Buff weka fathers chick 29

Wally and Sally’s latest batch of buff weka chicks  check out the visitors last week at the top of Mou Waho island. Photos: Chris Riley
Wally and Sally’s latest batch of buff weka chicks check out the visitors last week at the top of Mou Waho island. Photos: Chris Riley
Possibly the only surviving buff weka bird from a group of 30 relocated to Mou Waho Island in Lake Wanaka in 2004 to recreate a mainland species has fathered his 28th and 29th chicks this season.

Wally and his partner Sally are both well into‘‘ their twilight years’’ but a regular visitor to the island suspects the secret to the longevity in their relationship could be Wally’s waterfront home.

Sally, one of the oldest breeding buff weka on Mou Waho Island in Lake Wanaka.
Sally, one of the oldest breeding buff weka on Mou Waho Island in Lake Wanaka.
Eco Wanaka Adventures owner Chris Riley takes tours to Mou Waho Island, which includes a walk up to the glacially scoured-out Arethusa pool, 150m above lake level, and where Wally and Sally have always lived.

‘‘When Wally was first brought to Mou Waho that was where he established his territory. He claimed that whole lake and the penthouse suite at the top.’’

In his first year on the island he met Sally, one of the first chicks hatched on the island, and they had their first two chicks by the end of the year.

Mr Riley believed water was the key to their breeding success.

Wally has always had water, even in the drought years, and he learned to fish in the lake; I have even seen him feed fish to his chicks.’’

Following the introduction of stoats, ferrets and weasels, the flightless buff weka had disappeared from the New Zealand mainland by 1920.

There are now an estimated 200 buff weka living on Mou Waho Island, the largest mainland population.

‘This is a great conservation success story, the regeneration of not just the weka, but the tuis and the kererus.’’

Mr Riley said he expected Wally or Sally to keep breeding ‘‘until one of them drops’’, at which point he suspected Wilson, a chick from a previous year, would take over the territory.

kerrie.waterworth@odt.co.nz

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