Standing on the banks of Hawke's Bay's Lake Whaatuma, as the sun starts to dip behind the hills, there is an ethereal sound.

Like haunting flutists, the male matuku, or Australasian bittern, calls.

He is looking for a mate, using his oesophagus like a set of bagpipes to call her.

In years gone by the calling would have created an orchestra across the wetlands.

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Today, it is rare.

The birds are critically endangered, about 1500 worldwide, spread between New Zealand and Australia.

Rook Hans (left), and John Cheyne (right), with DoC staff Jess MacKenzie and Denise Fastier at Lake Whaatuma. Photo / Laura Wiltshire
Rook Hans (left), and John Cheyne (right), with DoC staff Jess MacKenzie and Denise Fastier at Lake Whaatuma. Photo / Laura Wiltshire

It puts them on par with birds like kakapo, takahe and black robin.

The next step on the

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