Since I’m broke and planning a lazy day, I let myself sleep in till 8:30 before popping on laundry (never seen it so cheap – only $2 for a wash) and head out to the wildlife sanctuary at 9.
This is an area around Lake Te Anau that’s home to some rare New Zealand bird species. It’s free to enter, and in the summer, they feed them in the morning at 9:30. The YHA says it’s a 30-minute walk, so figure I’ve got time.
Turns out, 30 minutes is an underestimation (rare for NZ). It takes me 40 minutes to make it to the bird sanctuary, and I have to run to the takahē enclosure. Thankfully, the feeding is still going on, and I have a chance to hear the volunteer talk about them.
One of the most endangered birds in New Zealand, the takahē looks a lot like the pukeko, but like the kiwi, struggles to keep stoats from eating its eggs. It was actually considered extinct until 1948, when a small number were found in the Murchison Mountains. Since then, steps have been taken to save the species, and there’s currently an estimated 300 left alive.
There are two pairs of birds here, and one currently have a chick. They’re actually foster parents as the mother has a bloodline they don’t want to continue (mated cousins somewhere in her line), but an egg came into another sanctuary’s possession and this pair were the only ones preparing a nest, so got the egg. The chick is very shy, but he/she popped out for a few moments to eat.
We then moved over to check out the Morepork, a small owl native to New Zealand, whose feathers are designed to make them almost completely silent in the air. This one came to the sanctuary when it was injured, and is now incapable of surviving in the wild. She’s been here for almost 25 years.
At this point we had to stop and feed the ducks that were chasing us everywhere. We had both Paradise Ducks and the European Mallard chasing us. These guys we could help feed, and you had to crouch down or they’d fly up to take it!
The only duck that didn’t come over was Winston, a female Paradise Duck who can’t fly, and is kept in her enclosure. This is because she was raised by humans and if they didn’t keep her penned, she’d follow us all home. She’s called Winston because they didn’t know what gender she was when she was a duckling.
Next up were some smaller and cuter birds, the Antipodes parakeets. These guys are green, loud and not too fond of flying. Their presence here is mostly insurance. The Antipodes parakeet can only be found on the Antipodes Islands, and the numbers are low. Should an accident or event damage the population, these guys will step up as breeders to help out.
The final cage was home to Kaka. There are two pairs, both of whom are helping with the breeding effort as this bird is endangered. Many of their chicks have been sent to Abel Tasman in order to help boost the population (for some reason, Abel Tasman mostly have male Kaka and nowhere near enough females), but in a funny twist, one of the females used to be a pet (before the laws changed) and she likes to wolf whistle. She’s also taught her children this trick, so if you hear a wolf whistle in Abel, you know where that bird was born.
At this point, the feeding and presentation was over, thought the volunteer stayed to answer questions. I chose to start heading back, as I had to get my laundry out, but took one more trip around the area before I said goodbye. This was a great place to spend the morning, and the volunteers are clearly passionate. I highly recommend you check it out if you’re in Te Anau.