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Kārearea: the mysterious New Zealand falcon

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

Considerably 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 might need seen them featured on the $20 observe.

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

Mixing in simply, it’s simple to overlook recognizing them out within the wild. However as soon as you recognize what to search for, you possibly can’t assist however maintain an eye fixed out searching for them.

‘The Lands Soared Over By Hawks’

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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. Due to this, it has quick wings in order that it may well maneuver simply. The delicate feathers are strong and simply bounce again as a substitute of breaking whereas searching in dense bush.

They’ve additionally advanced to have the ability to hunt out within the open, too, with the enduring falcon stoop-dive transfer. Half the scale of the swamp harrier (which confuse many), you received’t possible see kārearea feeding on roadkill – they hunt reside. Additionally they shortly flap their wings as a substitute of gliding.

Complete pocketrockets.

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Trying up shut, you possibly can see that they’re majestic creatures.

Kārearea have stunning broad wings that attain practically 100cm in size; they’ve lengthy yellow legs made for catching small prey. A protracted tail helps with maneuvers as they hunt, and so they have essentially the most stunning yellow, brown, cream, and gold feathers. Males are smaller than females – which I really like.

There are additionally three totally different ecological forms of kārearea: Bush, Japanese, and Southern.

Bush falcons usually happen within the North Island, south of the Waikato, to the highest of the South Island. They’re smaller.
Japanese 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.
Southern falcons are intermediate-sized and reside in Fiordland, Rakiura/Stewart Island, and down all the way in which within the subantarctic Auckland Islands.

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Typically 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 quite a scrape. Typically they nest on the bottom, and when you come wherever close to them once they’re on the nest, you’ll realize it. They may purpose to your head and aggressively assault you, and so they don’t miss. Finest to keep away from.

The kārearea are thought to fill the ecological predator hole, which might usually be occupied by a mammal predator – another excuse 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 will be as much as 4 chicks in a nest, however normally, it’s round two.

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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 present. And there’s nonetheless numerous work to be accomplished round defending them.

As a result of 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 coming into kārearea nests and killing the chicks as a result of the mom couldn’t fend them off. Different threats apart from predation are habitat loss, disturbance, improvement impacts, being shot by people, wind farms, and energy line electrocution.

Typically the large energy strains within the extensive open elements of rural New Zealand make good perches.

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There are pockets of kārearea round New Zealand, together with down right here in Central Otago, the place I reside in Wanaka. Right here we’ve got the Japanese type of kārearea. In 2021 their standing was formally reclassified and worsened by DOC as they went from “recovering” to “nationwide susceptible.”

The Cardrona Kārearea Conservation Undertaking is a community-led undertaking that goals to develop a science-based conservation method for kārearea in tussock grassland mountain ecosystems like up at Cardrona. They’re at the moment in yr three out of 5 of analysis.

That is really comparable throughout most of New Zealand; there actually simply isn’t numerous details about kārearea.

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Not a lot is thought in regards to the kārearea that reside in alpine environments, so numerous analysis must be accomplished to know them and assist them. There aren’t any present quantitative research of kārearea on this space. Within the conservation world, you have to absolutely perceive the place and dangers an animal faces earlier than you possibly can create a rescue plan.

These are issues like what number of breeding pairs are within the space, what are the traits, 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 are able to plan the best way to defend them in future. Fortunately all of them appear to return to breed in the identical space yearly, making it considerably simpler to watch.

Many of the kārearea habitat falls on non-public land round this space, so it’s essential to work with the farmers and locals to assemble knowledge and observe.

You may solely catch kārearea to leg-band them when they’re on the nest as a result of, properly, they assault you.

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Many points round kārearea are preventable based mostly on what we’ve got discovered so removed from the analysis right here with the Cardrona Kārearea Conservation Undertaking. The most important concern? Mammal predation. Cats. Stoats. Possums. Hedgehogs.

This sounds painfully apparent, however I’m going to dig in in any case. Positive a much bigger or grownup hen has the prospect to struggle off predators. However for a species to outlive, that signifies that the eggs after which chicks must fledge efficiently. That is the large drawback.

You won’t suppose that seemingly innocuous critters like hedgehogs wouldn’t be a difficulty with falcons, however they’re. They eat the eggs and the chicks. Wildlife cameras had been used to file the nests final yr and caught a hedgehog repeatedly attacking a nest with 4 ten-day-old chicks whereas the mom tried to struggle it off. One other nest on the town failed as a result of somebody’s pet cat repeatedly raided it.

However the worst of all is after we trigger the nests to fail. A bunch of children right here in Albert City had been unintentionally 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.

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Regardless of all these troubles, what’s nice is that we’re on the precise path towards determining the best way to defend these unimaginable hunters. So many individuals, particularly down right here round Wanaka and Cardrona, have rallied collectively to help this analysis. Many contribute right here to log journey 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 photographs got here from after I was on the North Island a number of 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 ever heard of the kārearea earlier than? Aren’t they stunning?

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