Kokako nesting news.

I have been watching a kokako nest. It’s a rare privilege, kokako are an endangered species and none more so than our local population. Their hauntingly beautiful song is in danger of being lost from our hills.

If you’ve been following my blog for some time, you’ll know that last August the Manawahe Kokako Trust were lucky enough to receive a gift of 3 pairs of kokako from a neighbouring site to help stop the decline of our local birds. The plan is for the new birds to breed and their progeny to integrate into our population to add some much needed genetic diversity.

©Neil Robert Hutton _ 13 MKT translocation
Translocated kokako. You can see part of the transmitter peeking out under the feathers.       Photo by Neil Hutton.

The new birds have transmitters on, which makes them and their nests easier to find. (You can read how hard it is to find nests without transmitters here.) On the 28th of December, Greg our bird watcher found one of the new birds, Kara sitting on a nest. When I say found, what I mean is, her transmitter showed her sitting for a prolonged period at the top of a mamaku, tree fern.

Kokako don’t sit around for long as a rule. They’re browsers, wandering through the forest to feed on fruit, leaves and sometimes insects. On hot afternoons they may siesta for a while but generally they’re movers.

The fern is tall and you can’t see into the top so it takes patience to confirm it as a nest site. Hours of sitting, staring and recording bird movements is the only way.

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Mamaku, tree fern with the nest out of site in the basin at the top.

The nest is a 40 minute walk from home but the rewards of watching more than make up for it. My first watches indicated eggs were being incubated. Kara sat and every hour or so, Ponga the male would call her. She would leave the nest to feed for a few minutes then return. I tried to photograph her but she’s sneaky and after leaving, returned a different way.

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Following the track to the nest site.
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A more accommodating bird, the tomtit, miromiro.

Yesterday, it was evident chick(s) have hatched. The nest was visited every 20 to 30 minutes. Ponga is working very hard to feed them. There was much chatter whenever he arrived at the nest but he sneaked in and out silently and if I wasn’t vigilant, I would have missed him. I managed to snap off this shot in a hurry, a nice clear look at his ID bands if nothing else.

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Ponga sneaking into the nest to feed the chicks. The bands on his right leg confirm his identity.

The chicks will fledge in about a month. Until then the nest is vulnerable to predation by rats, possums, stoats, ferrets, weasels, hawks (kahu) and falcons (karearea). We have done what we can to keep them safe, filled the bait stations and put a self resetting trap nearby. The odds are hopefully in the kokako’s favour. I’ll keep watching. Maybe I’ll get a look at them.

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An automatic trap, resets itself after a catch. 
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Sustenance on the walk.

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