A predicted plague of rats and stoats has forced the relocation of rare native parakeets from Canterbury to a Bay of Plenty island sanctuary.

Eighteen critically endangered orange-fronted parakeets, or kakariki karaka, are winging their way to safety today.

The birds have been bred by the Isaac Conservation and Wildlife Trust at Peacock Springs on the outskirts of Christchurch.

They will will be released on Tuhua/Mayor Island where a trust board has worked with the Department of Conservation to make the island predator-free since 2002.


The captive breeding programme at Peacock Springs is a crucial part of conserving orange-fronted parakeets, which number between 200 and 400 in the wild.

Birds bred at the centre supply 'insurance' populations on four predator-free islands.

Meanwhile, the mainland population of the bird - found only in three alpine valleys - seems to be benefiting from beech seeding but is at risk from a predicted plague of rats and stoats later in the year.

Department of Conservation ranger Simon Elkington says that they are monitoring nine parakeet nests in the Hawdon and Poulter valleys in Arthur's Pass National Park compared to seven for this time last year.

"After a slow start nesting is looking good this year due in part to more food being available to the birds from the beech seed," he said.

Rat and mice levels in the valleys are at present at low levels but are expected to start ramping up in late autumn as the seed falls from the beech trees.

Predator levels will be monitored to determine whether a pest control response is required later in the year as part of DoC's 'Battle for our Birds' programme.

Parakeet facts

* Orange-fronted parakeet is one of New Zealand's rarest parakeet/kakariki species and is nationally endangered.

* Once common throughout New Zealand, it now survives in just three beech-clad valleys on mainland New Zealand-the Hawdon and Poulter valleys in Arthur's Pass National Park and the south branch of the Hurunui in Lake Sumner Forest Park.

* Stoats and rats pose the greatest threat to the parakeets which nest in tree holes and the eggs, chicks and sitting adults are easy prey for these tree-climbing predators.