Funded by Dulux and Wellington Zoo Conservation Fund
The Kea Conservation Trust has been monitoring kea nests since 2009. The initial reason for monitoring nests was to ensure that timing of our summer surveys was correct (ie. that fledglings would be visible at treeline during January). This was because our initial survey in Nelson Lakes had revealed very few pairs with chicks at treeline (only 2 chicks from 1 successful pairing). Nest monitoring confirmed that summer survey timing was correct and the reason for lack of fledglings at the survey site was attributed to predation of nests by introduced stoats and possums.
As a result of this initial project, nest monitoring was found to be an extremely useful tool, helping to identify predation events, nesting effort and the development of nests and chicks throughout the year. As such this project has now been extended to 6 sites, 5 of which are monitored annually; Nelson Lakes (2009 -2015), the Hawdon Valley - Arthur's Pass (2010-2015), Kahurangi NP (Kiwi Saddle) (2010 -2014), Borland - Fiordland (2010 - 2012), Otira, Arthur's Pass (2013 -2014) and Paringa/Abbey Rocks (South Westland (2015).
A new nest monitoring site is currently being developed in the Matukituki Valleys (Mt Aspiring NP), scheduled for the 2017 breeding season (funded by Auckland Zoo Conservation Fund).
2015 Nest Monitoring Results
During the 2015 nesting season, Department of Conservation continued the Battle for our Birds campaign. As part of this campaign DOC actively took over monitoring kea across all South Island study sites. This work was also supported by community volunteers (in Arthur's Pass) and Dulux.
22 active nests were located and monitored across 4 research sites throughout the season. Only 6 of these nests (27%) were successful, fledging a total of 9 chicks by the end of the season. One of these chicks was found dead (most probably killed by a stoat) shortly after fledging. Details of each areas progress is as follows:
Nelson Lakes – (Two active nests but no fledglings produced). In Nelson Lakes, Rachel and Aphrodite attempted to breed, however both nests failed due to predation. This was in spite of increased nest protection (increased trap numbers and increased trap-check frequency) being deployed around each of the nests. Stoat numbers were exceptionally high in this area following the beech mast in 2014; for example DOC reported that 28 stoats were caught in total around nest 9 alone (Scuffles nest).
Kahurangi National Park – (8 active nests, 3 of which produced 5 chicks in total). 8 females were found to be actively nesting in Kahurangi (Franny, Juno, Martin, Bowers, Maiden, Marie, Missy, Pinky). 3 of these ended up fledging (chicks as follows: Franny – 2 chicks (Alex and Moritz) from an initial 5 eggs observed; Juno - 2 chicks (Shayla (who was lated predated) and Courtney) from an initial 3 eggs laid; and Martin – 1 chick (Lorraine) from an initial 2 chicks observed.
Arthur's Pass (Hawdon Valley) – (5 active nests found. All failed). This was the first year that all nests in the Hawdon Valley were unsuccessful. Reason for failure was predation due to high predator numbers after a beech mast.
Westland – (7 active nests found – 3 of which produced 4 chicks in total). 3 females successfully fledged as follows: unbanded female – 1 chick; Mosca – 2 chicks; Hueca – 1 chick.
2014 Nest Monitoring Results
A total of 33 female kea were monitored throughout the 2014 nesting season across 5 research sites. Of these, 4 are confirmed as nesting successfully; producing a grand total of 11 chicks between them. In Nelson Lakes, 5 females were monitored - 2 of which, Ceejay and Aphrodite, raised 3 chicks each. This is double the number of chicks from previous years and shows that the nest protection programme in this area is having a positive impact (our nest cameras showed that both nests were not visited by any predators). Unfortunately Ceejay, one of the most productive females in the area, was found dead just before the chicks fledged, after ingesting 1080 poison. 1080 was dropped in this area in response to a major beech mast event in the area (and a frightening increase in numbers of rats as a result). A previous major mast in 2002/2003 appears to have been the cause of an 80% decline in kea numbers at Nelson Lakes - something which would have been unsustainable with the current population numbers in the area.
Another breeding female, Janis Joplin from Kahurangi NP, was also found dead in November. She was confirmed to have died in March 2014 (before the start of the 2014 breeding season) - cause of death unknown.
In the Hawdon Valley (Arthurs Pass), How successfully raised 3 chicks and Beryl 2 to fledging. These were the only 2 females (out of 4 monitored) who attempted to nest.
In Kahurangi National Park, a total of 13 females were monitored. Although females were filmed visiting nests (and one which laid eggs), the presence of rats appeared to stop any other attempts at laying. No chicks were produced as a result.
The same situation occurred in Otira and Westland, where 11 females were monitored. One nest in Westland however was confirmed as having 2 eggs late in the season (November), and 1 chick was observed alive and well at the end of February. Unfortunately, a final visit in March to check end of season camera footage, revealed that this chick had been attacked by a stoat prior to fledging and chased out of the nest. It is not known the outcome of this event, however due to the sustained nature of the attack, the kea would most likely have suffered serious injuries and died.
Of particular interest was a nest in Otira which was found to be 6 metres up in a tree! The first ever confirmed sighting of a kea nesting in a tree! Unfortunately we were not able to get cameras up to see what was going on inside the nest so couldn't confirm whether eggs were laid or not. No chicks were produced.
Gathering of this information across the breeding season (July - January), constituted over 490 hrs of field work time spread over 97 separate visits to nests.
2013 Nest Monitoring Results
A total of 20 pairs were monitored at 5 sites during 2013. Of these pairs, 7 were recorded attempting to nest (ie they had eggs or chicks present). By December only 4 nests were still raising chicks - 2 in the Nelson Lakes and 2 in the Hawdon Valley (Arthurs Pass). A total of 7 chicks were fledged for the 2013 breeding season.
In the Nelson Lakes, Ceejays nest on the St Arnaud range fledged 1 chick. Rachels nest in the 6 mile area on the other side of the St Arnaud range fledged 2 chicks. Both nests were protected by a network of traps. Although Aphrodite's nest was protected by traps, one stoat was seen to get through and killed her chicks. In the Hawdon Valley both How and Beryl each successfully fledged 2 chicks each.
There were no breeding attempts confirmed in Otira (the first year females have been monitored in this area). although there were two breeding attempts in Kahurangi NP by Janis Joplin, both failed (reason for failure not captured by the nest cameras).