Our national emblem is a 70 million year-old flightless bird that is considered the least bird-like bird in the world!
This fiercely territorial, nocturnal little scrapper (he has razor sharp claws that he uses freely to protect his territory) is the only bird in the world known to have nostrils at the end of his bill. This is to sniff for food including worms, grubs, insects and berries.
Our kiwi house has two kiwi on display - Manukura our rare white kiwi and Turua, another North Island Brown Kiwi.
The melodious kokako has short rounded wings which they use to glide from treetop to forest floor. They love to bound from branch to branch and run along the ground on their long, strong legs.They belong to the ancient wattlebird family (includes the saddleback and the, now extinct, huia).
They sing to each other to maintain pair bonds and maintain their territory. Bizarrely, birds from different locations have different songs. Even the pairs here at Pukaha Mount Bruce have developed their own dialect!
Kokako have been bred in captivity at Pukaha Mount Bruce and we now have over 40 living wild in the Pukaha forest. We are lucky to have Kahurangi in Aviary 2 at Pukaha Mount Bruce. She was handreared at Hamilton Zoo and is imprinted (or thinks she's a human!) She will generally come right to the front of the aviary and say 'kokako'. She also has a wonderful wolf whistle which echos regularly around the park. We have a talk about kokakos every day at 2.15pm in front of Kahurangi's aviary.
These boisterous native parrots are so entertaining, they appear daily in our very own circus! They tumble, swoop, call and tease each other in complex games of tag.
Maori referred to these birds as ‘gossips’ because of the way they flocked together in the early mornings and late evenings to socialise.
The pioneering Kaka Conservation Programme is part of the species management work the Department of Conservation team at Pukaha Mount Bruce is responsible for.
In 1996 nine juvenile kaka were released our forest – returning them to the area after a 50 year absence. We now have that population up to over 140 with the view to achieve a self-sustaining population of 600 birds in the wild.
Kaka are intelligent and adaptable. Their powerful wings allow them to fly low and fast through bush, and they use their strong bills to get seeds from the tough cone of the kauri tree. With their strong feet they jump through the trees and tumble through the air, hanging from branches to reach fruit and flowers.
Because their diet includes all kinds of berries and seeds, they use their delicate, brush-tipped tongue to eat nectar from flax flowers and trees, such as rata, pohutakawa, kowhai, and rata. Consequently, kaka play an important role in the forest by pollinating flowers.
As you would expect from their cheeky personalities, these cheerful chaps feature in many stories of the bush.
In one legend, the noisy kaka unwittingly plays a key role in the demise of the god Maui.
The story goes that he was attempting to steal immortality from Hine-nui-te-po, the goddess of death, when the piwaiwaka (fantail) caught sight of his antics and started to laugh. The piwaiwaka’s laughter, in turn, made the loud kaka roar with laughter, waking Hine-nui-te-po who killed Maui.
Join us daily at 3pm to watch our Kaka feeding session which we call the Kaka Circus!
We are fortunate to have the takahe at Pukaha Mount Bruce. He arrived on our fair shores from Australia about 10,000 years ago with his cousin - the fascinating pukeko! They made that long journey and thrived in an environment with limited ground predators.
Once European settlers arrived however, it is a different story. The introduced predators (rats, stoats, possums) had an immediate and devastating impact on the population.
Fortunately, the story has a positive ending. Fifty years ago amateur ornithologist, Elwyn Welch was horrified at the dwindling number of the native takahe. He devised an amazing plan and trained bantam hens to foster takahe chicks.
This radical and inventive approach is being used in leading captive breeding sanctuaries throughout New Zealand and has had its hand in saving some of the rarest birds in the world. We have our Takahe talk daily at 10.30am - come and meet Bud and Natural!
Hihi – Stitchbird
Stitchbirds were once common throughout the North Island but had almost vanished by 1885. Introduced bird disease and predators wiped the mainland population out, leaving only some survivors on Little Barrier Island.
A self-sustaining population of hihi still exists on Little Barrier Island, and a few other populations survive in the wild in some predator-free areas.
Pukaha Mount Bruce has been breeding hihi in captivity since 1979, and has released several birds onto Kapiti and Tiritiri Matangi Islands, and into the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary in Wellington.
Introduced predators have severely reduced kakariki numbers.
The yellow-crowned parrot is threatened, but is still the most common of the three New Zealand kakariki. Although rare, it is found throughout the country in forests in small flocks, flying rapidly and chattering noisily.
The red-crowned species is more susceptible to attack than yellow-crowned kakariki because they spend more time foraging on the ground for food. They are now extinct in mainland forests where small numbers of yellow-crowned kakariki still survive.
Classified as ‘nationally critical’, the orange fronted kakariki has a high risk of extinction. The four known remaining populations are all within a 30km radius in Canterbury, South Island.
Whio – Blue Duck
Blue ducks are not found anywhere in the world except New Zealand. They are a nationally endangered species, with current populations declining.
They are also the only ducks who do not quack - they whistle! Fast fact - to sex a duckling, rangers will pick them up at around 6 weeks old. If they whistle they are male and if they grunt they are female!
Whio live in clean, fast-flowing rivers and feed on aquatic insect larvae. Pairs of whio often inhabit the same stretch of river for years, which they defend aggressively.
The whio’s river habitats mean they can’t be transferred to predator-free, off-shore islands to help them survive. Therefore, existing populations must be protected to prevent the species’ extinction.
Remaining populations of whio are fragmented and isolated, and the species has low breeding success. Whio are losing their habitats to vegetation clearances from streams and riverbanks, water diversions, and dams. They are also vulnerable to introduced predators.