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Seasonal survey of waterfowl (Anatidae), shags (Phalacrocoracidae) and fernbird (Bowdleria punctata) at Te Nohoaka o Tukiauau/Sinclair Wetlands, Otago: July 2015 – July 2018

Notornis, 68 (4), 266–273

Thompson M.P., McKinlay B. (2021)

Type of work: Full article

Abstract: Birds were surveyed once per season over three years from 2015–2018 at Te Nohoaka o Tukiauau/Sinclair Wetlands, Otago. Eight species of waterfowl were observed, including four native species: New Zealand scaup (Aythya novaeseelandiae), Australasian shoveler (Anas rhynchotis), paradise shelduck (Tadorna variegata), and grey teal (Anas gracilis). Native species made up 68% of all waterbirds counted. New Zealand scaup dominated at 53%. The highest total number of birds counted was 1167 in winter 2015, and the lowest was 76 in spring 2016. The counts for some species varied greatly from year to year and each species showed some seasonal variation. It appears that more waterfowl are using the lagoons now than 15 years ago. Shag numbers were never greater than 8 individuals. The estimated density of fernbird (Bowdleria punctata) along a 750 m transect varied from 1.0/ha in winter to 2.7/ha in summer. This survey of waterfowl, shags and fernbird provides a reference against which future comparisons investigating long-term trends in bird populations at the Sinclair Wetlands can be made.

Vagrant and extra-limital bird records accepted by the Birds New Zealand Records Appraisal Committee 2019–2020

Notornis, 68 (4), 253–265

Miskelly C.M., Crossland A.C., Saville I., Southey I., Tennyson A.J.D., Bell, E.A. (2021)

Type of work: Full article

Abstract: We report Records Appraisal Committee (RAC) decisions regarding Unusual Bird Reports received between 1 January 2019 and 31 December 2020. Among the 149 submissions accepted by the RAC were the first New Zealand records of collared petrel (Pterodroma brevipes), South Polar skua (Catharacta maccormicki), and rose-crowned fruit dove (Ptilinopus regina). We also report the first accepted breeding record for gull-billed tern (Gelochelidon nilotica), and the sec- ond accepted sightings of Australian white-faced storm petrel (Pelagodroma marina dulciae) and buff-breasted sandpiper (Tryngites subruficollis). Other notable records included the first records of Atlantic yellow-nosed mollymawk (Thalassarche chlororhynchos) from the Snares Islands, nankeen kestrel (Falco cenchroides) from Antipodes Island, long-tailed skua (Stercorarius longicaudus) from the Chatham Islands, and Arctic tern (Sterna paradisaea) from the Bounty Islands.

Diet of the Floreana mockingbird (Mimus trifasciatus) during the dry season on Champion and Gardner Islets, Galápagos Islands, Ecuador

Notornis, 68 (4), 245–252

Wittmer-Naranjo C., Reyes E.M.R., Jácome H.E.T., Rueda D., Sevilla C., Ortiz-Catedral L. (2021)

Type of work: Full article

Abstract: The Floreana mockingbird (Mimus trifasciatus) is one of the most endangered passerines in the world, with a global population of c. 400 individuals, restricted to two isolated islets: Champion and Gardner-by-Floreana. Due to its rarity and the inaccessibility to these islets, the biology of the Floreana mockingbird has remained poorly documented. Here we present a study on the diversity of food items consumed by Floreana mockingbirds prior to the rainy season. We recorded 269 foraging bouts, from 148 individuals on three independent sampling events. Floreana mockingbirds exhibited a generalist diet, which included flowers, nectar, stamens, sap, fruits, seeds, and seedlings from 12 plant species; larvae, pupae and adults of at least 10 arthropod orders; and small vertebrate prey, carrion, and egg contents. The diversity of food items between months and islets supports the idea of a generalist diet for the species. Our study provides useful information to identify and monitor the abundance of key resources for the species as part of the restoration of Floreana Island.

