ZEALANDIA’s Takahē Chick
Frequently Asked Questions
We recently announced that our resident takahē, Nio and Orbell, have hatched a chick! If you look closely you can see its wee white beak in this video by one of our rangers.
ZEALANDIA's Lead Ranger Conservation, Ellen Irwin, has compiled some common Qs & As around how we're responding to this exciting arrival.
Now that the chick has hatched, what happens next?
We give the new parents as much space as possible! Now that the chick is over a week old, it is very mobile, and has been spotted following mum and dad around the lawn. Takahē parents are very protective of their chicks, and when disturbed will hide the chicks away in long grass or under shrubs, which means more stress on the birds and more time that the chick isn’t getting fed. We therefore want to minimise the amount of disturbance the birds experience, and are only going in twice daily to put out some supplementary food. If Nio and Orbell are successful at getting the chick through, they will likely start bringing it out after 6-8 weeks.
Why are we not hand-rearing the chick?
Hand rearing of takahē has been tried in the past, and was found to be unsuccessful—chicks reared by takahē “puppets” have not bred as successfully as wild-reared birds. The best creature to raise a takahē is another takahē! If the chick survives, we want to make sure it has the best chance of contributing to the recovery of its species.
What are you doing to make sure the chick survives?
We provide an environment free of key mammalian predators—this goes a long away to helping the chick survive! We are also providing supplementary food to aid the parents in provisioning the chick. This food is a complicated mix of moths, clover and other vegetables mashed together. Everything we do is in close discussion with the Takahē Recovery Programme.
I have noticed a kārearea flying around. What is the risk to the chick?
Takahē are very poorly adapted to introduced predators, but have evolved many strategies to deal with aerial predators like kārearea. We have a lot of good vegetation cover in the area so this provides plenty of good places for the parents to hide the chick. They are extremely cautious at the moment so we can rely on them to do what is best for their young one.
What are the chances it will make it through?
This is a tricky question to answer as it depends on so many variables. We have been lucky that the predicted bad weather this week hasn’t eventuated to much, so we think that will add to the chances of success. Chicks are very vulnerable to wet spring weather conditions, as they are covered in fine down and can easily get wet and chilled. Therefore, part of its survival will rest on having mild weather for the next few weeks – fingers crossed!
What will happen to the chick when it’s old enough to be independent from its parents?
When it’s old enough, the chick will be removed by the Takahē Recovery Programme to become part of the wider takahē breeding population. They will run genetic models to determine where it is best to be sent long-term. However, they won’t be able to make that decision until they have all of the banding data from all the sites around New Zealand.
Can you tell the sex of the chick?
It is not possible to tell the sex until a blood sample has been taken for DNA sexing, which will be taken by Takahē Recovery when the chick is older and able to be banded.
Will the chick be named?
The chick will be named once the sex results are back. We will be offered the opportunity to name this chick if it survives to this point, with consultation from Takahē Recovery to get ideas for appropriate names and to ensure there aren’t any double-ups within the current or historic population.