ‘At risk … Continue reading Serendipity helps Hochstetter’s Frogs
If you want to measure the abundance of birds in a forest you can count how many you see or record the birdsong you hear. But how do you monitor whether your predator control is increasing invertebrate diversity? As some of our larger invertebrates such as tree weta and stick insects are likely to be … Continue reading Frass drop – finding clues from the poos
‘Raptors vs aliens’ – it sounds like the latest Hollywood blockbuster, but it’s actually the title of a paper published in the NZ Journal of Zoology at the end of last year. Written by NZ Landcare Research scientists A.S. Glen and R.P. Pech, along with two Australian authors, the research investigates the complex relationship between … Continue reading Raptors vs aliens – might it work?