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