Catherine Gaffaney is a general reporter based in Auckland.

Record number of Taiko born on Chatham Islands

The taiko is one of New Zealand's most endangered species, with less than 150 birds left. Photo / Supplied
The taiko is one of New Zealand's most endangered species, with less than 150 birds left. Photo / Supplied

A record number of an endangered bird species have been born on the Chatham Islands this year.

Twenty two taiko chicks were hatched from 26 eggs this breeding season, nine more chicks than the previous seasonal record of 13.

The taiko is one of New Zealand's most endangered species, with less than 150 birds left.

Chatham Island Taiko Trust co-ordinator Mike Bell said the chicks were an "amazing boost" to the species.

"There are only 26 pairs of these birds in the whole world (the rest are too young to breed), so every chick counts in protecting and building the population," he said.

The season wasn't without drama, however. The last chick almost didn't make it.

"It looks like the female literally dumped the egg and left, then the male just stood around outside their burrow and didn't sit on the egg for about 10 days before going off out to sea," Mr Bell said.

"One of the Taiko Trust staff members found the exposed egg, put it in his lunchbox, and quickly rushed it over to another pair who were sitting on an egg, which they had previously damaged.

"We weren't even sure if the egg was fertile, but left it for a month then put a light behind it to see if there was a foetus, and there was! It was very exciting."

The egg was then incubated for an additional "nerve-wracking" two weeks.

"Chick No 22 was a real bonus chick, to be honest," Mr Bell said.

The chicks will stay on the nest while their parents take turns going to sea to forage for food before fledging in May.

The taiko was thought to be extinct for almost a century until they were rediscovered by David Crockett in 1978.

It wasn't until 10 years later the first signs of breeding were found on a remote corner of the Chathams.

- NZ Herald

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