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Kokako call returns to Fiordland

By AMY MILNE in Doubtful Sound - The Southland Times
Last updated 05:00 02/10/2009
AMY MILNE/148571
FLY FREE: Department of Conservation ranger Helen Dodson about to release a kokako on Secretary Island in Doubtful Sound.

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Ten North Island kokako embarked on their longest flights this week.

After their long journey south, it took less than a minute for the kokako to disappear into the dense bush of Secretary Island in Doubtful Sound on Wednesday.

For the three Te Anau Department of Conservation rangers involved in the translocation, it was a relief to see the birds scurry up the closest trees and then glide off into the beech forest canopy of their new home.

Ranger Helen Dodson said releasing the birds was a great feeling.

"It's made it all worth it," she said.

Mrs Dodson was part of the team that spent 10 days capturing the birds in Rotoehu Forest, near Rotorua, to bring them south.

DOC Te Anau area manager Reg Kemper said it was a historic move, introducing kokako back to the South Island.

"It's a demonstration of all the hard work that's gone on."

Doubtful Sound would soon echo with the kokako's haunting "dawn chorus".

"They are like tui on steroids," Mr Kemper said.

The translocation was the third DOC has done since its first a year ago. There were now 24 birds on the island and DOC planned to release another five next week.

The Fiordland Lobster Company funded the translocations with an $80,000 grant.

South Island and North Island kokako:
• South Island kokako were present in Fiordland in the late 1800s but are assumed to have become extinct by the 1960s
• The difference between South Island and North Island kokako are their colouring – South Island kokako had a bright-orange wattle and darker-grey feathers and North Island have a bright-blue wattle with lighter-grey feathers
• They have small wings and do not fly well but use their strong legs to hop up a tree to the highest branch then propel themselves off and glide into the forest canopy
• They form life-long pairs and seldom stray from their permanent territories
• They are notable for their haunting, mournful organ or flute-like calls, prolific at dawn

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