Date: 11 December 2012
Hopes for a solid kākāpō breeding season now look unlikely, following a cold southern spring.
Kākāpō Recovery programme manager Deidre Vercoe Scott said indications from earlier in the year suggested a reasonable rimu fruit supply on Whenua Hou/Codfish Island this summer.
“We’ve spent the past few months preparing for up to 15 nests on Whenua Hou/Codfish Island, but the latest data from the island suggests we may be looking at only several nests this season.”
It is most likely that the record cold, wet Southland spring had stopped the rimu fruit – which female kākāpō feed to their chicks – from developing. It is thought female kākāpō use the availability of the fruit as a cue for breeding, she said.
“Our rimu fruit count last month shows there has been a 67 percent decline in fruit abundance since it was last counted in February.
“Compare that to the 38 percent we lost after the big September snow in 2010 and it’s obvious the fruit has been hit hard.”
As a result, plans to recruit volunteers to mind the nests had been cancelled, Ms Vercoe Scott said.
“Luckily, all is not lost. There are some trees with good supplies and, if they’re located in a female’s home range, we’d still expect some nesting to occur.”
Part of the work being carried out by Kākāpō Recovery involves trialling supplementary food pellets that scientists hope will be accepted by female kākāpō, as an alternative to rimu, to feed their chicks. Several volunteers including workers from New Zealand Aluminium Smelters and Forest and Bird, key partners in Kākāpō Recovery, would be assisting with the supplementary food trials this season, she said.