Mix of cautious, bold personalities needed for bird populations: New Zealand study

WELLINGTON  — A study of one of New Zealand’s native birds has revealed an ability to recognize individual humans as well as different bird personality types, which could be key to conserving threatened species.

Researchers from Victoria University’s School of Biological Sciences found that the North Island robins reacted differently to humans by timing how long individual birds attacked food near a specific person.

“For seven days, the same person dressed in a white lab coat stood near the food source,” lead researcher Dr Craig Barnett said in a statement Monday.

“On the eighth day, a different person, this time wearing a blue coat, stood near the food source.”

They split the birds into fast and slow groups depending on their attack times, and found the times of the faster, bolder birds changed little with the new human, while the slower birds were more cautious and had longer attack times.

“Some birds were clearly oblivious to the differences in people, while other birds paid more attention,” said Barnett.

“Behavioral differences could play an important role in programs to shift and manage bird populations, because, for example, if we removed too many ‘bold’ individuals from a population and created a new ‘risk-averse’ population, they may not thrive due to a greater lack of caution around predators.”

Dr Kevin Burns, a New Zealand natural history professor at Victoria’s School of Biological Sciences, said in the statement that the research could assist with conservation efforts in other island groups, which were also working to protect and preserve endemic wildlife.

Source: news.xinhuanet.com

New Zealand penguin colony at risk from dogs

Dead dogs and dead penguins ( picture from penguin.net.nz )

Dead dogs and dead penguins ( picture from penguin.net.nz )

GREYMOUTH, New Zealand,  — A penguin colony in New Zealand is under threat due to a new bicycle path where dogs have mauled birds on three occasions, officials said.

The Karoro penguin colony in Greymouth, New Zealand, was about two dozen birds strong, said Mayor Tony Kokshoorn, who lives near the beach where the birds are situated. Since a bike path popular with dog owners was installed recently, three of the birds have been mauled by dogs whose owners walked them without a leash.

The city has pledged to patrol the pathway and issue dog owners who walk their dogs without a leash a $300 fine, the Greymouth Star newspaper said Tuesday.

Wildlife experts say the colony is under threat anytime a mature penguin dies because the eggs or chicks it was caring for will probably die as well, making it difficult for the colony to reproduce fast enough to sustain itself.

Source: upi.com

Kiwi Duets Are Sung In Perfect Harmony



A group of researchers in New Zealand have discovered that kiwis produce calls in harmony with each other by using a previously unknown form of vocal cooperation.

The researchers at Victoria University of Wellington studied the calls of the little spotted kiwi, New Zealand’s second rarest kiwi, over a period of three years. During this time, they measured hundreds of calls made by a population of the birds living at the Zealandia sanctuary in Wellington, New Zealand.

From studying their calls, the researchers made the surprising discovery that kiwis, which live in pairs and are thought to mate for life, sing in harmony with their mates by synchronizing their calls and having complementary call frequencies.

By calling together in harmony, a pair of male and female kiwis become more effective at repelling intruders than if they were to call alone. This is the first time such cooperation in frequency and time has been reported in bird “duets”.

The researchers also found that, contrary to what they previously believed, size differences between male and female kiwi are not the sole cause of the differences in the frequency, or pitch, of the calls the birds make.

“Instead, male and female kiwi appear to call for different reasons, with male kiwi using their calls for long-range purposes, such as defending their territory from other kiwi, and female birds using calls for close-range purposes, like staying in contact with their partners,” says Dr Andrew Digby, the lead author of the study published in Ibis, the world’s leading ornithological journal.

“Calls are an important part of kiwi conservation since they provide an inexpensive, efficient and non-invasive way to monitor these mysterious birds.”

“But, we actually understand very little about why kiwi call, and the calls of most kiwi species have never been studied, so this research is important for helping us gain a better understanding of one of our national icons.”

Source: Victoria University of Wellington. Photo: RobiNZ (Robin Capper)/Flickr/CC.

Release of 44 rare birds ‘historic’

THEY'RE OFF: Taronga Zoo's Michael Shiels points out one of the just-released hihi.

