Kārearea: the mysterious New Zealand falcon


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The kārearea/New Zealand falcon is considered one of my favourite birds.

Considerably recognized, I might nonetheless say it’s a reasonably underrated species right here, not typically getting as a lot consideration as different flashier birds – cough, cough, kea. You may need seen them featured on the $20 word.

Small but packing a punch, kārearea are spectacular birds. They’re additionally fairly distinctive in some ways. Solely present in New Zealand, these powerhouses can fly over 200km/h and hunt prey larger than themselves. And so they’re attractive to admire.

Mixing in simply, it’s straightforward to overlook recognizing them out within the wild. However as soon as you already know what to search for, you may’t assist however maintain a watch out on the lookout for them.

 ‘Ngā Whenua I Haroa E Ngā Kāhu – The Lands Soared Over By Hawks’

kārearea

kārearea

kārearea

Kārearea developed to hunt within the dense forest (earlier than we people burnt most of them down right here).

Out of the 38 complete species of falcons worldwide, the kārearea is considered one of solely 4 that hunt within the forest. Due to this, it has brief wings in order that it may well maneuver simply. The delicate feathers are strong and simply bounce again as a substitute of breaking whereas searching in dense bush.

They’ve additionally developed to have the ability to hunt out within the open, too, with the long-lasting falcon stoop-dive transfer. Half the dimensions of the swamp harrier (which confuse many), you gained’t possible see kārearea feeding on roadkill – they hunt stay. In addition they rapidly flap their wings as a substitute of gliding.

Complete pocketrockets.

kārearea

kārearea

kārearea

 Trying up shut, you may see that they’re majestic creatures.

Kārearea have lovely broad wings that attain almost 100cm in size; they’ve lengthy yellow legs made for catching small prey. An extended tail helps with maneuvers as they hunt, and so they have probably the most lovely yellow, brown, cream, and gold feathers. Males are smaller than females – which I like.

There are additionally three totally different ecological varieties of kārearea: Bush, Jap, and Southern.

  1. Bush falcons typically happen within the North Island, south of the Waikato, to the highest of the South Island. They’re smaller.
  2. Jap falcons are bigger and paler, starting from Marlborough down into the southern finish of the South Island, preferring open, dryer habitats east of the Southern Alps.
  3. Southern falcons are intermediate-sized and stay in Fiordland, Rakiura/Stewart Island, and down all the way in which within the subantarctic Auckland Islands

kārearea

kārearea

Typically my buddies that find out about kārearea find out about them as a result of they’ve been dive-bombed by them, particularly mountain biking in locations like Rotorua or round pine plantations.

They don’t construct nests however moderately a scrape. Typically they nest on the bottom, and for those who come anyplace close to them once they’re on the nest, you’ll understand it. They are going to purpose to your head and aggressively assault you, and so they don’t miss. Greatest to keep away from.

The kārearea are thought to fill the ecological predator hole, which might usually be occupied by a mammal predator – one more reason they breed on the bottom. Breeding begins in winter, and the chicks fledge on the finish of summer time. The chicks hatch within the spring. There may be as much as 4 chicks in a nest, however often, it’s round two.

kārearea

kārearea

kārearea

Now right here comes the unhappy half – however don’t fear; there’s nonetheless hope.

There are lower than 8,000 kārearea left in New Zealand in the present day. And there’s nonetheless lots of work to be performed round defending them.

As a result of they typically nest on the bottom, this implies they’re vulnerable to launched predators, particularly the eggs and the chicks. There are additionally movies of cats coming into kārearea nests and killing the chicks as a result of the mom couldn’t fend them off. Different threats in addition to predation are habitat loss, disturbance, improvement impacts, being shot by people, wind farms, and energy line electrocution.

Typically the large energy strains within the broad open components of rural New Zealand make excellent perches.

kārearea

kārearea

kārearea

There are pockets of kārearea round New Zealand, together with down right here in Central Otago, the place I stay in Wanaka. Right here we now have the Jap type of kārearea. In 2021 their standing was formally reclassified and worsened by DOC as they went from “recovering” to “nationwide susceptible.”

The Cardrona Kārearea Conservation Undertaking is a community-led mission that goals to develop a science-based conservation strategy for kārearea in tussock grassland mountain ecosystems like up at Cardrona. They’re at present in 12 months three out of 5 of analysis.

That is really comparable throughout most of New Zealand; there actually simply isn’t lots of details about kārearea.

kārearea

kārearea

Not a lot is understood concerning the kārearea that stay in alpine environments, so lots of analysis must be performed to know them and assist them. There are not any present quantitative research of kārearea on this space. Within the conservation world, you could totally perceive the place and dangers an animal faces earlier than you may create a rescue plan.

These are issues like what number of breeding pairs are within the space, what are the traits, and whether or not they’re profitable. Do the chicks and adults survive, and in the event that they don’t what occurred, then we will plan learn how to defend them in future. Fortunately all of them appear to return to breed in the identical space yearly, making it considerably simpler to watch.

Many of the kārearea habitat falls on personal land round this space, so it’s essential to work with the farmers and locals to assemble knowledge and observe.

You possibly can solely catch kārearea to leg-band them when they’re on the nest as a result of, properly, they assault you.

kārearea

kārearea

kārearea

Many points round kārearea are preventable based mostly on what we now have realized so removed from the analysis right here with the Cardrona Kārearea Conservation Undertaking. The largest difficulty? Mammal predation. Cats. Stoats. Possums. Hedgehogs.

This sounds painfully apparent, however I’m going to dig in anyhow. Positive an even bigger or grownup chicken has the possibility to battle off predators. However for a species to outlive, that implies that the eggs after which chicks should fledge efficiently. That is the large downside.

You won’t assume that seemingly innocuous critters like hedgehogs wouldn’t be a problem with falcons, however they’re. They eat the eggs and the chicks. Wildlife cameras had been used to report the nests final 12 months and caught a hedgehog repeatedly attacking a nest with 4 ten-day-old chicks whereas the mom tried to battle it off. One other nest on the town failed as a result of somebody’s pet cat repeatedly raided it.

However the worst of all is after we trigger the nests to fail. A bunch of youngsters right here in Albert City had been by accident harassing a nest and taking pictures, disturbing the birds for a protracted interval. Even simply driving the birds away for lengthy sufficient implies that the infants can fall sufferer to predation.

kārearea

kārearea

kārearea

Regardless of all these troubles, what’s nice is that we’re on the suitable path towards determining learn how to defend these unimaginable hunters. So many individuals, particularly down right here round Wanaka and Cardrona, have rallied collectively to assist this analysis. Many contribute right here to log kārearea sightings.

I don’t even have many pictures of kārearea within the wild as a result of they’re aren’t many. Most of those photos got here from after I was on the North Island a couple of years in the past in Rotorua with Wingspan, a belief caring for sick, injured, and orphaned kārearea.

This consists of analysis, captive breeding, public consciousness work, and rehabilitating raptors again into the wild. The extra we contribute, the higher!

 Have you ever heard of the kārearea earlier than? Aren’t they lovely? 

kārearea



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