Valuable research at Wingspan

Caraline Abbott —  28/03/2014

Wingspan National Bird of Prey Centre in Rotorua is well known for education and advocacy associated with New Zealand birds of prey, but less is known about their raptor research depository, which is a valuable resource for DOC’s work.

New Zealand falcon/kārearea. Photo courtesy: Wingspan.

New Zealand falcon/kārearea

From grassroots beginnings in the 1980’s, Wingspan is now recognised as New Zealand’s leading conservation, education and research organisation for birds of prey.

Recently, I was given a behind-the-scenes look at one of the lesser known areas of work at Wingspan Charitable Trust—the raptor research depository.

Raptor prey study skins used for pellet analysis and morphology studies.

Raptor prey study skins used for pellet analysis and morphology studies

Initiated in 2004, the depository contains ‘all things raptor related’ from eggs and pellets, to bones and study skins of both raptors and their prey.

Specimens are prepared on site, and the public are welcome to access the collection, although all artefacts must stay at the Centre.

Bird eggs contained in Wingspan’s research depository

Bird eggs contained in Wingspan’s research depository

Noel Hyde, Te Papa and Wingspan’s official preparator, believes that the depository underpins all work carried out at the Centre and is an invaluable source of information.

Noel Hyde with a collection of NZ falcon study skins.

Noel Hyde with a collection of NZ falcon study skins

Researchers from both Massey and Waikato University have accessed the specimens and used them for an array of tasks, from DNA analysis to identifying stomach contents.

NZ falcon chick, which may be used to help age wild specimens.

NZ falcon chick, which may be used to help age wild specimens

Collected feathers have been used to identify feathers used in korowai, aided veterinary work and are often used to repair damaged feathers on injured falcons, which are later released into the wild.

New Zealand falcon/kārearea.

New Zealand falcon/kārearea

Working with DOC

Wingspan enjoys DOC’s support and involvement and appreciates our help in granting permits for their work.

In return, their facilities to help identify causes of death, suspected predators, and pellet analysis—as well as their advice on general raptor related issues—is invaluable to DOC.

New Zealand falcon/kārearea chick.

New Zealand falcon/kārearea chick

Supporting kārearea

Wingspan supports wild kārearea populations directly by releasing captive bred falcons and rehabilitating injured wild birds. Through research and advocacy, Wingspan also supports long-term sustainable conservation action by identifying the reasons for the decline in wild populations and promoting action to reverse this.

People can visit the Centre to see birds of prey up close during interactive flying displays, hosted by the country’s leading experts.

Girl with New Zealand falcon/kārearea.

New Zealand falcon at Wingspan

A list of scientific papers, reports and technical articles published by Wingspan staff on birds of prey can also be found on their website:

Caraline Abbott


I'm an English-born Kiwi and have worked for DOC since 2013. I'm part of the partnerships team that works to build relationships with iwi, businesses and the wider community to grow conservation. I'm really luck y to live in a really interesting part of New Zealand with lots of geothermal warmth, rare geothermal vegetation and some threatened birds that are benefiting from the work of DOC and our partners.

One response to Valuable research at Wingspan


    Great work Wingspan. Education is so precious in developing support for conservation.