One of New Zealand's rarest birds moved into its new home in
the Gibbston Valley yesterday, following a plane ride from
Rotorua where it had lived since hatching on November 1.
The yet-to-be-named falcon was brought south by Peregrine
Winery - the winery itself named after the genus name for the
falcon - which hopes the male chick will mate and become part
of a base population of Gibbston Valley falcons.
Peregrine brand ambassador Greg Hay said it was a "very rare
opportunity" to bring the bird south and while it was a bird
of prey, that was not the primary aim of introducing it to
"It's an Eastern falcon. Its parents came from Southland and
... were used for breeding in Rotorua.
"[We're hoping to use it] to build the numbers of falcons
back up. There are one-tenth the number of falcons as there
are kiwis [in New Zealand].
"They are the raptors of the skies; they don't have any
predators, except for cars and wire fences.
"They're always out hunting things flying around and they can
keep an area clear of birds like starlings or blackbirds."
The falcon is the winery's mascot and is pictured on the $20
note and was named the New Zealand Bird of the Year recently.
Because of the bird's endangered status, "quite a few hoops"
were jumped to secure the bird, Mr Hay said.
"You have to make sure that you are serious about the
conservation ... there's a lot of pre-monitoring and a lot of
The falcon hatched at the Wingspan Birds of Prey Trust of New
Zealand centre, which Peregrine Winery had sponsored for the
past 12 years.
Additionally, the winery sponsored the Fiordland Conservation
Trust and its work with the saddleback birds.
"Without that we probably would not have the rights to do
In the 1970s, the population numbers of the falcon declined
because of the types of pesticides being used, which were
then ingested by the birds' prey.
At present there are thought to be about 1500 falcons in the
South Island and the same number in the North Island.
While falcons ate live prey, including other birds, they
generally did not attack people, Mr Hay said.
After a ride on the plane - seated in the cabin beside Mr Hay
- the chick was quickly transported to its purpose-built home
where it would remain for about three weeks, being fed up to
four times a day.
The bird's welcome meal was a one-day-old chick from the
Tegel hatchery, which was "already dead", but Mr Hay said he
would be sourcing rabbits and other birds over the coming
It was important the falcon's diet comprised food it would be
hunting once it was released.
Once the lid to the falcon's home was opened, the bird would
know "Gibbston Valley is its home" and after gathering wing
strength it would begin roaming the skies.
"At six months or a year it may decide to go and find a mate
and live in the hills somewhere, or it could decide to
continue to live here."
If it "moved" from the winery, another falcon would be
introduced and the process would begin again, Mr Hay said.