At risk Hutton’s Shearwater birds seen diving at petrol station’s bright lights

Calls to dim bright lights in Kaikōura township have been heightened after “hundreds” of Hutton’s Shearwater were seen diving at a local petrol station, with some dying as a result.

The Hutton’s Shearwater is an endemic bird that only breeds on New Zealand land, and as a result of human contact, predators and lost habitat, its numbers are declining.

Hundreds of birds had been observed by a resident flying, and diving, into the Kaikōura NPD last week.

A post to Facebook page Kaikōura Wildlife Rescue called for people to contact NPD to call for changes to the petrol station’s lighting.

Hutton’s Shearwater trust president Ted Howard said NPD had responded “brilliantly”.

Howard was able to rescue one of the animals and release it back into the wild.

“They [NPD] immediately took out the high intensity lights that they had,” Howard said.

“We’re in further discussions with them, but the response has been exemplary. If everyone was like that then there would be no issues.”

He said the trust had been pushing for a reduction in the amount of lights in Kaikōura.

“The reason for that is there are certain conditions where the birds can be particularly distracted because they are attracted to the lights,” he said.

“It’s something we’re trying to raise awareness of in the community, particularly during the fledgling season and particularly if it’s foggy, cloudy, or raining.

“It’s worse for the young birds that are just fledgling, and the fledgling season starts next month. So in about four weeks we’ll start to see the first of the new birds flying out and that goes on for about five or six weeks.”

He said the colour of lighting also impacted the birds.

“We want more yellow, orange, red end of the spectrum, and we want it to be as low intensity as possible,” he said.

“So bright enough so that people can see, but not so bright as their going to attract to many birds in.”

Of eight Hutton’s Shearwater colonies found in the mid-1960s in the Seaward Kaikoura Range, their sole refuge nationwide, only two remained by the early 1980s. Anecdotal evidence indicates pigs wiped out the other six colonies, digging up burrows and gorging on chicks.

The Department of Conservation estimates there is a breeding population of more than 100,000 pairs. Despite this relatively high number the species is regarded as nationally endangered because of past declines, evident from extinct colonies, and the threats still faced.

Extracted from Stuff

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