NZ Postcard No 15

lan Cochrane

Flyins lt has been some time since I have done a postcard on "Flying " , so here goes !l

"Flying" but not as you know it ! This time it is flying as in birds. I must admit that I ain a bit of a "twitchef' - not fanatically so, but I do like to know a bit about the birds I see in the garden and in the forests, in particular N.Z. native birds. However when talking about these birds, to use the term "flying " may be a misnomer as many of them are flightless ! Why ? :-

Historv. 100 Million years ago the big southern land mass called Gondwanaland began to split apart . A large chunk drifted off and became Australia, smaller bits, New Zealand. Amazingly these land masses developed their unique flora and fauna. Surprisingly Australia ended up with many and varied animals whereas N.Z. developed no animals ( apart from a few varieties of lizards - but no snakes | ). We had our of share of birds, but as
there were no predators to worry about, our birds lost the ability to fly and preferred to walk about the forest floor, for example the :-

kiwi

KIVVI. Probably the best known of all N.Z. birds, the Kiwi has many unique features, has no tail but it does have a long beak to dig out food from the leaf litter on the forest floor but the unusual feature of this beak is that the nostrils are at the tip where it can sniff out it's lunch. It's feathers are so soft it is more like fur. For it's size, the Kiwi, lays the biggest egg of all birds - it's huge ! ! There are 5 species of Kiwi - all "rare" or "endanqered", but with intensive breeding
programmes now in place, it is hoped that numbers will increase in the near future
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moa

iviOA. ( Pronounced Mow - ah ) The next NZ bird I will talk about is the now extinct Moa. There were 6 species of Moa when the Maori arrived in NZ. The largest stood 12 feet tall - the smallest about 3 feet.
Aqain these birds were flightless and knew no predators, until the arrival of the Maori. These birds quickly succumbed to the Maoris quest for food, until they were comp!etly wiped out ! When the Europeans arrived they were "no moa" (more)!
Some years back there vvere reports that
Moa had been seen in the wild and woolly area of Fiordland on the south• west corner of the South Island, but these sightings were not substantiated. Many more trips have been made to the area over the years but no Moa have been seen!!

takahe

TAKAHE. ( Pronounced Tar - car - hay) Another interesting flightless bird is the Takahe. For many years it was thouqht that it was extinct until a sighting was made in 1948 in the Spencer Ranges in Fiordland. Photos were taken and the sightings
\Neli documented . Further trips to the area showed a small colony of these birds did exist ! Some breeding pairs were taken back and a controlled breeding programme established. This programme has produced many healthy Takahe which have been returned to the wild.
Numbers are increasing but it is a slow process !!

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kea

KEA. ( Pronounced Key - ah ) The worlds ony mountain parrot, is found near the snow line in the mountains of the South Island. A very mischievous bird that has a liking for rubber seals and wiper blades of vehicles parked at the ski fields. Once blamed for attacking sheep, the government offered a bounty for each dead Kea brought in. Numbers soon dropped and the government reintroduced full protection of the Kea in 1986. Numbers are now increasing. Scientific tests have been carried out proving it to be a very intelligent bird, and can work out problems, particularly where food is concerned.

fantail

FANTAIL. ( Maori name Piwakawaka : Pronounced Pee - wok - ah - wok - ah. ) This is a delightful little bird that has adapted very well with living with humans. Quite often when walking through forest or gardens , these birds wili fiit around you chasing small insects that we have disturbed while walking. It is not unusual to have a fantail fly into a house, look around for small flying insects, and fly out again !
There are two species of fantail in New Zealand ; the North Island Fantail and the South Island Fantail. The unusual thing with the South Island variety, is that 25% hatch out a pure biack coiour, where as the remainder are pied ( see photo ) . All North Island Fantails are pied. Australia also has two species of Fantail, but they are different to the New Zealand ones !