By Stefan Sebregts, DOC Visitor/Historic Ranger, North Head
Oh, the joys of being on duty…
Last night, I was woken up by the beeping of my pager.
Calling the DOC hotline (DOCHOT) the woman on the phone said: ‘Oh you’re gonna like this one’.
Well, bring it on I thought.
DOCHOT had received a call from the South Auckland Police, who had received a call from a guy in Papakura, who had picked up a ‘kiwibird’ on the side of the road.
Now that got my blood flow going—all my sleepiness was instantly gone. Kiwi in Papakura!
So, I gave the guy who had rang the Police a call and, with his very broken English, tried to communicate about the animal in question.
I tried asking how long its beak was, to which the initial reply was one metre, but corrected in the background to eight centimetres.
Hmm, could be…
Colour… yes, brown.
Body shape… yes, rounded stubby…
Well then, shall I call the Bird Rescue Centre? Maybe not yet. Let’s see if they can take a photograph and email it to me.
So, after another five minutes or so trying to get him to understand my email address, I receive the following.
Wait for it…
Scroll down some more…
I resumed my much needed sleep with a grin on my face, knowing about this new kiwibird species in Papakura…
Unlike our national icon, hedgehogs have a huge impact upon the New Zealand environment, the extent of which is only recently beginning to be understood.
Things we know:
Hedgehogs are proven to be a major predator on eggs of riverbed breeding birds such as banded dotterel and black-fronted tern, and have been known to kill and eat chicks of a variety of ground-nesting birds.
In the MacKenzie Basin (South Island), hedgehogs have been found to be responsible for one in five predator attacks on nests.
Hedgehogs have a voracious appetite for invertebrates and take many local endemic species. They are known to eat the rare giant native centipede and a number of other rare insects.
One hedgehog was found with 283 weta legs in its stomach!
They have been known to eat the native snail Wainuia urnula. Lowland populations of Powelliphanta snails may also be severely affected, particularly the Patarau and Otaki sub-species. Only smaller (juvenile) snails are eaten, but this severely affects recruitment and population recovery.
Hedgehogs also prey upon lizards, particularly in cooler periods when lizard activity slows. Skinks are particularly at risk.
It is possible that hedgehogs also prey on endemic frog species, as they are known to take introduced frogs and their range overlaps with some New Zealand frog species.
Don’t mistake a hedgehog for a kiwi! Take DOC’s free online bird identification training course.