Happy anniversary to a plucky bird

by frog

On this day 60 years ago, Geoffrey Orbell rediscovered the takahe in Fiordland.

Photo from Maungatautari Ecological Island Trust

Photo from Maungatautari Ecological Island Trust

The takahe or nortornis (Porphyrio hochstetteri) looks like a pukeko at first glance, but it’s a bit tougher. It has a big bill and strong legs with which it could happily defend itself in a Friday night Courtenay Place melee.

After only four recorded sightings in the 19th century, the takahe had been believed extinct for 50 years. But in 1949, an expedition discovered a remant population in the Murchison Mountains to the west of Lake Te Anau.

The population declined to 118 in 1982, but with intensive management of deer (which devour its food supply) it began to slowly recover in its mountain stronghold. DOC’s website says that today there are 130 in the Murchisons and 60-odd on island sanctuaries.

A mistake in target recognition during a pukeko cull on Mana Island reduced the population by one, d’oh; however, the resident population on Kapiti Island near Wellington and Tiritiri Matangi near Auckland are major tourist drawcards.

Jeremy Wells likes them – he had fun filming Birdland, measuring takahe poo and finding humour in the “irony of sending takahe down to Southland to become less inbred”.

So this Friday as you clink glasses on Courtenay Place or at your after-work social, propose a toast to a plucky blue-green customer that puts its political counterparts to shame. Here’s to the takahe.

frog says

Published in Environment & Resource Management by frog on Fri, November 20th, 2009   

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