Petrels / Shearwaters


Matakhoe/Limestone Island (37 ha, Whangarei Harbour). During annual transfers from 2004 to 2008, a total of 174 grey-faced petrels were translocated from Taranga (Hen) Island to Matakohe/Limestone Island. The project was initiated by Friends of Matakohe-Limestone Island (FOMLI), in order to establish a new population of this species on the island, as part of their island restoration programme.

The chicks were collected from burrows on Taranga (Hen) Island just before first emergence from their burrows, at approximately 3 weeks before they were due to fledge. Suitable chicks were selected on weight and wing length criteria.

Once on Matakohe-Limestone Island, the chicks were housed in artificial burrows and supplementary-fed until they fledged. They were given tinned sardines in soya oil, blended with water and delivered via syringe and crop-tube – a diet and technique used in other seabird chick translocation projects in New Zealand.  Over the course of the project 22 chicks did not survive to fledge (due to a range of rearing issues).

152 chicks fledged over the 5 year project. All transferred chicks were banded. The first birds are expected to begin returning to Matakohe-Limestone Island three to five years after fledging, and start prospecting for suitable nesting burrows and partners. Breeding is unlikely before the birds are five years old.

In May 2010 the first returning birds were discovered on Matakohe-Limestone Island when 2 were caught at the release site (from the 2005 and 2006 transfers).

Contact Graeme Taylor.


Black petrels now breed only on Great Barrier and Little Barrier Islands. They formerly bred on the lower coastal mountain ranges of the North Island and northwestern South Island, but were eradicated by predators. The only translocations have been to:

Little Barrier Island / Hauturu (3083 ha, Hauraki Gulf east of Auckland). Between 1986 annd 1990, 249 black petrels close to fledging were translocated from Great Barrier Island (46 in 1986, 60 in 1987, 40 in 1988, 49 in 1989, 54 in 1990). Black petrels were reduced to very low numbers by cats on Little Barrier Island before cats were eradicated from 1977-80. At the same time, 50 black petrels of similar age to those transferred were banded as controls on Hauturu. Searches for these birds returning to breeding sites on both islands began in 1991 but three times more search effort was made on more-accessible Aotea. During their first 4.8 years of life at sea the only recovery came from off Ecuador (close to where two 6 year olds were also recovered). Since then to 2001,32 birds have been recaptured or recovered in New Zealand. Most were first recaptured at 5-6 years old and first breeding at 6-7 years old. A maximum of 42% survived to 6 years old. Survival rates of translocated and control birds were similar. The 1990 cohort had significantly better survival than did the 1986-89 cohorts, and this cohort, just 21% of the experimental birds, contributed 43% of chicks known to have been reared by experimental birds to 2001. Neither body mass at departure nor the El Niiio-Southern Oscillation was clearly related to this differential survival. Most translocated birds returned to Aotea; none of the 1986-89 cohorts was found on Hauturu but 2 of the 3 1990 birds that were recaptured returned to Hauturu. See Imber et al. (2003) or contactMike Imber.


Kaikoura Peninsula (NE South Island). In March 2005, a trial translocation of just 10 Huttons shearwater chicks occurred from the Te Uerau Nature Reserve colony, one of the two extant colonies in the seaward Kaikoura range, to coastal farmland on the Kaikoura Peninsula. The trial was intended as a learning exercise for Department of Conservation staff before embarking on the major exercise of shifting 100 pre-fledging birds during each of the next three years. 80 chicks were translocated in 2006 and 100 in March 2007. Previous research by Richard Cuthbert had shown the main colony to be stable but at risk from ungulate disturbance or slips and rock fall in this alpine environment. The new colony provides some safeguard for the species as it can be well protected from such factors and, in addition, has the potential to provide opportunities for public viewing as the colony becomes established. Further chicks were translocated in March-April 2006. Contact Peter Gaze or Steve Cranwell.


Maud Island (309 ha, in Marlborough Sounds off NE South Island). From 1991 to 1996, 334 fluttering shearwater chicks were transferred from Long Island to Maud Island. Chicks were artificially housed and hand-fed until fledging. Overall fledging success was 82%. 32 of the 273 chicks that fledged returned to Maud Island, and 30 had bred as of 2004. Mean age of first breeding was 6.8 years (range 5-10 years). Returning chicks were heavier at fledging and spent longer on Maud Island than chicks that did not return. Translocated chicks showed typical post-fledging behaviour by dispersing to southeast Australian waters. The new
colony has gradually increased, and 15 pairs bred in 2003/04. See Bell et al. (2004) or contact Brian Bell.

Mana Island (217 ha, off SW North Island). Fluttering shearwaters were reintroduced to Mana Island in January 2006 when 40 chicks were translocated from Long Island in the Marlborough Sounds. Chicks were captured and translocated 1-3 weeks prior to fledging, then given daily feeding of artificial diet (“Brunswick” sardine smoothies) in pre-prepared “breeding” burrows until fledging. These burrows were on regenerating coastal cliffs on western side of Mana Island. Bones have been found on Mana indicating the species had been on the island in the past, but no birds have nested on the island in recent time. The aim is to restore the nutrient cycles associated with seabird colonies, and facilitate recovery of species (eg., high nutrient threatened plants, reptiles). Mice have been eradicated from Mana Island, and results from previous seabird reintroductions using similar techniques suggest this reintroduction will be successful. Up to 100 additional chicks with be translocated in each of the next two years, and chicks will continue to be translocated at different ages to determining when chicks establish site fidelity. From Lynn Adams, Department of Conservation, Wellington Conservancy.


Mana Island (217 ha, off SW North Island). Chicks translocated from North Brother Island, Motumahanga Island and Taranaki.

Motuora Island (80 ha, Hauraki Gulf,36°30’S, 174°48’E). Motuara was previously been farmed, and is now being restored to a native forest ecosystem. It is free from all exotic mammalian pests. The diving petrel reintroduction is the first of a series of seabird reintroductions proposed to restore seabird diversity and abundance on the island. There were two translocations of chicks from Wooded Island (36°35’S, 174°53’E), where 1,000 to 10,000 pairs of diving petrel currently breed. 30 chicks were translocated on 27 November 2007, and 66 chicks on 13 November and 21 November 2008. A final translocation is planned for 2009. Translocated chicks were <= 3 weeks from fledging based on wing measurements and weights, and were housed and fed in artificial burrows using techniques similar to those used in other seabird translocations. 24 chicks from the first translocation and 62 chicks from the second translocation appear to have fledged successfully. This translocation project was initiated and funded by the Motuora Restoration Society (MRS) with technical expertise provided by Helen Gummer. Contact Robin Gardner-Gee, project manager.

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