A Pycroft’s Petrels story…
By Vonny Sprey, resident DOC ranger on Motuora Island
In Early Days
Hi! I’m Py and this is my story. It’s short as have only been around since early December 2019, and I was a bit of an egg back then! My hatch date was during the last week of January 2020, so that makes me an Aquarius, which is a good sign for an ocean dwelling seabird.
I was laid and hatched right here on Motuora Island in the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park/Ko te Pātaka kai o Tīkapa Moana. A homebirth at burrow number 58, Pohutukawa Bay. Dad said that it’s a new development housing site since 2013, currently with 101 burrows.
Mum and Dad were re-housed here as chicks from Red Mercury Island in 2013 as part of a new colony initiative to protect our species. This is because there aren’t that many of us (Pycroft’s Petrels) and it is thought that we only breed on small offshore islands in New Zealand. A whopping 75% of us come from Red Mercury Island!
In the first wee while Mum or Dad were at home, but never together. Dad said it was because I ate too much and they needed to go further and further offshore to find fish and small squid for me. Especially as humans keep taking all the food and not leaving stuff on the shelf for everyone else.
Mum thought Dad could do some DIY to make the room a bit bigger. But I think they would just bicker, so that’s ok. They bring in leaves for me to play with that smell salty and exotic.
The Awkward Tweens
I have playmates like cockroaches and beetles and sometimes copper skinks which come to say “hi”. I know it’s not friendly behaviour, but sometimes I eat them. Mostly though, I just dream of my next meal.
Dinner is always takeaways, mainly regurgitated fish and squid slurry that Mum or Dad bring to me, an hour or so after sunset. But now that I’m a teenager I don’t get fed every second night anymore and sometimes it can take AGES between meals. Apparently, they’re off flying hundreds or even thousands of kilometres each trip. They tell me not to leave the burrow and as there are scary things out there that might eat me. Mostly I spend time preening and being grumpy when it just doesn’t turn out right.
It’s early April and Dad comes in and stays the whole day. He mumbles, “your Mum asked me to have a word with you”.
I can’t recall the detail, but it the conversation went something like this:
DAD: “It’s time you stretched your wings and legs. It’s ok to go outside the burrow and walk and flap around a bit, just at night though.
Meet the other kids. The chick at no. 22 has been out flapping about for a few days now, though it’s a bit precocious. Between you and I, one of its parents isn’t from the 2013-2015 original settlers, and product of a fly-by hook up.
Meet the locals. But don’t take any flying advice from kiwi and keep a lookout for ruru as they ate one of our other chicks while it was walking out last year.
Practise climbing one of the big trees.”
PY: “That’s awesome Dad, thanks! But why do I need to practise climbing trees?”
DAD: “Because we climb up to get above the branches so we can launch ourselves into the air and fly away. We don’t climb back down though – we just sort of crash land through the vegetation and hope we don’t end up with sticks up our —-. I suggest you aim for the soft leafy stuff.
And Junior, this is your last feed. Your mum has already left and I won’t be coming back and this will probably be the last time I see you. You need to slim down some and build up those muscles so you can leave home as well.”
PY: “But how do I fly, and where do I go, and where is the supermarket?”
DAD: “You will just know. Once you launch yourself into the air, flap like crazy. I found it helped to leave on a day with some sea breeze around. Just circle around and head North. I believe the phrase is “may the force be with you”. The sea is the supermarket, it is very big and all around you.You’ll be out at sea for around 2-3 years, but remember that this is your home and when the time comes and the urge takes you, come back here with the love of your life to make your Mum and I grandparents.“
Well, that left me wishing I had paid more attention during home-schooling classes. Like what is a tree, what is the sea, and where is the North Pacific Ocean, and what shelf do I find the squid and fish on…? Oh yes, hang on, I recall it was “over deep water and beyond the continental shelf.” HEY WAIT COME BACK I PROMISE I WILL LISTEN THIS TIME…..