Kokako at Otanewainuku

Kokako - cousin to the Huia

The kōkako belongs to the endemic New Zealand wattlebirds (Callaeidae), an ancient family of birds which includes the saddleback and the extinct huia. The kōkako is the only member of its family still surviving on the mainland. It has a pair of brightly coloured, fleshy "wattles" extending from either side of its gape to meet below the neck.

The North Is kōkako has blue wattles. The bird is not particularly good at flying and prefers to use its powerful legs to leap and run through the forest. Learn more on the DOC website


1980s Kokako Removed

Predators were decimating our kokako population so in in the 1980s the Forestry Service (Later known as DOC) captured and relocated out remaining birds to the sanctuary and safety of Little Barrier Island.

For many years a few pairs were sees, and in the late 1990s only a lone male could be heard occasionally. Female kokako are more likely to be killed as they sit on the nest incubating the eggs.




Kokako Reintroduced

The reintroduction of kokako back to Otanewainuku was a partnership project between the Otanewainuku Kiwi Trust and the Department of Conservation.

Selected source sites to transfer birds from were Kaharoa and Rotoehu both of which have strong kokako populations and similar genetics to the original Otanewainuku population.

Translocations took place in 2010 and 2011 with a total of 19 birds translocated, at release all birds were banded and fitted with transmitters that had a life of about 6 to 8 months. This allowed bird location and behaviour to be monitored.

Of the original 19 birds two were lost, one to stoat predation while on a nest seven kilometres outside animal pest control area and another to suspected predation again well outside control area. The male partners of the two lost birds eventually returned to Otanewainuku. 

The remaining 17 birds settled down in Otanewainuku, at the time their transmitters stopped working all 17 birds were resident in Otanewainuku forest.

The successful translocation was only the beginning of the story to give the best chance of establishing a new self sustaining population both through the survival of our existing translocated birds and future successful breeding the Trust intensified the level of animal pest control it carried out.

The greatest predator threats to Kokako come from ship rats, possums, stoats and birds of prey, falcon and harrier hawks.

The first few nests were intensively monitored and the first successful fledging of a chick happened in early March 2011 he was spotted on a regular basis for the next six months trailing along behind mum and dad.

Once volunteers became tuned into the unique song they reported hearing and occasionally sighting kokako through the forest.

A walk through survey of kokako in March 2013 indicated that the survival rate of translocated birds was quite good and while some successful breeding had taken place it was probably slower than one would have liked. It was found that one pair had moved and established a territory outside the current pest control but still inside Otanewainuku so an expanded pest control area of stoat trapping and bait stations was set up in this area.

A full survey of kokako in Otanewainuku was undertaken in the spring of 2014 to establish the current status of Otanewainuku kokako, this was a major undertaking and the trust is grateful for the specialist assistance given by the Department of Conservation.

The results of 2014 Spring survey were encouraging with good numbers of unbanded birds (hatched in Otanewainuku) being found, several of which have paired up and formed new territories.

A total of 26 kokako were found made up of 11 pairs and 4 singles and in one case a pair of unbanded birds were found with a juvenile still tagging along looking for a free feed.

The Survey results would indicate that Otanewainuku is a suitable habitat for kokako and with the continued support from volunteers, sponsors and DOC has the potential to form a strategically important population.

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