Archives For Mitre 10

This week’s post is the first in a series to look at some Kapiti Island takahē 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.

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

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.

Pitt the takahē carry a fig in her beak.

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.

Pitt the takahē with ruffled feathers on her head.

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.

Late October

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.

A Mitre 10 Takahē Rescue box on Maud Island.

Maud Island, the perfect place to be a takahē

Early November

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”.

Mid November

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.

A young, black takahē chick.

A new takahē chick to end 2013!

By Amy Brasch

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.

The wild critters at Mitre 10 Mega Petone.

Wild critters at Mitre 10 Mega Petone.

Tark the takahē striking a pose.

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.

Amy Brasch pinning the nose on the takahē

Have you met Puffin and T2 yet? - posterParticipants 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.

The evening raised $775 to give to Takahē Rescue.

Today’s photo of the week is of a curious takahē making new friends during a sunny day at the beach.

This photo was taken by Peter Harrison at Tiritiri Matangi Island, a wildlife sanctuary and one of the most important conservation projects in the Auckland region.

Takahe at the beach on Tiritiri Matangi. Photo: Peter Harrison/flickr.

November marks the 65th anniversary of the rediscovery of the takahē in 1948. Previously takahē were assumed extinct but were rediscovered by Geoffrey Orbell near Lake Te Anau in the Murchison Mountains.

To celebrate this anniversary November has been chosen as Mitre 10 Takahē Rescue Month. To find out more about the planned celebrations visit the Mitre 10 Takahe Rescue Facebook page.

Related links:

By Phil Marsh, Takahe Site Liaison and Relationship Manager

Takahē may look like ‘big blue chooks’, but try catching one and you will discover they are much faster and can out manoeuvre the most skilled bird wrangler.

A takahē watches on Mana Island.

A takahē watching the proceedings with interest

Enter Mitre 10 Takahē Rescue and some keen volunteers, a special island and an opportunity to help this iconic and critically endangered bird.

Takahē are critically endangered, and there are only 54 breeding pairs of takahē held at safe sites—mostly predator-free islands. Mana Island is one of these, and Jeff Hall is the ranger with 10 pairs of takahē in his care.

To keep the takahē population genetically healthy, birds must regularly be shifted between breeding sites, and therein lies the challenge.

Mana Island’s re-vegetation programme is looking good, but it’s making it more difficult to corner the wily birds. In 2011 things came to a head when visiting takahē rangers failed to catch all of the birds required. A new strategy was needed and a plan was hatched. The result—a 10 metre by 10 metre capture pen filled with something that most takahē can’t resist… takahē pellets!

The takahē volunteer team on Mana Island.

The volunteer team of Kim, Michelle and David, and takahē capture pen

Building the pens needed materials and labour, which is where Mitre 10 Takahē Rescue came in. Mitre 10 have partnered with the Takahē Recovery Programme for over seven years now. As well as providing financial support and helping to raise the profile of takahē, Mitre 10 staff also enjoy hands-on involvement with takahē conservation projects.

Bright’s Mitre 10 in Mana supplied all the materials required for four new capture pens. Mitre 10 MEGA staff, Kim Olsen from Masterton and Michelle Ledbury from Kapiti, joined DOC Ranger Jeff Hall and volunteer David Marsh—a farmer from Wairarapa—to lend a helping hand.

Three takahē looking for grubs. Photograph by Stuart McCaw.

A trio of takahē

The pen building team spent three days putting in the posts and netting needed to get the pens up and running. The pens are built with a front gate that is open for most of the year. The birds get used to walking into it and feeding from their hopper without feeling threatened. When it’s time for a takahē health check, a change of transmitter, or to band chicks, the front gate of the capture pen is closed. Once they’re in the pen they usually can’t jump high enough to get back out. The huge advantage is that the birds catch themselves in the pen and any management necessary can then be completed with minimal stress on the birds (and the rangers) involved.

And the Mitre 10 staff and volunteers? Well, they all know what it’s like to be marooned, as the day they were due to head off the island the sea was too rough for them to depart. Two days later they finally got off, but not without anticipating a return journey some time in the future to check out how well their pens are operating!

A takahē with transmitter.

A takahē with transmitter

Mitre 10 Takahē Rescue

The Mitre 10 Takahē Rescue works in partnership with DOC’s Takahē Recovery Programme and is committed to ensuring the survival, growth and security of takahē populations throughout New Zealand. Find out more about this partnership on the DOC website.

From Fiordland to Motutapu island, in the heart of Auckland, is a long way to travel in a day – particularly if you’re a flightless bird. Nine takahē made the journey on Sunday November 4.

The birds were captured early in the morning at Burwood Bush Takahē Rearing Unit, near Te Anau, by rangers who run Mitre 10 Takahē Rescue. They were placed in transportation boxes and driven to Queenstown Airport to catch an Air New Zealand flight to Auckland.

The birds joined passengers on board a regular Air New Zealand flight to Auckland.

DOC Takahē Recovery Programme Manager Phil Tisch and Mitre 10 Sponsorship and PR Co-ordinator Alison Rowland at Auckland Airport with the takahē.

DOC Takahē Recovery Programme Manager Phil Tisch and Mitre 10 Sponsorship and PR Co-ordinator Alison Rowland at Auckland Airport with the takahē

The takahē proved popular with the Air New Zealand stewards and passengers on the flight. They were thrilled to be able to see the rare birds – there are only 260 in the world – inside their boxes. On arrival at Auckland Airport the takahē were carried from the plane to DOC and Mitre 10 utes and driven to Devonport. There they were transferred to a DOC boat, Taikehu, and ferried to Home Bay on Motutapu.

