A Northland Peninsula has recorded the highest number of kiwi calls in New Zealand and been likened to how our forests sounded when the first Māori waka arrived in Aotearoa.
Purerua Peninsula in the Bay of Islands topped the highest kiwi call rate ever recorded at a single site in New Zealand during kiwi call count surveys conducted over a two-hour period in May.
Retiring Department of Conservation (DoC) director general Lou Sanson said the 217 kiwi calls recorded at Mataka Station were, to his knowledge, the highest number since the kiwi call count survey was established.
Sanson highlighted the record numbers in his farewell email as he stepped down from his DoC directorship this month.
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"As far as we know, the highest number of calls recorded in New Zealand! This must have been similar to what our forests sounded like when the first Māori waka arrived in Aotearoa".
To put on average 108 calls per hour into perspective, Mid North Kiwi Coast co-ordinator Andrew Mentor said a site with more than five calls per hour was regarded as a "high-density" kiwi site. Many areas of Northland are classed as "low-density" kiwi call sites where there are only one or two kiwi calls an hour.
Purerua had long been a high-density site, with kiwi call count data over the past decade recording kiwi call rates ranging from 10 to 40 calls per hour. However, Purerua kiwi had come under pressure from stoats, feral cats and uncontrolled dogs with numbers thought to be dropping. But recently intensified and co-ordinated pest control in the form of the Pest Free Purerua Project appeared to be bearing fruit, Mentor said.
"Recording over 200 kiwi calls in two hours shows the dedicated efforts of the people of Purerua are paying off. But there is more work to do for the Purerua kiwi to truly thrive."
The biggest risk now was complacency. "Over the last year alone, nine adult kiwi found dead on the peninsula have been linked to wandering dogs. Our challenge now is to improve responsible dog ownership to avoid any further unnecessary kiwi deaths."