Caring for Kaka at Boundary Stream

Written by John Gibbs, a volunteer for the Poutiri Ao ō Tāne project.

When, as a young trainee with the NZ Wildlife Service, I did my aviculture training at Mt Bruce and the Bulls game farm, I never imagined I would be using some of the skills nearly 50 years later.

 My wife Pat and I have been helping to care for the kaka while they are acclimatising to their new surroundings in the aviaries since they arrived at Boundary Stream last October.  I am running in a new hip and the low intensity task is something even I can handle. 

 I had only ever visited Boundary Stream twice before, both brief day trips, but was captivated by the place and especially the amazing wildlife it held.  The fact that so many people – DOC staff, landowners, volunteers, iwi, benefactors and researchers – had contributed so much and achieved so much was another attraction.

 Even without these attractions, the birds themselves make it such a satisfying experience.  Like all parrots, kaka are intelligent, curious and adaptable birds that interact readily with humans without apparently becoming too imprinted or dependent on them.  Their interactions with each other provide a constant source of amusement.  Kaka have a huge range of calls, from the harsh piercing shriek we all know from the bush, through melodious notes, croaks, gentle whistles and soft warbles and it’s captivating trying to fathom the purpose of each.

 Over the last 5 months we have seen the birds thrive and grow, until finally the big day came on Wednesday when the first 4 (2 males and 2 females) were let out into the wild for the first time in their lives.  One pair is being held back in the aviary for a while to act as an anchor for the released birds until they too are released next month.

 We have been radio-tracking the 3 birds fitted with transmitters over the last 2 days and they have stayed close to the aviary.  The highlight this morning was sighting the one non-transmittered bird, confirming that all 4 are alive and well after their first couple of nights in the wild.

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