12 Feb 2019

On the island

From Kākāpō Files, 11:00 am on 12 February 2019

The record-breaking kākāpō breeding season continues its bumper run.

The number of eggs has reached 160, with more due to be laid as some female kākāpō begin to mate a second time.

Seventy two of the 160 eggs were fertile, although some have died at the early embryo stage.

Twenty one chicks have hatched – and that number increases by the day (and sometimes by the hour). One chick – Waa-4-A – died when it was just 36 hours. It was a small chick that took a long time to hatch and it failed to thrive.

Five kākāpō chicks are being hand-reared at Dunedin Wildlife Hospital and they will shortly be joined by a further eight chicks that are currently being hand-reared on Whenua Hou.

Deidre Vercoe, operations manager of DOC's Kakapo Recovery Team, checks the fertility of a kākāpō egg, laid by a female called Queenie. The check is made at the nest at night, when the female is away from her nest.

Deidre Vercoe, operations manager of DOC's Kakapo Recovery Team, checks the fertility of a kākāpō egg, laid by a female called Queenie. The check is made at the nest at night, when the female is away from her nest. Photo: RNZ / Alison Ballance

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The Kākāpō Recovery team, from the Department of Conservation, are hard at work on Whenua Hou / Codfish Island and Anchor Island, managing a very busy kākāpō breeding season.

Operations manager Deidre Vercoe says that their bold strategy of bringing eggs in for hand-rearing to encourage females to nest a second time is working. A number of females on Anchor Island – where breeding started a little earlier – have already mated and should begin nesting again soon.

Female kākāpō on Whenua Hou have also begun breed a second time.

A number of female kākāpō on Whenua Hou have been left to nest. Fertile eggs are still being removed for artificial incubation, to minimise any risks, but the females are given dummy eggs to incubate instead. These females will be given small chicks to rear after they have hatched in captivity.

Technical officer Daryl Eason says they have lost a number of fertile eggs whose embryos have died. He says this is a common problem with kākāpō eggs and is to be expected.

Update - 15 February

Listen to this short story from Morning Report for an update on the number of eggs and chicks.

Whenua Hou / Codfish Island lies northwest of Stewart Island. It is a nature reserve that has been the centre of kākāpō conservation efforts since the late 1980s.

Whenua Hou / Codfish Island lies northwest of Stewart Island. It is a nature reserve that has been the centre of kākāpō conservation efforts since the late 1980s. Photo: RNZ / Alison Ballance

Find out more

If you would like to know more about kākāpō you can follow the Kākāpō Recovery Programme on Facebook and Instagram. Kākāpō scientist Andrew Digby is on Twitter.

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