Parrot Blogger - Brent Barrett

– About Brent –
Brent has worked extensively with endangered parrots as a research scientist with the Australia and New Zealand governments. These projects included Kakapo, Western Ground Parrot and Orange Bellied Parrot. He recently joined the Blue Throated Macaw team in Bolovia.

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September 16 2010

Once there was a parrot filled forest

by Brent Barrett

New lessons from hard work and a bit of technology.

The lowland kea of Westland National Park have never been previously investigated with the exception of cognitive tests. As usual we may never know the answer to why they choose to live here and how they adapted to forage in the lush temperate rain forests after so long in the harsh mountains. But soon we will have an in-site to their nesting behaviour and hopefully understand their susceptibility to introduced mammal predation. Already I have to correct a previous statement using updated information gathered recently in the field. After three years of planning and preparation we recently had half a dozen nests under 24hr camera surveillance.
The first season we found just two active nests, last year five were found but they were not all active at the same time as some were predated very early and others failed when the large chicks were killed by predators. This year we had six all active and most found during the egg laying stage (which does wonders for the Brood survival calculations) and sadly already one has been exterminated under our nose. Our intention is too use this work to understand what risk there is to kea inside areas where we can successfully control introduced mammals and in areas where we don't have the resources to undertake predator control. In short are kea dying without our help? The answer is not simple and after three years of hard work we are over half way through the process. Already we have recorded introduced possums visiting our nest entrances, mustelids from Europe (Stoats) are the worst predator in our forest and two have been recorded peeking into a nest. Also a surprise, our own native Kiwi bird, a very rare endemic, has been recorded passing the entrances. Kea, possum and Kiwi are all cavity users so this is logical, however the Stoat is a ruthless killer, often killing more than it can eat and therefore burying the left over for later. These are the animals that will kill all chicks in the nest one by one and eat none! The only evidence of their visit is the obvious absence of the brood. And with luck the parents upset in the trees above. Worse case is a dead female which is often the case in Kaka our other large forest Kea. The correction I must make is last time I wrote that females remain in the hole for months on end but with our new nest camera effort we see her often sitting at the entrance and exiting all through the night to stretch and to do her toileting. Which is hardly like going out to a movie and diner but it is a start.

Posted by Brent Barrett on 09/16 at 09:48 PM


Hi Brent,
Are you planning any nest protections against these predators?

Thank you for your feedback, all would agree with you that our first point would be to protect the few nests we have found however this project is focused on the bigger picture.  The goal (in the very near future) is to provide improved protection to 1 million hectares of occupied Kea habitat (1/3rd of the current range).  Sadly on the small scale it is hard to protect each nest but if we ‘knock back’ the predators in an entire valley then the stand to gain up to five years of trouble free nesting for all bird (kea included).  For this reason we need to identify just who is predating the nests and how often.  So for now that requires very close monitoring of the nests we find but sadly no intervention.  However the results of this work will enhance wild kea populations for decades to come.  Regards Brent

Comment posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/17  at  08:05 AM

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