New Zealand Journal of Ecology (2003) 27(2): 125- 137

Effects of a 1080 operation on kaka and kereru survival and nesting success, Whirinaki Forest Park

Research Article
R. G. Powlesland 1
D. E. Wills 2
A. C. L. August 3
C. K. August 3
  1. Science & Research Unit, Department of Conservation, P.O. Box 10 420, Wellington, New Zealand
  2. Present address: Tauranga Area Office, Department of Conservation, P.O. Box 9003, Tauranga, New Zealand
  3. Present address: c/o Rangitaiki Area Office, Department of Conservation, P.O. Box 114, Murupara, New Zealand
*  Corresponding author

To measure the costs and benefits of an aerial 1080 possum control operation to kereru and kaka in Whirinaki Forest Park, individuals of both species were radio-tagged from October 1998 to June 2002. We monitored birds in one treatment and one non-treatment study area to compare toxin-related mortality, nesting success and survival. The poison operation involved the spreading of non-toxic carrot baits on 1 May 2000, and the toxic baits on 17/18 May 2000. Possums and rats were moderately abundant in both study areas prior to the poison operation, but afterwards few possums and rats remained in the treatment area. All radio-tagged kaka and kereru in the treatment area survived the poison operation. No radio-tagged kereru and too few radio-tagged kaka bred in either study area during the 2000/01 nesting season to show whether reduced possum and rat populations would enable the birds to nest more successfully. A reduction in possum and rat densities in the non-treatment area (and an increase in densities in the treatment area) during 2001/02 meant that during the second nesting season after the poison operation, possum and rat densities were similar in the two study areas. The nesting effort and success of kaka and kereru is described for each of four nesting seasons, with the main cause of nesting failure for both species being predation. While no radio-tagged adult male kaka died during the study, 6 females did, giving them a mean life expectancy of 9.5 years. In contrast, radio-tagged adult kereru suffered high mortality, resulting in a mean life expectancy of just 1.5 years. Predation by introduced mammalian predators was the main cause of mortality of kaka eggs, chicks, fledglings and adult females, and of kereru eggs, chicks, fledglings and adults. Effective control of introduced mammalian predators, including control by aerial 1080 operations, just before mast fruiting events that invariably promote prolific kaka and kereru breeding, should benefit these bird populations.