It’s that time of the year – Bird of the Year time! Set up by Forest and Bird, the Bird of the Year highlights the fact that New Zealand’s unique native birds are facing a crisis. A third of our birds are at the risk of becoming extinct if nothing is done to protect them and their habitats. The biggest risks to these birds are habitat loss and predators such as stoats, possums or rats which can kill their eggs and young; and in some cases, even adult birds.

At QEII, we are passionate about protecting habitats for all native birds, but we do have a special affinity for a certain bird. The Hutton’s Shearwater, an endangered seabird, found in Kaikoura which has only two nesting colonies remaining, one of which is located within a QEII open space covenant.

Following the devasting earthquakes in Kaikoura, the Hutton’s Shearwater, or Tītī, sustained considerable losses. The birds were nesting with chicks high in the mountains, and many were swept away. At least 10 – 15% of colonies were destroyed by landslides, and some preliminary work showed that many burrows have collapsed. Tens of thousands of birds were lost. Up to 30% of the Hutton’s Shearwaters’ breeding habitat was affected.

There is an estimated breeding population of more than 100,000 pairs, with a similar number of non-breeding birds visiting colonies in the early breeding season. While this is a high number, the species is regarded as critically endangered due to past declines, which are evident from extinct colonies, loss of habitat and the threats they face today. A major threat to the Hutton’s Shearwater is feral pigs, which are mostly responsible for the loss of colonies in the last 100 years.

This QEII open space covenant pictured protects one of only two remaining breeding colonies of Hutton’s Shearwater. The landowner, Nicky McArthur, is committed to sustaining the Shearwater colony but management needs are considerable as the colony is very high in the ranges and access is very difficult.

Learn more about the unique bird that is the Hutton’s Shearwater here. Bird of the Year voting is open until Sunday 14 October. The winning bird will be announced on the Radio New Zealand Morning Report on Monday 15 October at 8:50 am. You can cast your vote here.