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First kōkako chicks banded on Mt Pirongia

The plan to bring kōkako back to Pirongia mountain achieved another milestone on Sunday when three recently hatched chicks were banded and weighed.

The three kōkako are among the first known to have been hatched on the maunga for at least 25 years and are the result of 20 adult birds being translocated from Pureora last June.

Sixteen of the released birds have been located on the mountain, all but one within the 1000 hectare pestfree area operated by Pirongia Te Aroaro o Kahu Restoration Society, which is leading the programme to re-establish the birds.

Two nesting sites were found in the past two months after four of the released birds paired up. One nest produced a fledgling which was seen being fed by its parents at the end of last month, but the second nest produced the three chicks banded at the weekend. Kōkako don't lay more than three eggs in one clutch.

The society had been monitoring the nest for the past month and on Sunday kōkako ecologist Dave Bryden climbed some 20 metres up the tree to band and weigh the chicks.

The largest chick weighed in at 159 gms with the two smaller ones 128gm and 119gm. Each chick had coloured plastic and metal bands attached to their legs so they could be identified after they fledge in about two weeks’ time. Until then the society would continue to monitor the nest.

Society chairperson Clare St Pierre who was present for the banding said, “Watching Dave handle the chicks and then being able to hold one myself was such a precious moment and intensely moving. Achieving a maximum clutch size is an important indicator that the translocated birds can survive and multiply.”

This was another big step in the programme to bring lost species back to Pirongia. The last surviving kōkako were removed from the mountain in the 1990s, but the society has been working for the past 15 years to make it safe again through pest eradication. The society's fundraising campaign and volunteer work will continue over this year to enable more kōkako to be translocated during the next few of months so that the minimum number of 40 founder birds are present. Anyone interested in the project should follow the society’s facebook page where updates, photos and videos are posted regularly.

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