On their second nesting attempt at Zealandia our ‘retired’ takahē pair, Puffin and T2, gave it all they had and only abandoned the nest on Sunday 13 January after an admirable 51 days of incubation – Puffin (female) by day and T2 (male) by night. The average incubation time for a takahē nest is around 30 days. Last year they incubated an egg for 43 days.
Zealandia’s Conservation Manager, Raewyn Empson, is happy with the condition of the takahē.
“Both birds have appeared to be healthy and relaxed around visitors, and the fact that they have attempted to breed again, and this year the egg was a little larger, are both signs that they’re healthy”.
Given the pair’s breeding history it’s likely the egg was infertile.
“We knew they weren’t successful breeders when we got them. They made room for more productive birds to take over at their original home on Mana Island – but a female chick they hatched some years ago has gone on to hatch and raise five more precious takahe so they’re not duds; and they do a fantastic job of advocating for their species here every day with visitors.”
There are only around 250 takahē alive today. Takahē were once thought extinct until Dr Geoffrey Orbell discovered a remnant population in the Murchison mountains in 1948. Due to predation by stoats and competition for food with deer the takahē has struggled to make a come back since that date, though they have had crucial support from DOC and Mitre 10 Takahē Rescue.
At Zealandia the South Island takahē, Porphyrio hochstetteri, is an analogue species for the now extinct North Island takahē – meaning it is the best fit to fill the same ecological niche. It has the most critical conservation status, similar to that of kākāpō and the black robin.