Pukeko bouncing back

Trevor Beck.
Trevor Beck.
The Ida Valley is home to about 550 pukeko, a recent study has found.

However, the number is small compared with the populations in the 1950s and 1960s when the birds numbered in ''thousands''.

At that time, they were culled because of the damage they caused on farms.

Oturehua man and honorary fish and game ranger Trevor Beck said the population was identified by a survey he conducted in August and September.

After contacting about 45 landowners and taking a rough count, he found most of the birds were located at the south end of the valley in swampy areas.

One landowner reported about 140 pukeko living on their property.

The study came about after staff in the Fish and Game head office said they thought there were not ''any great number'' of pukeko in the valley.

Mr Beck, who had lived in the valley all his life, decided to investigate, remembering when he was a youth a large population which damaged crops.

Culling was conducted, and cold winters in the 1990s affected the birds, but they had since bounced back.

''Numbers have gone up in the the last four-five years with milder winters. At the moment they are a very stable population.''

Producing about three or four chicks per brood, the territorial birds usually remained in the valley.

At present, they were protected, but if numbers grew sufficiently, they might be made available for hunting, Mr Beck said.

While stable, the population needed to be monitored.

Changes to the environment, such as installation of modern irrigation, were reducing habitats.

Mr Beck said he had noticed other bird species in the valley declining.

''It would be nice to see something done about that ... areas set aside for reserves or wetlands.''

Farmers in the valley were helpful during the study, and many were happy to see pukeko, as long as they were not in large numbers.

The birds helped keep waterways clear of weeds.


Add a Comment