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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.

Erect-crested penguins on the Bounty Islands: population size and trends determined from ground counts and drone surveys

Notornis, 68 (1), 37-50

T. Mattern; K. Rexer-Huber; G. Parker; J. Amey; C.P. Green; A.J.D. Tennyson; P.M. Sagar; D.R. Thompson (2021)

Article Type: Paper

In October 2019, an expedition to the subantarctic Bounty Islands provided the opportunity to conduct comprehensive ground counts of erect-crested penguins to assess population size and compare numbers to previous surveys. The entirety of Proclamation Island, an erect-crested penguins’ stronghold, was surveyed and number of active penguin nests was determined via ground counts. Drone surveys aiming at assessing seal numbers, provided high- resolution aerial photography allowing spatial analysis of penguin nest densities on four islands, i.e. Proclamation, Tunnel, Spider, and Ranfurly Islands. A total of 2,867 penguin nests were counted on Proclamation Island between 24 and 29 October. Adjusting for the earlier timing of the survey compared to counts conducted since 1997, nest numbers were only marginally lower (~2.4%) than in 1997 and 2004 suggesting that the penguin population has remained stable for the past 20 years; a ~10% reduction in penguin numbers in 2011 seems to be related to warmer than average ocean temperatures that year. Density analysis from drone imagery showed highly heterogenous distribution of penguin nests, with birds preferring areas sheltered from prevailing south-westerly winds. This also means that a previous estimate from 1978 which relied on uniform extrapolation of nest densities to what was assumed to suitable breeding areas substantially overestimated the true population size, thereby contributing to the species current ‘endangered’ threat ranking.

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)

Article Type: Paper

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.

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)

Article Type: Paper

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.

The food and foraging of Collocalia and Aerodramus swiftlets: a review

Notornis, 68 (1), 26-36

M.K. Tarburton; C.T. Collins (2021)

Article Type: Paper

Swiftlets (Collocalia, Aerodramus) make up a guild of birds which prey on a wide range of aerial insects and spiders. The studies reviewed here show their prey to include 19 orders and 55 families of insects plus spiders. Most swiftlets seem to take whatever is available at the time and place, with site to site and year to year differences noted. One species (black-nest swiftlet) appears to be a swarm-feeding specialist. Prey size ranged from

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

Notornis, 68 (2), 131-146

R. Toy; S. Toy (2021)

Article Type: Paper

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.

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)

Article Type: Paper

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.

Clutch sizes and hatching success of Canada geese nesting in Canterbury, New Zealand

Notornis, 68 (1), 13-25

J.S. Adams; M. Williams (2021)

Article Type: Paper

Nesting outcomes of Canada geese (Branta canadensis maxima) in Canterbury, New Zealand were recorded from a sedentary population nesting at coastal Lake Forsyth (1967–70) and from a seasonally migratory population nesting in headwater valleys of the Waimakariri River (1966–80). Mean clutch size in 462 Lake Forsyth nests was 5.3 (sd = 1.3) eggs, with clutches of 4, 5, and 6 eggs comprising 17%, 30% and 30% respectively of the total. Goslings hatched from 67.4% of 1,602 eggs in 298 monitored nests, and the entire clutch hatched successfully in 42.6% of the monitored nests. Mean productivity at hatching was 3.6 (sd = 2.3) goslings per nest. Mean clutch size in 1,211 Waimakariri River headwaters nests was 4.5 (sd = 1.3), with clutches of 4, 5, and 6 eggs comprising 25%, 32%, and 20% respectively of the total. Goslings hatched from 63.3% of 3,952 eggs in 871 monitored nests, and the entire clutch hatched successfully in 30.5% of the monitored nests. Mean productivity at hatching was 2.9 (sd = 1.9) goslings per nest. Relative to Canada geese in their native North American range, geese nesting at Lake Forsyth laid clutches of similar size, had similar hatching success but higher nest success whereas geese nesting in the Waimakariri River headwaters laid, on average, conspicuously smaller clutches, had similar hatching success, but higher nest success.

Estimating the distribution, population status, and trends of New Zealand scaup (Aythya novaeseelandiae)

Notornis, 68 (2), 108-130

B.S. Greene (2021)

Article Type: Paper

New Zealand scaup (Aythya novaeseelandiae) counts are collated from a total of 12,145 site visits nationally between 1888 and 2018 to estimate their distribution, population status, and trends. Based on systematic counts of large flocks on lakes between 1984–2018, there are about 11,000 New Zealand scaup nationally. This estimate must be interpreted with caution, as if birds are highly mobile the risk of overestimating the population is high. The distribution of New Zealand scaup strongholds (>50 adults) is compared to historical descriptions and trends in water quality. As lakes become more eutrophic over time, the birds move and the population declines. Research should focus on aerial vs ground counts, telemetry/satellite and/or banding studies of bird movement, gender, diet, predation, and littoral zone quantity and quality (

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)

Article Type: Paper

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.

Nocturnal activity of the western weka (Gallirallus australis australis) in an open environment

Notornis, 68 (1), 1-12

S.D. Lamb; H.R. Taylor; R. Powlesland (2021)

Article Type: Paper

Understanding how animal behaviours are affected by external factors such as time of day/year and weather conditions is fundamental to understanding the basic biology of a species and can thus help with conservation management. Weka (Gallirallus australis) is typically crepuscular in its habits, but there is some evidence to suggest that it can also be nocturnal. We conducted a longitudinal study of the nocturnal habits of the western weka (G. australis australis) located at Manaroa in New Zealand’s Marlborough Sounds. We used model selection information criterion to examine how the numbers of weka in an open environment (lawn) changed with time of night and season, as well as differing weather and moonlight conditions. In addition, we undertook night-time behavioural observations during a four-month subset of the study period. Numbers of weka declined through the night and increased non-linearly around dawn. Weka were more likely to be present during moonlit nights and at warmer temperatures during the evening. There was considerable seasonal variation, with the highest number of weka during autumn and lowest during summer. Behavioural observations demonstrated that weka were active throughout the night, with foraging being the most frequently-observed behaviour.

Increasing urban abundance of tūī (Prosthemadera novaeseelandiae) by pest mammal control in surrounding forests

Notornis, 68 (2), 93-107

N. Fitzgerald; J. Innes; C. Watts; D. Thornburrow; S. Bartlam; K. Collins; D. Byers; B. Burns (2021)

Article Type: Paper

Public and our observations during 1999–2004 suggested that tūī (Prosthemadera novaeseelandiae) visited the city of Hamilton during March to October only, outside the nesting season. From 2004 onwards, we captured and banded 51 adult tūī and fitted radio transmitters to 41 in Waikato urban areas to locate nests. We directly observed 15 nests to determine nesting success and gather evidence of any predation events. Tūī moved 5–23 km from urban areas to surrounding native forests at the onset of nesting, but only four (29%) of 14 unmanaged nests fledged young, due mostly to predation by ship rats (Rattus rattus), swamp harriers (Circus approximans), and brushtail possums (Trichosurus vulpecula). Subsequent effective pest mammal control in forests around Hamilton was associated with greatly increased year-round tūī abundance and nesting in Hamilton. These results confirm previous findings that tūī move widely in winter; that they readily cross pasture in the absence of forest corridors, and that they will permanently inhabit urban areas. Provided adequate food is available, effective control of ship rats and possums can rapidly (1–4 years) increase tūī visits and nesting within 20 km of managed sites, enabling recolonisation of proximate urban habitats by this iconic endemic taxon, despite previous evidence for natal philopatry.

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)

Article Type: Paper

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.