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kahu harrier

kahu/harrierWalking toward Te Horo beach yesterday I saw kahu, the harrier, coming in from the sea. It kept trying to find some lift in the air, but instead kept sinking down out of sight, plummeting toward the dunes, only to appear again, flapping its way upward.

Kahu was the one reason we could not call the settlement realm, introduced. Because they introduced themselves!

I wanted the big birds – the giant hunters – to be numero uno in each realm. Karearea (the NZ falcon) for forest; toroa (the royal albatross) for sea; hokioi (the giant eagle) for extinct: and kahu (the harrier) for settlement.

Of course 3 of these birds turn up in the predator realm as well. The fourth – toroa – hunts too, but far away from land.

Once, they ruled. Maintaining the balance in their realm. As only good hunters can do.

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at the Invercargill Museum (& Art Gallery)

aptornisQuite often I get asked about the adzebill. Did this bird really REALLY exist?

Oh yes – I say – I’ve seen the bones of one in the Invercargill Museum.

So, this January I went for a hunt in their Natural History section. As you can see in the photo, it isn’t all the bones, but enough to put together a model.

The label Aptornis, refers to its Latin name. I’ve added Morgan’s illustration below for a fleshed-out comparison.
adzebill

Adzebill were as large as a small moa, flightless, with a massive down-curved bill.

In Cloak of Protection they are both extinct and predator. They were hunted by: kiore; dog; & the human hunter.

In turn they hunted: tara-iti (fairy tern); tara (white-fronted tern); hoiho (yellow-eyed penguin); tutikiwi (snipe); kiwi; & whio (blue duck).

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ship rat

All around the world went the ship rat. From India to Britain around the third century. From Britain to us, arriving on the sailing ships, about 1830.

Swiftly they ran. Into our towns, across our farms, into our forests. Spreading in the North Island after 1860, the South Island after 1890.

They’re superb climbers. Going up the tree-trunks, running right to the tree-tops.

Hunting mostly at night, using smell, touch, hearing & taste, they take eggs, chicks & sitting adults.

Small nesting birds like miromiro (the tomtit), who wouldn’t leave their young, are often killed.

Way down south, in the 1960s, they landed on two off-shore islands. There they wiped out birds. The last great short-tailed bat was gone forever. And gone too, from there, were tieke (the saddleback), Stead’s bush wren, Stewart Island snipe, and matata (the fernbird).

In non-beech forest, they are our greatest bird killer. They prey on more forest birds than any other pest mammal.

But we are working hard to get rid of them. We get better & better. They are now gone from 18 off-shore islands (as at 2007).

It’s all very weird though. Here the ship rat is everywhere (except in alpine places). But back in Britain, they’re now rare & hard to find!!!