Predators can indirectly structure local plant communities by altering the diversity and behaviour of herbivores. These ‘trophic cascades’ can be seriously disrupted by the local extinction of top predators. They can also be restored by the subsequent re-introduction of top predators by conservationists. Here, we investigated trophic cascades involving kākā, puriri moths and their host trees. New Zealand kākā (Nestor meridionalis, Nestoridae) are large parrots that were extirpated from most of its range in the 20th century.
Artificial barriers, such as nest boxes and metal collars, are sometimes used, with variable success, to exclude predators and/or competitors from tree nests of vulnerable bird species. This paper describes the observed response of captive stoats (Mustela erminea) to a nest box design and an aluminium sheet collar used to protect kaka (Nestor meridionalis) nest cavities. The nest box, a prototype for kaka, was manufactured from PVC pipe. Initial trials failed to exclude stoats until an overhanging roof was added. All subsequent trials successfully prevented access by stoats.
The sex ratio of the kaka population inhabiting the Waihaha Ecological Area, Pureora Forest Park was estimated between late October 1994 and January 1995. The observed sex ratio estimate was three males to one female compared to a capture rate (using mist nets) of six to one in the same area between January and June 1994. Females appeared to be less susceptible to capture than males. The skewed sex ratio toward male kaka was significant and suggests that female kaka suffer higher mortality (probably due to predation at the nest) than males.