Archives For kaki

By DOC Ranger, Cody Thyne

As a ranger based in Twizel the main part of my job is supporting the Kakī Recovery Programme.

Kakī/black stilts are one of New Zealand’s rarest birds and the mission of the Kakī Recovery Programme is to increase their population in the wild and ensure this special bird is not lost for future generations.

Kakī/black stilt. Photo: Mike Robb.

Kakī/black stilt

As part of a small team of four permanent and a few seasonal staff, my responsibilities involve managing kakī in the wild. This includes counting how many adults are out there; traipsing up and down numerous braided rivers in the Mackenzie Basin searching for breeding pairs; observing and interpreting behaviour; finding their nests; reading leg bands; and collecting eggs from the wild to bring back to the captive rearing facility in Twizel.

Holding a kakī chick with Jazz the conservation dog in the background.

Kakī chick found thanks to Jazz the conservation dog

Walking up and down large braided rivers isn’t for everyone, particularly if you don’t like uneven ground, stumbling around, getting your feet and other body parts wet, super hot days with no shade, howling winds, abrupt temperature changes, long periods of time staring through a spotting scope with one eye, and your lunchtime sandwiches turning to toast upon being exposed to the dry alpine air. However, the alpine views are breathtaking, and the chance to see wildlife that manages to scrape out a living in this environment, is definitely worth a trip to this part of the country.

Rangers banding a kaki chick.

Rangers from the Kakī Recovery Programme banding a 30 day old chick

The eggs I collect are brought back to the captive rearing facility in Twizel which is also home to a number of kakī pairs for captive breeding.

The facility is where kakī eggs are artificially incubated and the young chicks are raised in captivity.

At 3–9 months they are released into the wild. Rearing them in captivity significantly increases their chances of survival by preventing predation when they are most vulnerable and it also gets them through their first winter, which can be tough for young birds in the wild.

Nick Tomalin was a volunteer with at the captive rearing facility last summer while on sabbatical from The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds in the United Kingdom.

Nick’s help was hugely appreciated at the busiest time of the year, and he managed to film a great short video about the work that goes on at the facility.

Watch Nick’s video of an average day in the life of a kakī aviculturalist:

You can keep up to date with the work of the Kakī Recovery Programme on Facebook and on the DOC website.

By DOC’s Kiersten McKinley, based in South Canterbury

Fingers went numb and noses turned bright red as DOC staff caught kakī/black stilts this morning. It was the first fine day after a southerly blast and the birds were off on an adventure!

Nine staff were needed to catch 43 sub-adult kakī from the Captive Breeding Centre aviaries located in Twizel. The birds were being released today into the Tasman Riverbed near Lake Pukaki – but first they had to be caught!

A DOC ranger removes a kakī caught in a net.

A DOC ranger carefully extracts one of the sub-adult kaki from a net

Armed with large soft nets and a slow, purposeful stride each ranger waited patiently for a young bird to rest on the aviary floor. It’s unhurried and cautious work – one fast or sudden move and these fragile birds could end up with a serious injury. Some of the birds managed to get their bills poked through the soft capture nets so another ranger was flagged to assist in the delicate extraction operation. The long, slender bill of a kakī actually has tiny, fine serrations on it which makes it fabulous for getting caught in nets!

Two kakī are held before being transported and released.

Smiles all round – these kaki look to be in good hands!

Once caught each bird underwent a thorough health check and was carefully weighed. A sub-adult bird is nine months of age and the majority of birds weighed around 200 grams – less than half a tub of margarine! What they lack in weight though they more than make up for in spirit. These are feisty birds and they were certainly ready to spread their wings!

DOC Ranger Liz Brown moving a kakī.

DOC Aviaculturist Liz Brown spends a lot of time looking after the kakī

All the kakī were placed into sturdy plywood boxes and then transported to the release site where they were set free by local school children and interested members of the public.

School students releasing kakī into the wild.

The kakī are released into the wild.


Take part in a kakī release:

Two kakī releases are scheduled every year around August or September. If you would like to attend the next one email DOC Ranger Cody Thyne. It’s a wonderful experience and a chance to see these rare birds up close.

Come behind the scenes and into the jobs, the challenges, the highlights, and the personalities of the people who work at the Department of Conservation (DOC).

Today we profile Glen Curral, Biodiversity/Assets Ranger in Twizel.

Glen Currall on a quad bike while working in the Tasman Valley.

Trapping in the Tasman Valley on a good day. And yes that is a winch on my quad

At work

Some things I do in my job include… trapping cats and mustelids etc. As time allows I get involved with electric fishing, kaki (black stilt) work, and anything else I can help with.

The best bit about my job is… working outdoors with views of Mt Cook, and the variety my role allows.

The funniest DOC moment I’ve had so far is… when I was in a hurry to get a block of traps checked ahead of the forecasted snow later that evening and the quad bike became stuck. And when I say stuck I mean it took me five hours of digging to get out. I kept myself motivated with the thought of avoiding the dreaded office shout and the shame that goes with it. What I didn’t know at the time was that my workmate trapping in the next block had got his quad stuck as well, but had to abandon it as there was no way he could dig it out on his own, so had legged it back to the truck. I guess you could say it was just one of those days. The upside was the forecasted snow never came so we were able to winch out his quad the next day.

Rangers holding kaki boxes ready for release.

Kaki release near Lake Tekapo

The DOC (or previous DOC) employee that inspires or enthuses me most is… as I haven’t been with the department for that long I am yet to meet this person.

On a personal note…

The song that always cheers me up is… definitely Bob Marley “Three Little Birds”.

My best ever holiday was… recently when my partner Melanie and I travelled to Canada, Austria, Germany, Italy, Denmark, England, France, and for the grand finale, two days at Disney Land, LA. I’m still in that place where you think about it every day and smile. It was such an awesome experience that I can’t wait to travel again.

Glen holding a brown trout by the Lewis River.

A solid Lewis River brown taken on the dry fly

My greatest sporting moment was when… I ran the length of the field side stepping and fending off players to score under the posts in a high school rugby match at the tender age of 14. When I walked off the field at the end of the game, one of the 1st fifteen boys said, “You looked like John Kirwan the way you scored that try”. I was stoked.

Glen changing a GPS tracking collar on a feral cat.

Changing a GPS tracking collar on a feral cat. I play the role of chief cat wrestler, which has it’s share of exciting moments

In my spare time I… have just started down the long road of becoming a “Master bow hunter”. I am now consumed by how many game points I need to gain the next award. I see animals as points (rabbit 2, hare 5). You are probably thinking ‘Is this an illness?’ The short answer is yes. Damn you Rhys Garside! Lol.

If I could be any New Zealand native species I’d be… a Falcon, without question…. Just think: no boundaries, total freedom. That’s what I’m talking about.

A grizzly bear spotted by Glen.

A grizzly bear we were lucky enough to encounter near Lake Maligne, Jasper National Park. The wildlife for me was the highlight of our time in Canada