Takahē live interesting lives and, thanks to Biodiversity Ranger, Chris Birmingham, we’ve got our hands on the 2013 diary of one of the Maud Island locals. So, for your reading pleasure, may we present to you… A year in the life of Pitt, the matriarchal takahē’:
It’s January 2013. I feel it’s time to leave Roy. He’s a nice guy but I don’t think he’s fatherhood material.
We’ve been out here on the Peninsula now for a while, and he didn’t do a great job of incubating our eggs last year, and they failed to hatch. I can’t describe my disappointment when the rangers came and told me my egg had failed, and that I wouldn’t be a mother this year. Again! Poor genetics they said! Pffft! There is nothing wrong with my genes, it’s these men they keep trying to pair me up with! I have great Fiordland takahē genes!
Time to go. And besides, I miss the fig tree at the ranger’s house. Roy never really did like figs.
I love pinching figs from the ranger’s tree
Dear diary, now it’s February, I packed my bags under my wing and left Roy and moved back to Home Bay. When I got here I discovered a new pair of takahē had taken over my old stomping ground.
No, no, no, no, no this is not good enough! Don’t they understand the pecking order here? You can’t just arrive and expect to take up the best territory! It doesn’t work like that.
But wait….that Kowhai is quite a handsome bird isn’t he? Strong looking, cute, and from Burwood Bush too—my old home. He’s not the sharpest tool in the shed, but you can’t have it all I guess. Can’t say I like his girlfriend Harper much though, too clingy, he’d be much better off without her.
Dear diary, now it’s’ March. I knew it wouldn’t be hard to woo Kowhai away from Harper. She clearly underestimated the power and charm of an older woman. I saw her off with the help of my old nemeses from up the hill, The Captain and Rangi. Rangi might be in her twilight years now, but she still loves a good fracas! And they know me well enough to stay up the hill too! Now to make Kowhai mine for good!
Couple months later
Dear diary, it’s been a couple of months now since I lassoed Kowhai. I have taught him in the ways of the fig and the feijoa, and showed him how to get the most out of the rangers here on Maud. People are easy to train, takahē not so!
Winter’s coming, time to batten down the hatches and hunker down.
What do you think of my new hairstyle?
Several months later
Dear diary, it’s several months since my last entry. Things were so great for so long, now Kowhai is gone! Oh, woe is me! That strumpet Pango from over the hill came and stole him from me. Is this karma coming to burn me for taking him from Harper? Now she has paired up with Roy, and I am alone again. A girl could just cry. If takahē cried, of course.
One week later
Dear diary, it’s one week since Kowhai left. I am hoarse from calling for him, but I get no reply. He must have gone off to the other side of the island. I can’t even find consolation in food anymore.
Two weeks later
Dear diary, week two of flying solo. I was just about to steel myself and head over the hill to get Kowhai back from that wanton harlot, when who should turn up? Kowhai!
Seems Pango wasn’t half the woman I am! I was so pleased so to see him again, but I didn’t let on…too much. I let him know in no uncertain terms that if he did that again, the welcome mat wouldn’t be so welcoming next time. In fact, don’t bother coming back! But I love the way he grooms me, and runs around like a fool sometimes when he gets startled. This must be love?
Dear diary, we made it through winter and now it is spring. I am starting to feel ‘clucky’. Kowhai and I are taking turns chasing each other round the Lodge lawn. Spring is definitely in the air! I think it’s time to show Kowhai how to build a nest.
Dear diary, it’s late October now, we’ve been busy. Building a good nest takes time. Kowhai isn’t the most technically apt nest builder, but he more than makes up for lack of skill with enthusiasm!
And now, guess what!? I am sitting on an egg! A creamy little speckled orb of joy! I am so excited, and so is Kowhai. It’s his second go at incubating—he tells me had a go at Burwood but it didn’t work. Never mind, with some careful guidance from an old hand like me, we’ll get there! I have a good feeling about this year. It’s hard to believe I have been in this position many times before, but never enjoyed the thrill of raising my own chick.
Maud Island, the perfect place to be a takahē
Dear diary, It’s early November and today the ranger came and “candled” my egg. I hate this part, though I accept it’s all part of the process. I trust them implicitly with my egg so I stand up and let them take it out. I know they want it to hatch as badly as I do. They shine a torch through it and check for development in the embryo. I hear excited murmurs from them and soon my egg is placed carefully back under me. They know what I already do, it’s fertile! A mother always knows. I tuck the egg back under me and smugly drift off to sleep in my warm nest. Kowhai isn’t so sure and paces about outside. I reassure him with a few soft “narks”.
Dear diary, it’s mid November now, and today my egg internally pipped! My little chick has broken out if its internal membrane and is ready to start pecking its way out of the outer egg shell!
I call Kowhai over, this is the most exciting part of the whole process. I talk to it, encouraging it out of its dark calcium cocoon, it talks back, peeping away and struggling to break the outer shell with its’ cute little “egg tooth” on the end of its beak.
Over the next few hours it chips away until suddenly it breaks the whole end of the egg off and rolls out, a delicate little wet bundle of joy!
24 hours later
Dear diary, it’s been 24 hours now since our baby hatched. Kowhai and I are beside ourselves with happiness. I know the rangers are too, they knew when it would hatch and have come to listen for it. I can hear their joy when they hear it chirping away to me! I have kept it warm under me, letting it dry out and now it is a little ball of black fluff, squeaking away like crazy, so hungry, so curious to get out of the nest. Don’t be in such a hurry little one, the world will wait for you! Now the mammoth task of raising our chick begins, are you ready, Kowhai?
Dear Diary, I’ve been too busy raising my precious new chick to find time for my diary. Kowhai is coping being a new dad and our crazy, hungry, and now rather loud chick is getting big—I know what they mean now when they say they grow up so fast.
It has been a rough year of highs and lows, but having our new wee chick has bought a stunning end to 2013.
The takahē population on Mana Island have had a few new pairings formed over recent months, as a result of the sort of behaviour that could only be likened to an episode of “Days of our Lives” or “The Young and the Restless”.
Takahē home on Mana Island
While it is not always a good idea to anthropomorphise a wild animals behaviour, the antics of one of our recent immigrants does seem to warrant it.
McCaw (named when she hatched soon after the All Blacks won the 2011 Rugby World Cup) came to Mana Island from Maud Island in the Marlborough Sounds for an “arranged marriage” with one of our young lads.
McCaw spent three weeks in a large enclosure with her new suitor, Nohorua. They appeared to be getting along, but as it turned out she had other plans. The male from another pair that lived beside the enclosure had caught her eye. Within a couple of days of release McCaw left Nohorua, and used her youthful energy and good looks to split up the long established pairing of Kat and Santi.
McCaw and Santi the takahē are nesting
But like all good day time television dramas these heart breaking acts had a happy outcome for some; McCaw and Santi have just started nesting. Kat – after licking her wounds and shaking her tail feathers has landed herself a younger man in Hori. But what of the jilted Nohorua you ask? His quest to find the perfect match continues.
Our takahē are well into another breeding season, with nine pairs nesting. The first nests of the season have started to hatch so hopefully we get a reasonable run of weather to help the chicks establish.
Meeting a takahē
We had planned to do another egg transfer to Southland this year, but the birds had other plans. Our birds were a bit tardy in getting going while the southern “foster” pairs started earlier. The requirement for them to start around the same time was lost on the takahē, but at least they’re nesting!