First kakariki breeding programme at Natureland

The sound of kakariki chirping could be heard amongst the other animals at Natureland as a flock of the native parrots made themselves at home in a purpose built aviary. 

Natureland Wildlife Trust is breeding the kakariki on behalf of Project Janszoon and the Department of Conservation to help boost the native parrot population in the Abel Tasman National Park. 

Eight of the yellow-crowned parakeets were transferred from Long Island in Queen Charlotte Sound to Natureland on Wednesday. 

Eight Kakariki were released at Natureland as part of Project Janszoon on Wednesday.

Project Janszoon orthinologist Pete Gaze said it had been a five-hour journey for the birds and he was pleased to see them getting acquainted with their new home. 

"It is great to have Natureland Wildlife Trust on board as their involvement in our breeding programme will increase the number of juvenile kakariki we are able to relocate to the park," he said.

It is the first Nelson site for the kakariki breed to release programme, which also occurs at Lochmara Lodge, EcoWorld Aquarium and Tui Nature Reserve. 

"Natureland has staff who have specialised knowledge in breeding birds for release so that is fantastic," said Gaze. 

Project Janszoon aviculturalist Rosemary Vander Lee said there was a small population of kakariki in the Abel Tasman national park and 22 birds had been released into the park over the last two years ago to bolster their numbers.

Kakariki did well in large flocks and having eight at Natureland would enable them to go through the process of picking pairs and bonding. 

They were known to be prolific breeders in captivity, said Vander Lee.  

"We hope that within a few months they will be nesting and we will be releasing juveniles in the spring."

The project was part of their mission to make a meaningful contribution to conservation, said Natureland curator Meg Selby. 

"It is exciting to know we are helping to breed a native parrot that will be released into the Nelson Tasman region and that locals will get the opportunity to view them both in the wild and here at Natureland."

The aviary had been built with the help of Nelson Host Lions Club members, who spent more than 300 hours on the project.

Selby said they cross referenced data showing the plants in the Abel Tasman National Park with the ecology of the kakariki to select plantings the birds would recognise for food. 

The aviary included plantings of mahoe, kanuka, northern and southern rata and the native blueberry known as turutu. 

The diet of the kakariki included berries, seeds and insects. 

As the kakariki settle in to their new home, they will be cared for by Natureland keepers Jenny Pettigrew and Stacey Langham.

The secret to successful breeding was making the birds as comfortable as possible. 

"We will be monitoring the nests closely, when they start laying eggs and the health of the birds to make sure they are settling in well," said Langham.