Wayward seabirds take unfortunate detours inland

The two tāiko/black petrels were discovered dishevelled and disorientated near the towns of Manaiti (Benneydale) and Taumarunui, more than 60 km inland from the North Island’s west coast.

Kina Tweeddale, DOC Community Ranger in the Maniapoto District, says the arrival of the two tāiko caused a stir on local social media, alerting DOC to their plight.

“We quickly realised we had to step in to ensure these two tāiko got back on track for their seasonal migration to Central America,” Kina Tweeddale says.

DOC notified Otorohanga Kiwi House to the birds’ arrival, and a release and rescue plan was quickly put into action.

Otorohanga Kiwi House Manager Jo Russell says: “The birds were brought to us by members of the public, and we had the two tāiko checked over by a local vet.”

The two birds were in surprisingly good condition considering the unfortunate circumstances they found themselves in.

“The vet gave the birds the all-clear, we took some more advice from the team at Wildbase and DOC’s seabird specialist Graeme Taylor, before the tāiko were transported to Raglan.”

The tāiko were released on Mt Karioi, within an area managed by local conservation group The Karioi Project. The site has been the focus of ongoing predator control to protect native bird species on the mountain.

The tāiko need lift to get airborne, so must be released into the wind off a clifftop or a steep hill by the sea.

“It was all a bit of whirlwind, but it’s part and parcel of the collaboration of working in conservation,” Jo Russell says.

Graeme Taylor says the tāiko are likely to have come from one of the species’ two main New Zealand colonies – on Little Barrier Island and Great Barrier Island.

Tāiko can get confused, lose their way, and be distracted by lights from built structures – so crash-landing in inland or urban areas is not uncommon for the species, particularly in poor weather conditions. A banded tāiko chick from the Great Barrier colony ended up on a brightly lit sports field in Paeroa a few years ago.

“They can get seriously off-track and finish up in predicaments like this,” he says. “Even so, this is a long way south from their Hauraki Gulf colonies.”

His advice for anyone encountering a wayward tāiko is to keep the bird in a dark place – like a garage, shed or a large cardboard box – and most importantly away from dogs and cats. People should also be aware of the tāiko ability to unleash a strong bite with its hooked beak

Kina Tweeddale says the discovery of the two tāiko near the rural towns is a great reminder to the public to use the 0800 DOC HOT phone line to report wildlife emergencies.

“The sooner people contact us, the sooner we can help.”

Tāiko live for between 20 and 40 years, and fully grown adults can weigh up to 800grms, with a wing-span of up to a metre. The birds are classified as nationally vulnerable,and are particularly prone to being caught as by-catch in the fishing sector, due to their feeding habits.

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