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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.

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)

Article Type: Paper

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.

Breeding petrels of Breaksea and Dusky Sounds, Fiordland; responses to three decades of predator control

Notornis, 67 (3), 543-557

C.M. Miskelly; C.R. Bishop; T.C. Greene; J. Rickett; G.A. Taylor; A.J.D. Tennyson (2020)

Article Type: Paper

Twenty-four breeding colonies of three petrel species were found on 18 of 26 islands surveyed in Breaksea Sound/Te Puaitaha, Fiordland National Park, New Zealand, in November 2017 and December 2019. All vegetated islands within Breaksea Sound were surveyed, along with 20 islands in Dusky Sound/Tamatea that were not included in an initial survey in November 2016 (eight of these additional Dusky Sound islands had breeding petrels, including three with broad-billed prions Pachyptila vittata). Sooty shearwater (Ardenna grisea) was the most widespread and abundant species in Breaksea Sound, with an estimated 6,950 burrows on 14 islands, while broad-billed prions were breeding on seven islands (2,100 burrows estimated). We record the first evidence of mottled petrels (Pterodroma inexpectata) breeding in Breaksea Sound, which is now their northernmost breeding location. Burrow occupancy rates were not assessed for any of the species. Most of the islands in Breaksea Sound had previously been surveyed during 1974 to 1986, before Norway rats (Rattus norvegicus) were eradicated from Hāwea and Breaksea Islands, and stoats (Mustela erminea) controlled to near zero density on Resolution Island and adjacent islands (including the inner Gilbert Islands and Entry Island). Following pest mammal control or eradication, broad-billed prions have colonised at least four additional sites. Sooty shearwaters were found at five sites in Breaksea Sound where they had not been recorded in 1980–83, and at one site they had increased by more than 50-fold since rat eradication. When combined with data from the 2016 and 2017 surveys, more than 75,700 petrel burrows are estimated to be present in southern Fiordland.

Population trends of light-mantled sooty albatross (Phoebetria palpebrata) at Adams Island and trials of ground, boat, and aerial methods for population estimates

Notornis, 67 (1), 341-355

K. Rexer-Huber; K. Walker; G. Elliott; G.B. Baker; I. Debski; K. Jensz; P.M. Sagar; D.R. Thompson; G.C. Parker (2020)

Article Type: Paper

Population sizes of light-mantled sooty albatross (Phoebetria palpebrata, LMSA) at the three New Zealand breeding sites (Auckland, Antipodes, and Campbell Islands) are poorly known. Annual counts since 1999 of a small number of LMSA nests show a long-term population decline on Adams Island, Auckland Islands. Mean nest numbers in 2016-17 were 10% down on counts in 1999–2000, with an annual rate of decrease, lambda, of 0.44 in the period 1999–2019. Three methods to estimate the breeding population size were trialled: ground counts of nests (Adams); aerial photography of LMSA with ground-truthing (Adams); and boat-based counts of LMSA on coastal cliffs (Campbell). Ground counts in a clearly delimited area were repeatable (42 and 40 active nests in 2017 and 2018, respectively), thus useful for monitoring, but ground counts are too limited for a whole-island population estimate. Aerial photography overestimated the number of active nests by 12.5% compared with ground counts. Ground-truthing showed that most apparently occupied nests contained an egg, and so nests occupied by birds with no egg are a smaller error source when interpreting aerial photographs than for other albatrosses. Boat-based LMSA counts proved inaccurate due to vessel movement. Considering that the terrain favoured by LMSA is very difficult to access, population size estimates based on aerial photography with ground calibration for apparent breeders appear the most effective of the techniques trialled. Ongoing counts at vantage-point and ground-count sites enable continued monitoring of LMSA trends at Adams Island.

Ornithological discovery, exploration, and research on the Auckland Islands, New Zealand subantarctic

Notornis, 67 (1), 11-58

C.M. Miskelly; R.H. Taylor (2020)

Article Type: Paper

The Auckland Islands comprise the largest and most researched island group in the New Zealand subantarctic region, and have the largest number of endemic bird taxa. Paradoxically, they are the only one of the five island groups that has not yet been the subject of a comprehensive avifaunal review. We summarise the history of ornithological exploration of the group, and where this information is held, based on a database of 23,028 bird records made between 1807 and 2019. More than 76% of these observations were unpublished, with the two largest sources of information being Heritage Expedition wildlife logs (5,961 records) and records collected during the Second World War coastwatching ‘Cape Expedition’ (4,889 records). The earliest records of endemic taxa are summarised, along with the earliest records of significant seabird breeding colonies. Citizen science (principally eBird, with 1,597 unique records) is a rapidly growing source of information, and new records of vagrant species continue to accumulate at a rapid rate. Compared with other subantarctic islands, Auckland Islands’ birds have received very little research attention, with most effort to date focused on a few large surface-nesting seabird species.

