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Nearshore sightings of seabirds off the coast of Otago and Canterbury, New Zealand

Notornis, 71 (1), 1-11

Scott D. Bourke, Steph Bennington (2024)

Article Type: Paper

Abstract: Coastal and nearshore habitats are important to all seabird species. Understanding the distribution of seabirds in these environments can aid in their conservation. Despite the importance of coastal habitat, data collection for seabird species at sea is often difficult and resource intensive. Here, we take advantage of an established marine mammal surveying programme to collect distribution data for seabird species encountered in nearshore habitat. We surveyed seabird communities over 76 days in four locations along the southeast coast of New Zealand’s South Island; Dunedin, Moeraki, Timaru, and Banks Peninsula. We present observations of seabird species presence in these locations, as well as, a brief assessment of the counting techniques used during the study. In addition, we summarise the seabird numbers in relation to the marine mammal surveys (i.e. the presence and absence of dolphins). We aim to show the value of opportunistic data collection, while contributing to baseline species distribution knowledge.

Re-laying by Hutton’s shearwaters (Puffinus huttoni) at Te Rae o Atiu, Kaikōura Peninsula, New Zealand

Notornis, 71 (1), 12-22

Lindsay K. Rowe, Graeme Taylor, Ted Howard (2024)

Article Type: Paper

Abstract: Observations were made of the Nationally Vulnerable Hutton’s shearwater (Puffinus huttoni) breeding at Te Rae o Atiu, Kaikōura Peninsula (42.429°S, 173.703°E), New Zealand, a new colony established by translocations where birds breed in nestboxes. Over 12 seasons there were 245 eggs laid, including seven instances of two eggs laid as separate clutches in one nestbox during the same season. Nestbox inspections, usually undertaken weekly, provided evidence of egg laying date. Bird attendance at the nestboxes was also obtained from implanted passive integrated transponders that triggered a reader and datalogger. There is evidence for birds re-laying an egg after the first egg failed for three separate events, and a fourth was a possibility. In three other events, it appears more likely that two different birds laid the eggs, two as female-female pairings or simply egg dumping by an unpaired female; the third event was inconclusive. Only one of the 14 eggs from two-egg nests hatched, and the chick fledged successfully, about 10 days later than any other chick recorded at this colony. This fledging date was similar to the last date for fallout birds from the natural, mountain colonies, and suggests that re-laying may be a natural consequence of early egg failures in this species.

A PCR-based assay for screening substrates for Aspergillus fumigatus for application in kiwi hatcheries

Notornis, 70 (1), 31-38

Rowe, S.P., Stott, M.B., Brett, B., Dhami, M.K. (2023)

Article Type: Paper

Abstract: Captive facilities across New Zealand strive to mimic natural conditions for captive animals as closely as possible. In the case of the kiwi (Apteryx spp.), captive habitats are augmented with natural stimuli such as soils, leaf litter, bark, plants, logs, and mosses. Interaction with these introduced stimuli has been shown to encourage normal foraging behaviour and is speculated to aid in inoculating young animals with healthy microbial communities. However, introducing non-sterile natural stimuli into the captive environment also carries the risk of exposing kiwi to diseases such as aspergillosis, coccidiosis, and candidiasis. Aspergillosis is of particular concern to rearing facilities – the disease is most commonly attributed to exposure to Aspergillus fumigatus, an opportunistic fungal pathogen. Here we present a PCR-based screen to qualitatively detect the presence and/or absence of A. fumigatus in soils. Soil samples collected from nesting sites of rowi (Ōkārito brown kiwi, Apteryx rowi) in the Ōkārito region of the West Coast were screened for A. fumigatus using a species-specific primer set coupled with a basic DNA extraction. Willowbank Wildlife Reserve soil and substrate samples were also screened as a baseline comparison representing captive rearing facilities. Results from the assays showed that the extraction technique was effective at isolating A. fumigatus DNA at detectable levels from a variety of soils, and that Ōkārito soils did not harbour a higher abundance of A. fumigatus than those found at Willowbank. This preliminary screening method could be used by facilities in New Zealand to quickly and cheaply screen soils and substrates for A. fumigatus before introducing them to captive enclosures.