Number of kaki chicks 'abnormally high'

Kaki/black stilt chicks born on December 23, at the Twizel Department of Conservation brooding...
Kaki/black stilt chicks born on December 23, at the Twizel Department of Conservation brooding facility. PHOTO: SUPPLIED/LIZ BROWN
The perfect Christmas present has arrived for Twizel Department of Conservation staff in the form of 18 kaki/black stilt chicks.

Six of the critically endangered species hatched on Christmas Eve, a further six on Christmas Day and six more on Boxing Day, which was an "abnormally high number" for the period, Doc Kaki Project lead Liz Brown said.

"Looking at the past 10 years, between zero and four chicks have hatched on Christmas Day, with the average being one.

"We think it’s because the breeding season and nest making started a little late this year.

"We’re not sure exactly why the season started slowly, but we think it could be down to climate conditions," Miss Brown said.

In previous years, most of the eggs would have hatched by now.

Christmas time was particularly busy at the kaki facility, because the chicks required a lot of work. They were fed three times a day, and each morning they were weighed and their brooder was cleaned out.

The facility was staffed 365 days of the year, she said.

Kaki were one of the rarest wading birds in the world, and were being intensively managed to allow the species to recover.

In 1981, the population dropped to a low of 23 birds, but that had improved to about 170 wild adult birds, most of which were in the Mackenzie Basin, Miss Brown said.

The eggs had been collected from both wild and captive kaki pairs and then artificially incubated.

New chicks would be hand-reared at the facility before being released into the wild at about 9 months old.

As of yesterday, there were 29 eggs and 117 chicks at the Twizel brooding facility.

This number was down slightly on last season, when 150 young kaki were reared and released, although last year had been a particularly good year, Miss Brown said.

Kaki were vulnerable to mammalian predators, and extensive trapping was vital to ensure their survival.

Since 2018, more than 2000 traps had been installed in the Tasman, Cass, Godley and Macauley River Valleys.




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