Forest and Bird Kaki Conservation Field Trip

A great day was had by all at the Kaki Recovery Programme in Twizel on Saturday 5 November 2016. A field trip open to all was organised by Rachel Hufton, a Forest and Bird member to help raise the profile of Kaki; the rarest wading bird in the world and to improve awareness of braided river habitat. Braided river habitats are home to a number of vulnerable and at risk bird species such as wrybill, black-fronted tern, and black-billed gull.

The trip started at the Tasman River to catch up with the sub-adult birds that were released in August. We were also treated to a visit from a pair of adults as well as wrybill, banded dotterel and black fronted tern. After lunch we visited the captive breeding centre to meet the kaki chicks, ranging from those that had only just hatched this morning, through to the oldest that are now three weeks old. Key staff; Cody Thyne and Liz Brown were very informative throughout the day.

Once common throughout New Zealand, this wading bird is now only found in the Mackenzie Basin. Kaki/black stilts are one of New Zealand’s rarest birds and the mission of the Kaki Recovery Programme is to increase their population in the wild and ensure this special bird is not lost for future generations. The facility is where kaki eggs are artificially incubated and the young chicks are raised in captivity prior to release into the wild.

At 3-9 months they are released into the wild. Rearing them in captivity significantly increases their chances of survival by preventing predation when they are most vulnerable and it also gets them through their first winter, which can be tough for young birds in the wild.

Kaki have been intensively managed since 1981, when their population declined to a low of just 23 birds. The Kaki Recovery programme has now successfully increased the population of wild birds to 93 adults but still needs to increase to sustain the population. The recovery centre in Twizel is doing an important job for this vulnerable species but currently the facility is at capacity as there are potentially more chicks than the size of the current brood room can cope with. Ideally the facility needs to expand so that the number of successfully reared kaki chicks can be maximised to help secure the breeding success of this vulnerable New Zealand endemic. Without this important facility the kaki population would be extinct within 7 years.

Wry bill
Wry bill

Visitor testimonials:

Karen and I had a fabulous day and learnt heaps, it was well worth the drive over.

Sorry for asking so many questions but theres just soooo much to know.
I’ve been wondering about the dotterels and wrybills. How do their young survive on this delta?

Both of us would have willingly donated to this project as a thanks to the time you 3 put into this trip, perhaps there could be an opportunity to do so next time you organize a trip?

Cheers and a million thanks, we’ll both be back with our families

photo and text credits Rachel Hufton