THEY’RE OFF: Taronga Zoo’s Michael Shiels points out one of the just-released hihi.

One of New Zealand’s rarest birds has taken to its new home at Bushy Park with a song.

Forty-four of the hihi or stitchbird – 22 male and 22 female – were released into the park yesterday morning to make it one of only three mainland hihi sanctuaries nationwide.

The birds were captured on Tiritiri Matangi island near Auckland last Saturday by a team of 13, including Department of Conservation and Massey University researchers and staff from Sydney’s Taronga Zoo.

It’s believed there are less than 3500 left in New Zealand.

Around 100 people turned out in the brisk morning air to see the birds released from their transport boxes, including Bushy Park Trust chairwoman Liz Tennet. She said once the birds flew into the bush several of them began to sing.

“It was awesome, and it was such a historic moment as there’s only two other places where the hihi have successfully been transposed onto the mainland.

“I think them singing to us like that is a good sign.”

The hihi project, which has been led by former trust chairman Allan Anderson, had been underway for about five years.

“Today has been the fruition of the process. We’ve installed food stations and nesting boxes for them which has been done by volunteers, and we’ve had to ensure they’re able to enter a disease-free environment.

“We had a delay about a year because one of the birds was diagnosed with salmonella, but after some testing we established that wasn’t a problem. It still set us back for a while.”

Ms Tennet said many Wanganui businesses and individuals had contributed, as had a crown Prince from Abu Dhabi, but more donations would be needed.

“We’ve attached little radio transmitters to some of them, that cost about $10,000, and we’ll be using aeroplanes or helicopters to monitor where they go. All the ongoing costs will need to be met somehow and we’re always happy to hear from people who want to help with money or time, even if it’s just two hours a month,” she said.

Guardians of the Hihi is a new initiative where a single hihi is sponsored for $55 or a pair for $100 and the donor receives a personalised certificate.If you want to volunteer or donate call Liz Tennet 027 295 0928.

source : wanganuichronicle.co.nz

Smallest seabird spotted at Haast

RARE SIGHTING: A grey-backed storm petrel, found near Haast.

RARE SIGHTING: A grey-backed storm petrel, found near Haast.

New Zealand’s smallest seabird may have established a breeding colony near Haast after two were spotted in the past six months.

Wilderness Lodge owner Gerry McSweeney said that last September he found a grey-backed storm petrel on the porch of his Lake Moeraki lodge in South Westland.

It was the first time in his 23 years running the lodge that he had seen one more than 100 metres from the sea as the closest known nesting sites to mainland New Zealand are the Auckland Islands and the Chatham Islands.

The bird was kept in a warm, dark box for the night then released at Knights Point, near the Tasman Sea.

At the time, McSweeney thought it was a rare sight, but he was surprised when Norma and John Douglas, who live near the Haast River, brought a second healthy grey-backed storm petrel to him this week.

Department of Conservation scientist Terry Greene was cautiously optimistic on what the sightings meant.

”If they did turn up there [breeding] it would be great, but that’s the only evidence we have at the moment.”

He said that on average they expected to see one or two of the birds, which weigh on average 35 grams, every two to three years in the area.

McSweeney said work to eradicate pests in the native forests in the Haast-Lake Moeraki area was probably helping to entice the birds to the area.

It was an exciting idea that the birds may have come to mainland New Zealand to breed, he said.

Bird centre opens its doors

Sick and injured birds find a haven at the Whitford Wild Bird Care Centre.

An open day on March 2 is an opportunity to learn more about what the centre does and to learn how you can help New Zealand birds.

There will be fun and games for children, a tea garden, sausage sizzle, raffle, crafts for sale and a mini garage sale.

The Wild Bird Care Centre feeds, cleans and nurtures birds that come into its care.

Wildlife rehabilitator Mandy Robertson says they don’t want to make the centre bigger, just better.

On average there are 15 regular volunteers. On top of this Duke of Edinburgh award and Unitech vet nurse students also spend time helping at the centre.
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