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Spring in the Air
ZEALANDIA Ecosanctuary

Spring in the Air

Spring is truly underway, and many of the birds in ZEALANDIA are exhibiting courtship, breeding and nesting behaviour. Here are some things to look out for if you are visiting the valley. 

The takahē are nesting again this year! In the last week of October rangers found Nio on a nest in the wetland and have set out a camera to keep an eye on whether any pīpī / chicks hatch. With an incubation period of 30 days, and a further nestling period of two weeks, it may be some time before we see any evidence of this, but we’re keeping our fingers crossed! 

Takahē make nests among vegetation, with overhead cover to hide it from avian predators. Males and females take turns incubating eggs, with the female typically taking the day shift and swapping with the male around dusk. 

Nio has made her nest in the middle of the wetland, rather than near the track like last year, so we shouldn’t have to close the takahē lawn to visitors. 

Kererū are swooping over the valley. This can be seen particularly over the lower lake and from the road approaching ZEALANDIA. The male will climb to a high position, then seem to stall, and swoop down at an increasing speed. This display is used to entice the females to mate. Some females have already started to build nests – these are sometimes visible from the tracks. 

A pūtangitangi (paradise shelduck) pair have been seen around the lower lake dam. More recently, the ducklings have hatched, and the proud parents are fiercely protective of their brood. An area near the damn has been roped off to prevent people approaching too close. This is for the protection of visitors as well as the pūtangitangi, as the female has been seen charging and pecking at people – this can be quite alarming!   

Among the kawau (shags) there have already been some hatchlings seen on nests. Kāruhiruhi (pied shag) will breed all year round, and juveniles can be seen on nests on both sides of the lake. A kawau pū (black shag) is also nesting here, and kawau paka (little shag) can be seen nesting in the trees from tracks near the lake.  

Korimako are one of the earliest breeding birds in ZEALANDIA. They have a short incubation period, typically two weeks. A juvenile from an early clutch has already been seen feeding at the one of the feeders. The male parent is also often seen nearby.  

Both kākā and tīeke display a courtship behaviour of males feeding females, to help cement the bond between breeding pairs. This behaviour can be seen particularly at the kākā feeding stations. 

Our smaller birds are also breeding and laying. The first tītipounamu nests were recently discovered – a promising sign that ZEALANDIA’s newest arrivals are settling into their new home.   

Keep an eye out around ZEALANDIA for fledgling and juvenile birds of all species, as many of these will continue to be fed by their parents once they leave the nest. 

Article by Rory Wilsher (member of the ZEALANDIA Storytellers) 

Takahē photo by Janice McKenna
Kākā photo by Judi Lapsley Miller
Kāruhiruhi photo by Judi Lapsley Miller
Pūtangitangi duckling photo by Robert James

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