Field sexing techniques for Fiordland crested penguins (tawaki; Eudyptes pachyrhynchus)

Notornis, 68 (3), 188-193

J. White; T. Mattern; U. Ellenberg; P. Garcia-Borboroglu; D.M. Houston; P.J. Seddon; H.L. Mays (2021)

Type of work: Full article

  Fiordland crested penguins (tawaki; Eudyptes pachyrhynchus) lack sexually dimorphic plumage so behavioural cues or bill size have traditionally been used to determine sex in the field. We aimed to identify morphological characters that can be quickly and reliably be measured in the field to accurately sex adult tawaki, and validated these with genetics. We measured five morphological parameters in tawaki (n = 32) from three colonies (Jackson Head, Milford Sound/ Piopiotahi, and Codfish Island/Whenua Hou) on the New Zealand South Island. We confirmed sex with a PCR-based molecular assay. Male tawaki are larger in all parameters measured and recursive partitioning trees correctly classify 94% of penguins sampled. In line with Warham (1974) and Murie et al. (1991), we propose using bill length (males > 44.5 mm) and bill depth (males > 25.5 mm) but in combination with foot length (males > 113.5 mm) to determine tawaki sex in the field. These morphological parameters are independent of body condition and are easily obtained in the field.  

Widespread ground-nesting in a large population of feral rock pigeons (Columba livia) in a predator-free and urban native forest

Notornis, 68 (3), 224-233

J.V. Briskie; L. Shorey (2021)

Type of work: Full article

  We found widespread nesting on the ground in a large population of feral rock pigeons (Columba livia) in an urban, but predator-free native forest reserve in Christchurch, New Zealand. Ninety-seven percent (n = 77) of rock pigeon nests were located on the ground, with most placed either at the bases of large kahikatea (Dacrycarpus dacrydioides) trees or under a tangle of vines on the forest floor. Clutch size was 2 eggs in all nests, with a hatching success of 93.9% in nests that survived to the hatch stage. Overall nest success was higher (60.0%) than in other populations of rock pigeons, with half of nest failures attributed to culling of the population that occurred during the course of our study. On average, rock pigeons fledged 1.60 chicks per successful nest. No ground nests were located outside the boundary of the predator- proof fence, suggesting pigeons were able to assess predation risk when selecting nest site location. Ground nesting by rock pigeons may be a way to avoid damage to nests in the canopy by strong winds or predation from aerial predators such as harrier (Circus approximans), which also occur in the reserve. Based on density of nests, we estimated a breeding population of 226 to 258 rock pigeons in the 7.8 ha reserve. The high number of pigeons in the reserve highlights the need for further studies on how populations of introduced species of birds in New Zealand respond to control of mammalian predators and the effect this may have on sympatric native species.  

Garden birds at Rangiora, Christchurch, and Kaikōura, South Island, New Zealand: results from banding 1961–2016

Notornis, 68 (3), 208-223

L.K. Rowe (2021)

Type of work: Full article

  Birds were banded in gardens at Rangiora 1961–1977, Christchurch 1977–2000, and Kaikōura 2000–2016. In total, 21,565 birds of 14 species were captured in mist-nets or traps and banded; 3,213 individuals were recovered or recaptured. The most common species banded was silvereye (Zosterops lateralis lateralis) with 15,349, followed by house sparrow (Passer domesticus domesticus) with 4,497, and common starling (Sturnus vulgaris vulgaris) with 430; all other species were less than 300 birds banded which is less than five birds per year. Distance recoveries of note are: silvereyes – Kaikōura to Wellington (153.0 km), Rangiora to Greymouth (146.0 km), Rangiora to Otira (99.0 km), with two more birds over 25.0 km; house sparrow – Christchurch to Homebush (43.5 km), with two more over 25.0 km; common starling – Rangiora to Christchurch (27.8 km); dunnock (Prunella modularis) – local movement (5.1 km). The most significant recoveries from time of banding to recovery are: silvereye – 8.8 years; house sparrow – 8.7 years; starling – 8.0 years; dunnock – 5.3 years. Wing length and mass measurements of Kaikōura birds were generally within published ranges.  

