An innovative conservation project by a dedicated group of Ryman residents aims to help boost the South Island kākāriki karaka/orange-fronted parakeet population.
Residents from Charles Upham Retirement Village in Rangiora have been building nesting boxes for New Zealand’s rarest parakeet – there are only about 330 of the critically endangered birds left in the wild. They are a taonga species for Ngāi Tahu.
Department of Conservation Senior Biodiversity Ranger Archie MacFarlane says an initial run of 15 boxes will be placed on Blumine Island/Oruawairua, an island in the Marlborough Sounds.
Archie is involved with kākāriki karaka, both those living on the island and on the mainland part of the South Island. He is based with DOC in Rangiora, and from there made links with the residents of Charles Upham village involved in conservation projects.
Archie has asked for 30 nesting boxes in total. He will distribute half of that number to the Christchurch-based Isaac Conservation & Wildlife Trust, which runs one of the main captive breeding facilities for kākāriki karaka.
The Blumine Island project is designed to boost the endemic parakeet population, which should thrive on a pest-free island.
“The population on Blumine Island is somewhat limited, possibly due to nesting habitat. There is an estimated 90 birds on the island but it’s not a huge population for the island’s size,” Archie said.
“Kākāriki karaka are cavity nesting species, they like to nest in tree hollows provided by mature trees. There is only a limited number of mature trees with cavities on Blumine Island. We believe it might be that they’re constrained by nest availability.
“An initiative for the OFK program 2023 is the future release of more captive breed birds onto Blumine island. The idea is that these birds will bring new genetics to the island and breed with the wild parakeets.
“Since these birds will be captive reared at The Isaac Conservation & Wildlife Trust using the nesting boxes provided by Charles Upham village, they will hopefully recognise and use the same nesting boxes provided on the island.
“This in turn will hopefully help teach wild birds on the island how to use the nesting boxes.”
Archie said the nesting boxes were “a bit of an experiment” but potentially they would provide more available nesting space for kākāriki karaka on Blumine Island. “If successful we would love to add more nesting boxes and expand this idea to future release sites.
“The support Ryman Healthcare and the residents of Charles Upham village are providing for the kākāriki karaka recovery programme is fantastic.”
The kākāriki karaka recovery program is run in partnership by DOC and Ngāi Tahu, supported by The Isaac Conservation and Wildlife Trust, Orana Wildlife Park, Canterbury University, Mainpower and the NZ Nature Fund.
Other populations were located in and the nearby Hawdon Valley (located off the Waimakariri River in Arthur’s Pass National Park), the south branch of the Hurunui River (in Lake Sumner Forest Park) and the Brook Waimārama Sanctuary, south of Nelson.
Lynn Andrews said a group of Charles Upham residents are fully onboard with the project. He, Terry Courtney and Murray Giles have already started on the box build programme.
“It’s a breeding box that we’re making. It does have a hole in it for coming and going and it only has a slide foot at the bottom. You can slide that out, and that will empty the cage out. They have to ensure the cage is emptied and cleaned on a yearly basis so there’s no build-up of disease,” Lynn said.
Lynn, Murray, Terry and others in the Charles Upham village, including Michael Cherry, Colin Dixon, Alan Orchard, Ross Stewart, Gwenda Johnson and Christine Andrews, recently invited residents from two other Christchurch villages to thank them for their parallel efforts in building nesting boxes, but also rat and stoat traps to catch pests in the South Island high country and in other locations.