Whenua Hou diving petrel/kuaka fledgling
Image: Jinty McTavish | ©

Introduction

The Whenua Hou diving petrel/kuaka is New Zealand’s 'newest' bird species, being only described as recently as 2018. The species only breeds on Whenua Hou (Codfish Island) and is Threatened-Nationally Critical.

Highlights

Scientific name: Pelecanoides whenuahouensis
Population: Stable
New Zealand status: Endemic
Conservation status: Threatened – Nationally Critical
Primary threats: Storms and storm surges, competition, and marine light pollution

Basic information

Length: up to 20 cm
Weight: 125 g
Population: 210 adults
Food: krill, juvenile fish, and juvenile squid

Distribution

The Whenua Hou diving petrel only breeds in dunes of Waikoropupū (Sealers Bay) on predator-free Whenua Hou (Codfish Island). The species forages west and south of Rakiura (Stewart Island) over the Stewart Snares Shelf during the breeding period (September–January) and along the polar and subantarctic front south of Australia during the non-breeding season (January–September).

Challenges

Challenges include:

  • the vulnerability of the extremely small and limited population
  • increase of storms and storm surges under the onset of climate change
  • competition with more aggressive seabird species for nest sites
  • collisions with vessels caused by disorientation due to light pollution.

What we are doing

We have been monitoring the Whenua Hou diving petrel population since 2002 to understand population dynamics, trends, threats, and identify potential solutions.

We recently used the gathered information to identify the best potential conservation strategy for Whenua Hou diving petrel with Ngāi Tahu, Fisheries New Zealand, Environment Southland, and industry through a structured decision-making process. This strategy includes mitigating light pollution at sea, restoring the dune system, and future translocations.

How you can help

You can help by:

Emergency hotline

Call 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468) immediately if you see anyone catching, harming or killing native wildlife.

Help protect our native birds

Visiting parks, beaches, rivers, and lakes

  • Check for pests when visiting pest-free islands.
  • Leave nesting birds alone.
  • Use available access ways to get to the beach. 
  • Avoid leaving old fishing lines on beaches or in the sea.
  • Follow the water care code and local navigation bylaws.
  • Do not drive on riverbeds, or keep to formed tracks if you have to.

With your dog

  • Only take dogs to areas that allow them, and keep them under control.
  • If you come across wildlife put your dog on a lead and lead it away. 
  • Warn other dog owners at the location.
  • Notify DOC if you see wildlife being harassed by people or dogs.

Specific ways to keep wildlife safe while with your dog on beaches.

Other ways to help

  • Get your dog trained in avian awareness.
  • Volunteer to control predators and restore bird habitats.
  • Set predator traps on your property.
  • Keep your cat in at night.
  • Learn about the Lead the Way programme which encourages dog owners to become wildlife wise and know how to act to protect coastal wildlife.
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