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Moa, climate, and eruptions: radiocarbon ages on habitat- specific moa show that their distributions were controlled by volcanic eruptions as well as climate

Notornis, 69 (4), 228-242

Holdaway R.N. (2022)

Article Type: Paper

Abstract: The species composition of moa assemblages reflected the local vegetation. These assemblages have been used as indicators of the geological age – glacial or Holocene – of the fauna. Within the assemblages, some species of moa have been associated with specific vegetation types, including Anomalopteryx didiformis with lowland rain forest, and Euryapteryx curtus, with dry shrubland. The sequence of radiocarbon ages for A. didiformis and E. curtus in the Waitomo karst, in the west central North Island, New Zealand, records changes in the distributions of their habitats over the past 28,000 years. The presence of A. didiformis shows that, contrary to current reconstructions, there was lowland rain forest in the karst during the Last Glacial Maximum. An abrupt change to E. curtus and hence of its shrubland habitat coincided with the Oruanui super eruption of Taupo volcano 25,400 years ago. Anomalopteryx didiformis and its rain forest habitat did not return to the karst until c. 13,000 years ago. E. curtus disappeared from the karst some time before that, during the gradual post-glacial warming, but remained elsewhere on the Volcanic Plateau, probably in the seral vegetation that followed the continual eruptions. Moa distributions were not always altered just by climate change. Major eruptions such as the Oruanui could change their habitat and hence their distribution over much of both main islands.

Changes in the Mana Island, New Zealand, bird community following mouse (Mus musculus) eradication

Notornis, 69 (4), 243-255

Miskelly, C.M., Beauchamp, A.J., Oates, K.E. (2022)

Article Type: Paper

Abstract: House mice (Mus musculus) have proven to be the most difficult introduced mammal to eradicate from (and keep out of) New Zealand reserves and sanctuaries. Partly as a consequence of this, little is known about how bird communities respond to mouse eradication. Mice were successfully eradicated from 217 ha Mana Island Scientific Reserve, near Wellington, in 1989–90. Five-minute bird count surveys undertaken in spring and autumn before and after mouse eradication revealed that 13 of 22 species were recorded significantly more often after mouse eradication, and just two species were recorded significantly less often following the eradication (and each of these in one only of the two seasons that were compared). Four species had no significant change, and three species showed mixed responses between the two seasons. While the overall pattern was of increased relative bird abundance after mouse eradication, there is limited information on why individual bird species increased during the study period, and whether this was a consequence of mouse eradication. Bird count data revealed that insectivorous passerines may have benefited the most from mouse eradication on Mana Island, suggesting that competition for invertebrate prey was the main impact that mice had on the birds of the island. The use of anticoagulant rodenticides to eradicate mice from Mana Island had little detectable impact on populations of the island’s birds.

Sexing of the endangered Floreana mockingbird (Mimus trifasciatus) using morphometric measurements

Notornis, 69 (4), 256-263

Reyes, E.M.R., Smith, A.N.H., Rueda, D., Sevilla, C., Brunton, D.H., Ortiz-Catedral, L. (2022)

Article Type: Paper

Abstract: Male and female adult Floreana mockingbird (Mimus trifasciatus) have monomorphic plumage features that make them impossible to sex in the field. In this study, we use discriminant function analysis (DFA), a widely used technique, to assess the best measures to determine sex. We measured six morphological characteristics (mass, beak depth, beak width, tarsus length, wing length, and head-beak length) for birds of known sex (determined by molecular techniques) from the two extant populations of M. trifasciatus on Champion and Gardner islets, within the Galápagos archipelago. Using a coefficient of sexual dimorphism, we found that males are significantly larger than females in three of the variables. Discriminant functions using wing length and a combination of wing length + mass, and wing length + tarsus length could classify birds with a 98% level of accuracy. Furthermore, we were able to estimate a robust cut-off point to determine the sex of individuals in the field through a decision tree, using only wing length as morphological variable. Fast and accurate sexing of the bird based on one variable will reduce handling times and minimise stress for captured birds.

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)

Article Type: Paper

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)

Article Type: Paper

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.

Dominance interactions among New Zealand albatrosses and petrels at ecotourist boats

Notornis, 68 (1), 51-64

P.R. Martin; J.V. Briskie (2021)

Article Type: Paper

Aggressive interactions among species competing for resources are common and usually asymmetric, leading to consistent dominance hierarchies. Here, we document aggressive interactions among six albatross and three petrel species off southern New Zealand, in response to supplemental food provided by ecotourism boats. For species with sufficient sampling, we found a consistent dominance hierarchy, with Diomedea antipodensis gibsoni > D. epomophora > Macronectes halli > Thalassarche cauta > T. salvini > T. bulleri > Daption capense. The heavier species was dominant in most species pairs. Dominant species monopolised the food provided by displacing subordinates. However, subordinate species appeared to gain access to some food through fast responses, greater manoeuvrability, and feeding on small pieces of food ignored by dominants. Similar congregations and interactions at natural food sources suggest that dominance hierarchies may play an important role in structuring the diverse seabird communities in the southern oceans.