Ngai Tahu representative, Stewart Bull, made the journey from the deep south with the birds. He linked with Ngai Tai and Ngati Paoa representatives to provide a powhiri for the takahē on Motutapu. The birds were then released into native vegetation planted by volunteers from the Motutapu Restoration Trust.

Mitre 10 staff and family at takahe release on Motutapu.

Mitre 10 staff and family at takahe release on Motutapu

Ella, a takahē released on Motutapu on August 27, 2011, curious about new takahē arriving on November 4, 2012.

Ella, a takahē released on Motutapu on August 27, 2011, curious about new takahē arriving on November 4, 2012

The birds join four other takahē released on Motutapu on August 27 last year. The first release marked the declaration of Motutapu and neighbouring Rangitoto – the islands are joined by a short causeway – as pest free. Ella, one of the takahē released last year, was seen at Home Bay checking out the action surrounding the arrival of the new birds.

A powhiri for takahē on Motutapu.

A powhiri for takahē on Motutapu

The translocation on November 4 was the largest movement of takahē outside Fiordland ever. The aim is to have up to 20 breeding pair on Motutapu. This will make it the largest population of takahē outside Fiordland. This is an important step in securing the survival of takahē as the other pest free islands providing a safe haven for the species – Kapiti, Mana, Maud and Tiritiri Matangi – are now running out of room for the birds. Motutapu provides a large safe site, with a good habitat for takahē, that will enable the overall population to keep growing.

Two takahē are released onto Motutapu Island.

Two takahē are released onto Motutapu Island

A big thank you to Phil Tisch, the Takahe Programme Manager, who travelled with the birds all the way from Burwood to Motutapu Island; Phil Marsh and Helen Dodson who helped trap the birds in Burwood; Claudia Babirat who filmed the whole transfer; Glen Greaves, the Takahē Productivity Manager, who helped out with the release; and Andrew Nelson and Hazel Speed from Auckland who put a huge amount of effort into organising the event on the day.

DOC’s partnership with Mitre 10 is crucial in the work to ensure takahē survive. Takahē were thought to be extinct until rediscovered in 1948 in the Murchison Mountains deep in the Fiordland National Park. DOC has been working with Mitre 10 to save takahē since 2005.

Quammen and Te Hoiere, may be a couple of ‘dud’ takahē when it comes to breeding, but at Orokonui Ecosanctuary near Dunedin, they are being hailed as ambassadors for conservation.

Meet Quammen and Te Hoiere. Photo: Paul Nevin.

Mitre 10 Takahē Rescue logo

Their arrival is being celebrated as a great example of what can be achieved by partnerships like the one between the Orokonui Ecosanctuary, DOC, local iwi, and Mitre 10 Takahē Rescue.

The two takahē travelled by boat, car and plane to Dunedin from Maud Island in the Marlborough Sounds last Tuesday. Under the watchful eye of media and about 25 invited guests, the birds were released into the Ecosanctuary—a project of the Otago Natural History Trust. Ecosanctuary operations manager Chris Baillie said it had taken a long time and much work to get the birds to the Ecosanctuary, and to see them arrive was like a “dream come true.”

With Mitre 10 (who sponsor the takahē recovery programme) and DOC working together to renew and refresh Mitre 10 Takahē Rescue, national chairman and Mitre 10 MEGA Dunedin owner Martin Dippie was keen for his store to get involved with Orokonui Ecosanctuary by supporting it as a new home for takahē.

Orokonui Ecosanctuary map

His store provided materials for a new enclosure, which Mitre 10 staff enthusiastically spent a day helping the Ecosanctuary to build.

“The event at Orokonui went really well with a number of groups working together to give the birds a warm welcome to their new home. It was great to work closely with DOC, Orokonui, and local iwi, further developing our relationships,” said Mr Dippie.”

“At Mitre 10 we’re eager to continue to develop our partnership at a more local level with DOC, and in Dunedin we will further build our relationship with Orokonui to help support Te Hoiere and Quammen in their new home.”

Takahē ranger Martin Genet looks on as Mitre 10’s Martin Dippie and iwi representative Hoata Holmes release the takahē into Orokonui Ecosanctuary

Mr Dippie was on hand to release Quammen into the new enclosure, while Kati Huirapa Runaka ki Puketeraki iwi representative Hoata Holmes released Te Hoiere. Mitre 10 staff also joined a public event to celebrate the arrival of the takahē into Dunedin on Sunday, providing a marquee and BBQ for fundraising.

Te Anau Area Manager Reg Kemper said the transfer of takahē to Orokonui was a credit to the takahē team, whose focus was on building the national takahē population, creating new sites for takahē, and working in partnership with Mitre 10 to increase the support for takahē conservation.

“This transfer ticks all the boxes,” said Reg. “The team have managed to remove a couple of non-breeding birds from Maud Island, freeing up space for breeding birds. By providing the  Ecosanctuary with the takahē, they have created a golden opportunity for more New Zealanders to get up close and appreciate these unique birds; they’re supporting our partners, fostering relationships between our partners and at the end of the day its all increasing support for conservation.”

Learn more

About takahe on the DOC website

Mitre 10 Takahē Rescue partnership on the DOC website

Orokonui Ecosanctuary website