15 Feb 2016

Record breeding season for endangered bird

4:46 pm on 15 February 2016

There has been a record breeding season of one of New Zealand's most endangered birds, the Chatham Island tāiko.

A Chatham Island taiko chick

A Chatham Island taiko chick Photo: Dave Boyle

Twenty-two birds have hatched from 26 eggs this year, nearly doubling the previous record of 13 chicks.

Chatham Island Tāiko Trust coordinator Mike Bell said there were only 150 tāiko left, and every chick counted in protecting and building the population.

He said the breeding season was not without drama, with one of the eggs abandoned by a pair of first-time breeders.

Mr Bell said a staff member spotted the egg, put it in a lunchbox, and moved it to another breeding pair, which were sitting on a damaged egg.

"These birds live in a burrow three metres deep - it's completely dark in there and one of the parents could have accidentally stood on the egg or knocked it around a bit."

He said the new egg was laid much later than the foster parent's original egg, so they had to stay in the burrow to incubate the egg for an extra two weeks.

"We hoped for two weeks that they wouldn't give up and stay on the egg. It was quite nerve-wracking. We checked every day to make sure an adult was still on the egg."

The foster egg hatched earlier this week and signalled the final phase of this year's breeding season.

Mike Bell said the chicks would stay on the nest until their wing feathers were developed enough for flight in May.