Towards the reestablishment of community equilibrium of native and non-native landbird species in response to pest control on islands in the Eastern Bay of Islands, New Zealand

Notornis, 67 (2), 437-450

C.J. Ralph; C.P. Ralph; L.L. Long (2020)

Article Type: Paper

Disequilibrium of bird communities, due to introduced pests and human-caused habitat changes, is a fundamental property to be understood in restoration of island biota. In this paper, we suggest that the reestablishment of native forests and food webs favour long-established and native species, and is less favourable to more recently introduced species. To test this hypothesis, we compared population trends of native and non-native birds on five islands in the Ipipiri Group in the north of New Zealand. We used over 900 station counts starting in 2008 when habitat recovery and pest (rat [Rattus], mouse [Mus musculus], and stoat [Mustela erminea]) removal began, as well as comparing to a set of earlier counts. In general, we found that detection rates of most long-established endemic native species significantly increased, while non-native species mostly decreased, suggesting population increases and decreases, respectively. Of the native species, six are relatively recent natural immigrants to New Zealand, and most of these declined or remained unchanged. We suggest that the increase in long-established natives is likely due to increased size and quality of native bush areas making habitat more favourable to these natives, as well as reduced predation and competition from the pest mammals.

Notes on staging bar-tailed godwits (Limosa lapponica baueri) at Ouvéa (Loyalty Islands, New Caledonia) during southward migration in 2007

Notornis, 67 (4), 651-656

R. Schuckard; D.S. Melville (2020)

Article Type: Paper

During southward migration from Alaska in 2006, a satellite-tracked female bar-tailed godwit (Limosa lapponica baueri) encountered adverse weather and stayed between 19 September and about 28 September 2006 at Ouvéa (Loyalty Islands, New Caledonia), where she apparently died. Ouvéa was visited between 27 September and 7 October 2007 to look for godwits. A total of eight godwits was recorded of which one, thought to be an adult female, may have been a dropout migrant. The remaining birds appeared to be immatures.

Individual variation in the foraging behaviour of two New Zealand foliage-gleaning birds

Notornis, 67 (3), 526-542

I.G. McLean (2020)

Article Type: Paper

The foraging behaviour of two foliage gleaning birds, rifleman and grey warbler (henceforth warbler), was studied at Kowhai bush, Kaikoura, with the aims of exploring behavioural variation by individual pairs, and broader patterns of foraging behaviour for each species. Data on six foraging variables were collected from individually identifiable birds of known breeding status at the time of sampling. A total of 1,632 samples were taken during the spring/summer period of 1987/8. Data analysis explored foraging behaviour in relation to species, sex, and breeding stage. Individual pairs of riflemen exhibited significant variation in behaviour, indicating behavioural specialisation that I term a “foraging personality” identified as an emergent characteristic of each pair. Riflemen showed greater within-pair variation than warblers. The similarities and differences in foraging behaviour between the two species are described and are linked to their behavioural ecology. Analyses are presented in relation to the problem of data independence when repeated samples are taken from one individual.

Variation in the bill colour of the white-capped mollymawk (Thalassarche cauta steadi)

Notornis, 67 (1), 333-340

A.J.D. Tennyson (2020)

Article Type: Paper

The white-capped mollymawk (Thalassarche cauta steadi) and Tasmanian mollymawk (T. cauta cauta) have discreet breeding sites, but away from their breeding grounds, where their at-sea ranges overlap, they are difficult to identify. The bill colour of these taxa has recently been considered to differ, but there is much conflicting information in published accounts. Three key differences often discussed are the amount of yellow on the culminicorn, the amount of yellow on the cutting edge to the upper mandible, and the amount of darkness on the mandibular unguis. In January 2018 I assessed these characters in 100 adult white-capped mollymawks at their Disappointment Island breeding site and found that each character was variably present. The majority of white-capped mollymawks lacked a yellow base to their culminicorn and had a dark mark on their mandibular unguis. In contrast, it has been reported that the majority of adult Tasmanian mollymawks have yellow at the base of their culminicorn and lack a dark mark on their mandibular unguis. While these characters can be used as a guide to identify these taxa, a minority of individuals of each taxon show the ‘typical’ bill colours of the other taxon. The amount of yellow on the cutting edge to the upper mandible varied between individual white-capped mollymawks, and so this is not a useful identification character.

Changes in the number and distribution of northern New Zealand dotterels (Charadrius obscurus aquilonius): results of four censuses undertaken between 1989 and 2011

Notornis, 67 (4), 717-728

J.E. Dowding (2020)

Article Type: Paper

This paper presents the results of four censuses of the northern New Zealand dotterel population undertaken between 1989 and 2011. During that period, the population increased by roughly 50%, from about 1,320 to about 2,130 birds. Most birds (85%) were in the northern part of the North Island (Northland, Auckland, and Coromandel Peninsula), but the taxon is expanding its range southwards on both the west and east coasts. On the east coast, a few pairs are now breeding close to Cook Strait. Population trends varied between regions, and almost all of the overall increase was a result of increases on the east coast. The highest rates of increase were on the Auckland east coast and on Coromandel Peninsula, probably because the intensity of management has been highest in those regions. In the Auckland urban area, birds now routinely breed inland, mainly on grass or bare earth; elsewhere, the taxon is almost entirely coastal. The proportion of birds on the west coast has fallen over the past 50 years, and about 85% of the taxon is now found on the east coast. If the overall increase in numbers has continued at the same rate since 2011, there would be about 2,600 birds in 2020. The size of the population and its rate of increase justify the recent down-listing of the subspecies to a threat ranking of At Risk (Recovering), but it remains Conservation Dependent. The recovery programme has been highly successful, and most management of the taxon is now undertaken by community groups, regional councils, and volunteers. Continuing threats include predation, flooding of nests, and disturbance during breeding; in future, continuing coastal development and increased recreational activity will probably degrade habitat further, particularly on the east coast, and climate change will have a range of impacts.