A surveillance exercise starting next week will try to find out if the elusive South Island kokako, the “Grey Ghost”, might have survived in the Marsden Valley hills.
The shy orange-wattled bird was thought to be extinct for many years but in 2012 after reported sightings near Reefton in 2007 were investigated it was reclassified as “data deficient”.
The last accepted sighting before that was in 1967.
Then last year a Nelson businessman came forward to say he’d got a long look at a strange, long-tailed, “bluey-grey” bird in Marsden Valley, behind the Nelson suburb of Stoke, while out walking his dog. It resembled pictures of kokako he later saw, and one he was shown that had been stuffed by a taxidermist in the 1880s.
At least one other person said they’d seen a bird like it in the Marsden Valley bush, more than once.
Then the South Island Kokako Charitable Trust chairman and long-time kokako chaser Rhys Buckingham of Mapua got involved. He was taken to the area where the odd bird had been sighted and discovered areas of distinctively grubbed moss that he says could be the work of kokako.