TAKAHĒ ON ROTOROA ISLAND
A breeding pair of takahē were released on Rotoroa Island in May 2015. The birds, who are named Teichelman (male) and Silberhorn (female), are 17 months old and were the first of five breeding pairs destined for Rotoroa Island. A second pair, Anzac and Kuini, were released in late August 2016.
A struggle for survival in the wild
Like many of our native species, takahē exemplify the struggle
for survival against seemingly impossible odds. Mass habitat
destruction, hunting and predators such as stoats and cats have
decimated their population and the range they once inhabited.
Takahē are a large bird (up to 50cm high and 3kg in weight) but
they are flightless; so despite being equipped with a powerful beak
and legs, they're no match for the wiles of New Zealand's
A coat of many colours
Takahē are a similar colour to pukeko. Where the pukeko is
skinny and blue with a black back, the takahē is much larger and
more colourful. It has a strong red beak and stout red legs. Its
rich feathers range from an iridescent dark blue head, neck and
breast to peacock-blue shoulders, and turquoise and olive green
wings and back.
Takahē have a very distinctive call: a loud clowp. Their contact
call is easily confused with that of the weka but is generally more
resonant and deeper.
The beak of the takahē is uniquely adapted to getting the best
parts out of grass stalks. It's perfect for cutting and stripping
the base of grass tillers to get at the juicy new growth, but they
still need to feed nearly all day to get enough nourishment. Takahē
are also very adept at nipping seed stalks off and daintily holding
them in one foot while elegantly sliding their beaks along the seed
head to strip the seeds and eat them.
Takahē generally lay between one and three eggs each October, of
which around 80% hatch. The 30-day incubation period is shared by
both parents, who also feed the chicks for the first three months.
Young birds often stay with their parents for up to 18 months,
helping to rear the next year's chick.
A helping hand
The Takahē Recovery Programme, based in Te Anau and run by the
Department of Conservation, is the longest running species
conservation programme in New Zealand and has pioneered many
conservation techniques later used to save endangered species in
New Zealand and around the globe.
Despite all this effort, takahē are still classified as a
'critically endangered' species, with only 270 birds in existence.
Through a partnership with Mitre 10 Takahē Rescue, DOC's Takahē
Recovery Programme has not only grown the takahē population,
but has also developed the capacity to support bringing breeding
takahē to new sites such as Rotoroa Island.
The programme's priority is to establish 125 breeding pairs of
takahē at safe sites. Unfortunately the Murchison Mountains, while
home to the only wild population of takahē, is not a safe site
because of the on-going threat of stoats. Safe sites include
pest-free islands as well as mainland sites with well established
predator control, like predator-proof fencing.
Rotoroa Island has been identified as one of those safe sites.
Our birds come from DOC's very successful 'takahē farm', the
Burwood Takahē Breeding Centre. They come with the blessing of Ngai
Tahu who are their kaitiaki or guardians and will be received by
our kaitiaki, Ngati Paoa and Ngai Tai.
When you see a takahē on Rotoroa Island
Let them find their own food. Stay a reasonable distance away
from them. We want as many people as possible to enjoy them.