|Previously the Bestow donations had been going towards predator control in the forest, but the Trust approached us earlier this year to see if we would be interested in changing our sponsorship over to the translocation of kōkako into the area.
There are currently 69 kōkako in Ōtanewainuku, and over 2000 kōkako pairs in New Zealand. As a team of trampers and outdoor enthusiasts, we were thrilled with this new sponsorship opportunity and jumped at the chance to join the famous Hans and the lovely Tiffany from ŌKT on an early morning kōkako spotting expedition into the forest. Nothing quite prepares you for the haunting call of the kōkako. Like us, the kōkako have different dialects and can tell if another bird is simply a neighbour or a visitor from a completely different region. They are a very territorial bird, once they have found an area they can call home and hopefully, paired up with a mate, they will stay strictly within the boundary they have set for themselves.
|They will defend it fiercely against any kōkako interlopers. Immediately coming to investigate any possible breach of security, a series of flutters, reminiscent of a kererū, announcing their arrival. Being a high canopy bird, it can be very difficult to spot a kōkako but their call is a different matter. It is quite distinctive. An extraordinarily haunting song, that once you are familiar with, will alert you to their presence.
As parents kōkako believe in independence for their offspring. Once they are old enough, their children are kicked out of their territory and told on no uncertain terms to go find a home of their own. From that moment on, if the children try returning home, their parents will defend the area as fiercely as they would against a complete stranger.
Because kōkako are so territorial, it is really important that the forest they live in has very diverse range of plants. Unlike other birds, who will all travel quite a distance if they hear there’s a buffet of nectar on offer, the area within the kōkako’s boundary needs to be able to provide food all year round. This is why the Ōtanewainuku forest, with its huge diversity of trees, is so perfect for kōkako. The area also has a dense population of kohekohe trees, which provide the kōkako’s absolute favourite meal!
Although, new birds will take time to introduce to the area, introducing genetic diversity is an important part of sustaining a healthy population. Going forward Bestow has agreed to contribute to the cost of relocating new birds from other areas to join the existing population in the Ōtanewainuku forest.
We are very excited to be part of project to bring back the kōkako to an area they once flourished.
Hollie Proctor on behalf of Janine Tait (Bestow Beauty)