A survey of Fiordland crested penguins (Eudyptes pachyrhynchus): northeast Stewart Island/Rakiura, New Zealand, September 2019

Notornis, 68 (3), 183-187

R. Long; S. Litchwark (2021)

Type of work:

  A ground survey of Fiordland crested penguins (tawaki; Eudyptes pachyrhynchus), breeding between Lee Bay and White Rock Point, northeast Stewart Island was carried out from 1–6 September 2019, to obtain a population estimate for the area. A total of 128 nests was found along the ~40 km of coast, 107 of which were located in caves on the cliffy shoreline rather than in the forest as is typical of South Westland breeding areas. Access along this coast is often difficult; however, the confinement of most nests to caves allows for a more accurate search than in forest colonies such as those in South Westland and Milford Sound. The results of this survey suggest that a significant breeding population is present on mainland Stewart Island and needs to be considered in future management plans for the species. Additional surveys of the remaining ~700 km of coastline should be conducted to obtain a better estimate of the entire population.  

Breeding petrels of northern and central Fiordland, with a summary of petrel populations for the Fiordland region

Notornis, 68 (3), 194-207

C.M. Miskelly; C.R. Bishop; A.J.D. Tennyson (2021)

Type of work: Full article

  Thirty breeding colonies of three petrel species were found on 23 of 41 islands and one of three headlands surveyed between Milford Sound/Piopiotahi and Dagg Sound/Te Rā in Fiordland National Park, New Zealand, in November 2020. Sooty shearwater (Ardenna grisea) was the most widespread and abundant species, with an estimated 7,300 burrows on 20 islands and one mainland site. Broad-billed prions (Pachyptila vittata) were found breeding on five islands (600 burrows estimated), including an islet in Poison Bay, 70 km north-east of their previous northernmost Fiordland breeding location. We record the first evidence of mottled petrels (Pterodroma inexpectata) breeding in Doubtful Sound/Patea (on Seymour Island), which is now their northernmost breeding location. When combined with data from surveys in southern Fiordland between 2016 and 2021, more than 66,000 pairs of petrels are estimated to be present in 168 colonies in Fiordland. This total comprises 42,100–52,400 sooty shearwater pairs, 11,700–14,500 broad-billed prion pairs, 5,090–6,300 mottled petrel pairs, and at least 1,000 common diving petrel (Pelecanoides urinatrix) burrows. This is the first near-complete estimate of petrel population sizes for the Fiordland region.  

Measuring conservation status in New Zealand birds: re-evaluating banded dotterel and black-fronted tern as case studies

Notornis, 68 (2), 147-160

J.L. Craig; N.D. Mitchell (2021)

Type of work: Full article

  The New Zealand Threat Classification System is used to prioritise and evaluate conservation programs, as an advocacy tool for biodiversity and as a guide to risk when assessing the severity of effects of development. A lack of transparency and adherence to scientific conventions when compiling the listings for birds led to previous criticism (Williams 2009). Two recent papers provide sufficient information to independently assess the threat status ranking of two endemic birds. Both papers provide detailed information on multiple sites and assess the influence of different threats. Both also provide an estimate of population size and generation time as required for assigning a Threat Classification. The authors conclude with clear recommendations on appropriate New Zealand and IUCN threat status ranking in both papers. We consider that the authors have failed to consistently apply the criteria for assessment in the Threat Classification Manual (Townsend et al. 2008) and IUCN Red List Guidelines (IUCN 2019). We re-evaluate the recommended threat status in light of adherence to the criteria, the data used and the analysis methodology selected. We recommend greater transparency, use of additional methodology and adherence to the guidelines to improve consistency and reliability of threat status classification.  

Breeding ecology of a translocated population of great spotted kiwi (Apteryx haastii)

Notornis, 68 (2), 131-146

R. Toy; S. Toy (2021)

Type of work: Full article

  Breeding success, survival, and lack of dispersal are all fundamental to the long-term success of animal translocations. Monitoring breeding of great spotted kiwi (roroa, Apteryx haastii) is challenging because they have a low reproductive rate and may abandon eggs or chicks if disturbed. Roroa were translocated to the Flora Stream area, Kahurangi National Park, New Zealand, by the community group, Friends of Flora Inc. and the Department of Conservation. We monitored 55 post-translocation breeding attempts, among 14 roroa pairs, over eight years. Mustelid predation was the only identified cause of chick death. Chick survival to one year is estimated as 26–52%. This is sufficient for population growth, but all chicks known to have survived were hatched by only two pairs. A strategy to monitor long-term genetic health is proposed.