Alli Cunningham holds a weka near the spot where she hit it
while driving in McIntosh Rd, in Brighton, on Sunday. Photo
by Peter McIntosh.
The Department of Conservation in Dunedin has a weka
mystery on its hands.
A woman hit a weka in her car in Brighton, raising the
possibility a remnant population of the threatened native
species is living in the city outskirts.
Weka, a flightless bird species of the rail family, were not
thought to live in the area, with pests and habitat
destruction driving them out of most of their former South
Brighton resident Alli Cunningham said she was driving along
McIntosh Rd on Sunday afternoon when the weka jumped on to
the road and was hit by her car, dying on impact.
"It flew out of the long grass, and I thought 'oh, a
chicken'. I checked if it was dead ... and I thought 'that's
She then contacted Doc biodiversity assets programme manager
David Agnew, before collecting the bird and taking it into
Doc's Dunedin office yesterday morning.
Mr Agnew said the fact one weka had been found raised the
possibility of a remnant population in the area's native
Another possibility was the bird had been illegally moved.
There was also a possibility it was a buff weka from
Stevensons Island in Lake Wanaka, but that was unlikely
because of the distance it would have had to have travelled.
Adding to the mystery, the weka was in "pretty good
condition", indicating it was well fed.
If someone had transported the bird to the area, Mr Agnew
said he would be keen to have a chat with them to "resolve
this mystery". Doc would also appreciate members of the
public coming forward if they had seen a weka in the area.
University of Otago senior zoology lecturer Bruce Robertson
said it would be a big surprise if weka were living in the
area, given the pressure from predators, such as feral cats
If there was a population in the area, it was possible they
could be genetically different from other wekas, which could
be good for the whole species.