This week’s post is the first in a series to look at some Kapiti Islandtakahē who have flown the nest. Well, not really, they’re too fat to fly, but Air New Zealand helps out with that.
Secrets and scandals
Some real characters have set forth from Kapiti Island. One handsome takahē called Te Mingi caused quite a stir when he arrived at Tiritiri Matangi Island in 2010. He was meant to pair up with a hot chick called Ella, but instead her mother, Cheesecake, took a fancy to him.
Takahē chick with mum
Greg, Cheesecake’s husband, duelled with Te Mingi for his honour, but in the end Greg got a thrashing and Cheesecake and Te Mingi moved in together.
The happy couple have gone on to have three surviving babies – Wal, Westie, and a chick born in December who has yet to be named.
Breeding success of takahē in the wild is quite low so intervention methods, such as removal of infertile eggs from nests, and fostering out ‘extra’ eggs, have been used to manage takahē populations.
This work is done as part of the Takahē Recovery Programme supported by Mitre 10 Takahē Rescue in partnership with DOC. In particular, Vince Indo and his team at Mitre 10 Mega Paraparaumu have been awesome with their support of Kapiti Island and its takahē inhabitants.
Although takahē were never originally on Kapiti Island, a population was established there in case anything happened to the wild birds in the Murchison Mountains.
Kapiti, Tiritiri Matangi, Maud, Mana and Motutapu Islands, along with valuable protected mainland sites like the Burwood Takahē Rearing Unit, Cape Sanctuary and Maungatautari Ecological Island, all help secure the stability of takahē numbers.
Because there are so few takahē (about 260), the birds are moved between different breeding sites to increase genetic diversity and decrease the chance of inbreeding.
When takahē are translocated they’re put in a special Mitre 10 Takahe Rescue transfer box and get their very own seat on an Air New Zealand flight
When takahē are translocated they’re put in a special Mitre 10 Takahe Rescue transfer box and get their very own seat on an Air New Zealand flight.
The human passengers can take a peek and there might be an announcement about the special traveller – this is celebrity status, New Zealand-style.
Kapiti Island retains three breeding pairs and any chicks born there go on to be takahē superstars elsewhere in the country; it can be hard to say goodbye but Kapiti Coasters should be proud.
Takahē couples begin breeding in spring; the female usually lays two speckled eggs and takes turns with her mate to keep them warm.
Super-cute takahē chicks covered in black fuzz hatch after 30 days incubation but they can’t look after themselves yet.
After about three months of copying their parents they gradually learn skills for independence, then finally leave home when they’re one or two years old.
Te Mingi and Cheesecake’s territory is the lighthouse/Visitor Centre area of Tiritiri Matangi Open Sanctuary, north of Auckland.
Te Mingi is very comfortable with people so perhaps is the most famous takahē on that island these days – sounds like destiny for a takahe from Kapiti.
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.
Last month, Mitre 10 MEGA Petone teamed up with DOC to host the first annual “Ladies for Takahē” night. With over 400 ladies present, the evening was a lot of fun, and helped raise money and awareness for the DOC Takahē Recovery Programme.
Ladies flocked to the store after-hours to visit various themed booths, including: takahē conservation information, DIY demos, gardening tips, pin-the-beak on the takahē, a mini manicure station, a chocolate fondue and cheese tasting booth, forklift driving lessons, paintball activities, a sausage sizzle and more.
Wild critters at Mitre 10 Mega Petone.
Tark the takahē striking a pose
Tark the takahē particularly enjoyed meeting Levi. However, he waddled as fast as possible past the ‘Pin-the-beak on the takahē’ competition to avoid getting pricked!
At the DOC stall, the ladies learned all about Mitre 10 Takahē Rescue and the Department of Conservation Takahē Recovery Programme.
Their knowledge was tested when they completed a brief quiz. Six winners were drawn from the pile of completed takahē quizzes to receive free family passes to Zealandia to visit the local takahē residents, Puffin and T2.
Amy Brasch pinning the nose on the takahē
Participants also learnt that Wellington has two safe sites for takahē to call home—on Kapiti and Mana Islands. These offshore islands are two of five pest-free islands around New Zealand where takahē can breed safely without the threat of predation.
“Mitre 10 MEGA Petone knows how to attract the ladies—what a well attended event!
“It was great to interact with the women and make the connection to the local takahē on Kapiti Island, Mana Island, Mt. Bruce and Zealandia,” said Janna Kostus, DOC Community Partnerships Coordinator.
It is amazing to think that just 65 years ago takahē were so rare that people assumed they were extinct. It’s through conservation efforts, like the DOC Takahē Recovery Programme, that takahē were saved from extinction.
But, takahē still need our help! There are only 260 alive today, which is why Tark is so happy that Mitre 10 MEGA, Zealandia and the lovely ladies of Wellington supported the work of the Takahē Recovery Programme.