Three rare fledgling native raptor chicks have arrived at Martinborough as pest control for vineyard owners and bringing with them the hope the endangered species will soon become well established in Wairarapa again.
The 3-week-old chicks hatched at Rotorua's Wingspan raptor sanctuary were welcomed yesterday morning by about 50 people before they were placed in a hack box on the eastern slopes of Escarpment Vineyard until ready for release.
Once they are ready to fly, the hack box will be opened for them to make the area home in the hope they will control bird and rodent pets plaguing vineyards.
It was an emotional event, especially for Palliser Estate Wine Cellar sales manager Jane Lenting who has been overseeing the project to bring the chicks - two female and one male - to Martinborough.
All of the chicks have been named. A Martinborough School Year 7 student named one Hohoro. Another has been called Honour and iwi representative Mike Kawana has named the only male bird Pari, which means cliff.
New Zealand falcon or karearea are endangered with only about 10,000 left.
Numbers used to be between 60,000 and 70,000 and the birds once bred freely in Wairarapa.
The chicks were fighters and should settle well, keeping vine pests like starlings down, Ms Lenting said.
Falcons are smaller than harrier hawks, move very fast, can reach 200km/h and have eyesight eight times sharper than the human eye. "They are healthy and have attitude," she said. "It won't be long and their natural instinct will kick in. They will learn how to hunt for themselves ... they are natural, bold birds but incredibly vulnerable."
Wairarapa MP Alastair Scott, who is also a vineyard owner, was at the welcoming and said the project was a good conservation effort, supporting not only the future of the raptor but vineyard owners.
Escarpment Vineyard owner Larry McKenna said they were just "hosts" to the project which would benefit the region.
He hopes the "territorial" birds will find the area inviting and become a permanent sight flying through our skies.
Iwi representative Mike Kawana said it was vital the birds were being brought back to the area. "These birds get forgotten but they are important to the environment. It's so good to see these projects happening," he said. Wingspan falconer and founder Debbie Stewart said the native raptor was endangered with about 75 per cent born in the wild not surviving.
"They tend to nest on the ground becoming very vulnerable to other pests."
The hack box the three chicks are in is raised above the ground. They will be released mid to late November and will then be free to settle, hopefully with the territorial male making it a permanent home.
The biggest threat to the birds are humans shooting them, Ms Stewart said. However, cats, rats, and powerlines also threaten the birds' survival.
"There are real issues for them. People just don't seem to understand they are rarer than kiwi."
The first 10 days after the three chicks are released are critical.
Ms Lenting is looking for people to help monitor the birds once released.
If you can help please call her on 021 025 78799 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.