Seen outside Zealandia sanctuary:The juvenile saddleback, with a young bird’s distinct markings, was photographed in Polhill Reserve this month.
Wellington conservationists have received a Christmas treat, with the sighting of one of the first saddleback young born in the wild in more than a century.
A juvenile tieke was photographed in Polhill Reserve by Paul Ward earlier this month. The bird’s smaller wattle and other markings indicate it is a recent fledgling. “That was really exciting,” he said.
Tieke were introduced to Zealandia in 2002, after being declared extinct on the mainland in 1910. After a decade of successful breeding within the sanctuary, adult birds have been venturing beyond the fence.
But successful nesting on the mainland was a big win for both Zealandia and local conservationists, Ward said.
The first tieke nest outside Zealandia was seen last year in the Aro Valley reserve. A “ring of steel” was set up around it, consisting of three stoat traps and six rat traps to protect the two young chicks inside.
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But the nest of this year’s juvenile went unnoticed. Although the Polhill Reserve group laid out extra Department of Conservation and Goodnature traps in anticipation of breeding season, this family had no similar ring of steel to protect it.
“We weren’t able to intervene in that way, so they’ve done it on their own in the wild.”
As they fledge, saddleback young spend a week on the ground, while their parents continue to feed them. This was a particularly dangerous time, Ward said.
“They can’t fly and they’re very vulnerable to rats and stoats and cats and dogs.”