Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Black Stilt

This post is for World Bird Wednesday.
Trip Part 3
Kaki or Black Stilt (Himantopus novaezelandiae) have been called the world's rarest wading bird. They were once common throughout New Zealand but are now restricted to the braided river channels of the Mackenzie Country.
We stayed overnight in Twizel, which is just south of Mount Cook, and made arrangements for a tour of the Department of Conservation's captive breeding center the next morning. DOC began managing the remaining population of Kaki in 1981 when the total remaining population of these birds dropped to only 23 birds. We were able to see two Kaki quite close at the center. These are old birds that were previously part of the captive breeding program. All the rest of the birds were well away from the viewing hide and we had to use binoculars to see them.
Kaki are completely black with long pink legs and a very long bill. The sound they make is similar to the sound of the Black-winged Stilt. I was intrigued with the similarities between the Kaki and the Black-winged Stilt which is quite common in Australia. Black-winged Stilt found their own way to New Zealand sometime in the recent past and unfortunately for the Kaki they compete for habitat and can also interbreed.
These photos were taken through the wire of the pen and with some reflection from glass panels surrounding part of the pen.
Kaki face a number of threats in the wild. The biggest threats are from introduced animals such as rats, ferrets, and cats. There is also habitat loss from hydroelectric and agricultural development. There is also human disturbance from recreational use of the riverbeds and wetlands.
By collecting the Kaki eggs and incubating them at the center the young Kaki can be reared safely. They are kept until up to 9 months of age and then released back to the wild in suitable habitat. From a low of 23 birds the total population of Kaki at August 2011 was now 185 birds. An enormous amount of time, energy, and money has been needed to get the numbers back up to even this level. I can't help thinking that it would be better if we humans did not upset and degrade our environment in the first place.
We were given this information on the tour we took and it is also available on the DOC website at http://www.doc.govt.nz/conservation/native-animals/birds/wetland-birds/black-stilt-kaki/
Back in 1983 there was a TV documentary made by TVNZ natural history unit. This full length feature is now available on-line and is well worth watching. Some of the scenes from this production were included in the shorter informational video which we were shown at the Center. http://www.nzonscreen.com/title/the-black-stilt-1983

16 comments:

TexWisGirl said...

a very slow rise in population. they are cute little ones.

Frank said...

Thanks for sharing the info on this rarity.

eileeninmd said...

What a cute bird! It is sad to hear about a bird population dropping so badly. I like to see the captive breeding work to save these cuties. Great post, thanks for sharing.

Carletta said...

Love the pink legs!
We continue to upset our environment every day and wonder how to fix it. Sad.

Tatjana Parkacheva said...

Beautiful bird.

Regards and best wishes

Gary said...

Not much of a rise in population, but I hope they keep at it. Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.

Gillian Olson said...

This is a very attractive bird, love those red eyes. Thanks for letting us know about this.

NatureFootstep said...

o,my, that is a nice looking bird. How great that yopu could see it so you could share. I do hope it will grow in numbers. So we can enjoy it for many years to come.

Nancy said...

He's so cute with his black body and pink legs....Thanks for the information as I am new to birding.....

Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

What a gorgeous bird. It sure would be better if humans didn't do some of the things they do in the first place. But thanks to you and others like you for repairing some of the damage.

joo said...

Lovely bird!

Nature Rambles said...

That's a lovely bird! Interesting to read about the conservation process. I hope they continue to multiply.

bailey-road.com said...

Very informative post. The Black Stilt is a lovely bird. Hopefully, the captive breeding program will save it.

Cheryl said...

Beautiful birds and sad to hear what we've done to yet another species.

Phil said...

Amazing Mick. I never heard of Black Stilt until your post. Hope they can survive and prosper

Kathie Brown said...

What an amazing and sad story! Yet, successful too. I had never heard of this species and you are right, it does remind me of the black-necked stilts we have here in the states. I am thinking they are the same as your black-winged stilts but will have to do further research on that. Thanks for all this great info and the wonderful pictures of this rare bird. I can only hope and pray it will not go the way of the ivory-billed woodpecker!