Checking in with Kahurangi National Park’s newest residents

Department of Conservation —  10/05/2018

It’s now a little over six weeks since the first 18 takahē took flight (so to speak) to their new home on the Heaphy Track in Kahurangi National Park. Takahē Advocacy Ranger Julie Harvey updates us on how the birds are settling in.

Our Kākāpō/Takahē Operations Team have been keeping a close eye our newest wild population, taking shifts and catching up with the birds on a regular basis.

Since each bird wears a transmitter, the rangers have been able to track them to their new haunts, gauge their condition and see how they are behaving. So far, so good – the Takahē Team are feeling encouraged by how well the birds appear to be settling in.

Monitoring has shown that, for the most part, the birds have not ventured too far from their release site. Image: DOC


Exploring their new home

Monitoring has shown that, for the most part, the birds have not ventured too far from their release site, except for a couple of family groups scoping out what will hopefully become the boundaries of their new breeding territories.

This is a good sign. If the birds had all dispersed in different directions and left the tussock grasslands of Gouland Downs, it would make it more challenging to successfully establish a new functioning population there. Thankfully, so far it appears the birds agree with the team on the suitability of their new home.

Taco exploring his new home at Kahurangi National Park. Image: DOC

It’s not just rangers that have been catching up with the new residents – many trampers have reported hearing takahē calling across the Downs. Hyde and Tametame, true to their adventurous nature, have claimed part of the Heaphy Track as their new territory and have been sighted regularly.

It’s really exciting that members of the public have the opportunity to see these iconic birds in their natural habitat. Further pairs appear to be settling around a couple of the huts, giving people more opportunity to see takahē in the wild.

Eating well

The team have observed a good amount of feeding sign (takahē pull out lots of leaves and just eat the juicy ends and discard the rest) on a variety of plant species. What is really promising is they are eating some species that the team identified as good edible plants, such as Gahina, that the birds have never encountered before.

Just to make sure no one’s going hungry the rangers have also been tempting the birds with the old sound cues from feed out at their previous home at the Burwood Takahē Centre. They do this by rattling containers of pellets, which were specially designed to supplement their diet at Burwood, and flipping the lids on the pellet dispensers. The generally food-driven characters are showing very little interest – a reassuring sign they are getting enough food from their new home, unregulated by fences.

Kahurangi National Park is now home to 30 wild takahē after a further 12 birds were released into the park. Image: Jake Osborne


And looking good

When takahē are under stress they generally lose weight quite quickly. To avoid disturbing the birds for weight checks the rangers have been using visual observations to determine their condition. So far the team are happy to report that the birds are exhibiting normal behaviours, appear in good body shape and have bright glossy feathers.

More takahē released

From these positive monitoring results the team was confident about releasing a second wave of takahē into the Gouland Downs area.

Last week the remaining 12 founder birds were transferred from Burwood and released, joining the original 18. This brings the Kahurangi takahē population up to 30 individuals including 7 pairs, one single adult, and 15 sub-adults (1-3 years of age).

Despite a very encouraging start, success is not yet guaranteed. It is not until the takahē survive the winter and successfully raise chicks that we can deem the site suitable. The next major step is observing takahē nesting in spring – a sight that the Takahē Team is eagerly awaiting.

So, if you are heading out on the Heaphy Track, keep your eyes peeled for the takahē stalking through the tussock grasslands. For the mountain bikers, please be mindful you might be sharing the track with this endangered species.

Thank you to everyone for your wonderful support so far, and please visit the website to sponsor your favourite Kahurangi takahē.

Until next time,

The Takahē Recovery Team