Hutton's Shearwater Trust Update
27 February 2023
Back in December, we put out a media release to let our network know about our new partnership with the Hutton's Shearwater Charitable Trust. Keep reading below to see how the Hutton's Shearwater Charitable Trust are progressing in their mission for conservation and why their efforts are so valuable in protecting the Hutton's shearwater (Kaikōura tītī). Breeding season to date:
The 2022/23 breeding season began in August 2022 and we have had a number of breeding adults crash land throughout the season, the majority of which were collected for release. It is also recorded that there were a few shearwater vehicle strike losses on our roads. The largest crash landing event of the season to date took place on 29 January 2023, with 37 shearwaters becoming grounded within a single event (between 9-11pm in Kaikōura's Puhi Puhi Valley) during thick fog conditions. Some were released from hillsides that night, whilst another 25 shearwaters were released the following day at sea.
With the only two remaining natural breeding colonies in the Seaward Kaikōura Ranges, it has also become apparent that the smaller of the two, Shearwater Stream on private land in the Puhi Puhi Valley, has been suffering massive losses.The last monitoring statistics estimated 10,000-13,000 breeding pairs, when there are in fact only 3,500 breeding pairs remaining - a critically low level. With climate change we are seeing more introduced predators (feral cats and mustelids) at higher altitudes, but what is really ultimately decimating this colony is the number of shearwater lost to light disorientation induced crash landings.The shearwaters breeding at this colony have to fly directly over the Kaikōura township, and while many grounded birds are rescued, many are never found. It is clear that thousands have perished in the past decade. We are also noting that the majority of shearwaters which are rescued from crash landing, are in underweight body condition in relation to unprecedented marine heatwaves suppressing prey availability - another climate change related impact affecting seabird survival.Artificial Kaikōura Peninsula colony / Te Rae o Atiu:
The Hutton's Shearwater Charitable Trust states that this season there are 19 chicks at the insurance colony on the Kaikōura Peninsula, which are being monitored. Last year chicks required human intervention regarding supplementary feeding, to date their weights are acceptable. Fly Safe campaign:
With chicks set to depart/fledge their burrows at colonies in March-April, the annual Fly Safe campaign will be underway again, with community volunteers on night patrol to rescue grounded birds, and the Hutton's Hub drop off point being checked daily. I anticipate that quite a number of grounded birds will likely require rehabilitative care in regards to injury and/or poor body condition.