Kārearea: the mysterious New Zealand falcon

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

Somewhat recognized, I’d 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 notice.

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

Blending in simply, it’s straightforward to overlook recognizing them out within the wild. But as soon as you already know what to search for, you may’t assist however preserve an eye fixed out in search of them.

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

kārearea

kārearea

kārearea

Kārearea advanced 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 one among solely 4 that hunt within the forest. Because of this, it has quick wings in order that it will probably maneuver simply. The smooth feathers are strong and simply bounce again as a substitute of breaking whereas looking in dense bush.

They have additionally advanced 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 doubtless see kārearea feeding on roadkill – they hunt reside. They additionally rapidly flap their wings as a substitute of gliding.

Total pocketrockets.

kārearea

kārearea

kārearea

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

Kārearea have stunning 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, they usually have essentially the most stunning yellow, brown, cream, and gold feathers. Males are smaller than females – which I like.

There are additionally three completely different ecological forms of kārearea: Bush, Eastern, 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. Eastern 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 reside in Fiordland, Rakiura/Stewart Island, and down all the way in which within the subantarctic Auckland Islands

kārearea

kārearea

Often my mates 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 reasonably a scrape. Sometimes they nest on the bottom, and in the event you come anyplace close to them after they’re on the nest, you’ll realize it. They will intention to your head and aggressively assault you, they usually don’t miss. Best 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 season. The chicks hatch within the spring. There could be as much as 4 chicks in a nest, however normally, 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 at the moment. And there’s nonetheless quite a lot of work to be achieved round defending them.

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

Often the massive energy strains within the vast 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 reside in Wanaka. Here we’ve got the Eastern type of kārearea. In 2021 their standing was formally reclassified and worsened by DOC as they went from “recovering” to “national vulnerable.”

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

This is definitely related throughout most of New Zealand; there actually simply isn’t quite a lot of details about kārearea.

kārearea

kārearea

Not a lot is thought in regards to the kārearea that reside in alpine environments, so quite a lot of analysis must be achieved to know them and assist them. There aren’t any present quantitative research of kārearea on this space. In the conservation world, that you must absolutely 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 developments, 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. Luckily all of them appear to return to breed in the identical space yearly, making it considerably simpler to watch.

Most of the kārearea habitat falls on personal land round this space, so you could work with the farmers and locals to collect information and observe.

You 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 primarily based on what we’ve got discovered so removed from the analysis right here with the Cardrona Kārearea Conservation Project. The greatest concern? Mammal predation. Cats. Stoats. Possums. Hedgehogs.

This sounds painfully apparent, however I’m going to dig in in any case. Sure an even bigger or grownup fowl has the possibility to combat off predators. But for a species to outlive, that signifies that the eggs after which chicks need to fledge efficiently. This is the massive drawback.

You may not 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 have been used to file the nests final 12 months and caught a hedgehog repeatedly attacking a nest with 4 ten-day-old chicks whereas the mom tried to combat it off. Another nest on the town failed as a result of somebody’s pet cat repeatedly raided it.

But the worst of all is once we trigger the nests to fail. A bunch of youngsters right here in Albert Town have been by chance harassing a nest and taking photographs, disturbing the birds for a protracted interval. Even simply driving the birds away for lengthy sufficient signifies that the infants can fall sufferer to predation.

kārearea

kārearea

kārearea

Despite all these troubles, what’s nice is that we’re on the precise 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 photographs of kārearea within the wild as a result of they’re aren’t many. Most of those photos got here from once I was on the North Island just a few years in the past in Rotorua with Wingspan, a belief caring for sick, injured, and orphaned kārearea.

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

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

kārearea



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