Editorial: Pukeko not such a rare sight today

By Linda Hall

Lately I've taken to riding my bike on the wonderful iWay cycle trails. I live near the Hawke's Bay Showground so, in a matter of minutes, I'm off the road and enjoying the scenery.

I love it. You see all sorts of things, rabbits, livestock and once a mouse scuttled across the path in front of me, making me laugh out loud.

But what I like the most is the birdlife.

Duck, swans and shags abound. However, the bird that amuses me most is the pukeko. They are everywhere. Families of them pecking about and then running flat out when they hear me approaching.

Not so long ago they were a rare sight, now they wander the waterways and orchards all over the region. Why I wondered?

I phoned Hawke's Bay Fish and Game officer Tom Winlove who told me I wasn't dreaming, there are definitely more pukeko about. The reason, he says, is because of the number of orchards, vineyards and commercial vegetable growers closer to town. "Pukeko go up and down the waterways around these areas feeding and, because they have an abundance of food, the survival rate of their young has increased," Mr Winlove said.

In fact the numbers have increased so much the shooting season for the protected native game bird has been extended for a month. The season starts on May 4 and ends September 29.

Hunters are permitted to shoot 10 birds a day.

However, Mr Winlove says if the birds are being a pest growers can request a special permit to shoot them

"Pukeko are cunning birds," Mr Winlove said. "Although they can fly, they prefer to run and they are fast." I can understand why growers get frustrated with this bird, which has a huge appetite. But at the same time I love seeing them when I'm cycling around the Bay - so run pukeko run.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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