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Mana Island chicks signal seabird transfer success

Date:  21 December 2010
Source:  Department of Conservation and Friends of Mana Island

Mana Island’s first ‘home grown’ fluttering shearwater chick bodes well for the success of a 13-year effort to return three seabird species to the island, off Wellington's west coast.

The chick hatched in November from an egg laid by a breeding pair in a specially designed artificial burrow. The male parent has been confirmed as one of the 225 fluttering shearwater chicks transferred from Long Island in the Marlborough Sounds to Mana Island, between 2006 and 2008. The female of the pair had been lured in from the sea by loudspeakers set up on the island.

A fluttering shearwater chick transferred to Mana Island from Marlborough Sounds. Photo: David Cornick/Friends of Mana Island.
A fluttering shearwater chick transferred to Mana Island from Marlborough Sounds

Two other pairs have nested on the island so there may well be further chicks this breeding season.

Fluttering shearwaters were the last of three burrowing seabird species tricked into believing Mana Island was home, as part of a plan by the Department of Conservation (DOC) and Friends of Mana Island (FOMI) to restore the island’s ecology.

Along with diving petrels and fairy prions before them, the fluttering shearwaters were translocated as chicks to Mana from islands in the Marlborough Sounds, reared by volunteer human parents in artificial burrows and hand fed sardine smoothies prior to fledging. All three species are now breeding on the island.

The news of the fluttering shearwater chick has delighted those involved in restoring the island

“This is another major and exciting milestone towards the restoration of ecosystems on the island, DOC’s Mana Island ranger Sue Caldwell said.

“It’s one of many examples that the island is evolving and changing quite rapidly, and the support of volunteers and the local community is really helping this restoration process along.”

“It’s extremely positive,” said FOMI president Colin Ryder, acknowledging the funders of the seabird transfers, in particular the Mana Community Trust and the Community Trust of Wellington.

“We look forward to more seabird transferees arriving home to raise their young.”

"It’s fantastic that the shearwaters are back and breeding,” says Dr Colin Miskelly from Te Papa, who has been closely involved in the translocations.

“So much effort goes into each translocation, and it can be a long, nerve-wracking wait for the birds to mature and return to breed after four or more years at sea."

In another twist this season, Mana Island’s first ‘home grown” fairy prion chick has now returned as a breeding-aged adult.

The seabirds spend their life at sea, reaching maturity at four-years-old. More are expected to ‘touch down’ on the island over the next few years.