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Waihi Gazette, Tuesday, November 10, 1992

 

Which way home?

When it comes to parenting wekas have got a lot to learn.

That's what Gary and Elaine Staples have discovered, much to their disappointment. Out of the 13 eggs their breeding pair of wekas have laid, not one has managed to hatch.

'The eggs need to be nurtured for about 25 days, so far our pair have only succeeded in staying on the job for 23," says Mr Staples.

The Staples are part of the Forest and Bird Captive Rearing Programme, and their property at Karangahake Gorge is the only release site in the whole of the North Island.

"Breeders who have successfully hatched and reared wekas bring the chicks here for release into the wild."

The ultimate aimofthe programme is to establish a self-sustaining weka colony in the Karangahake region, says Mr Staples.

The chicks have to remain at the Staples' aviary for three or four months before they are let go, giving them time to adapt to their new environment and to prevent them from running away.

The homing instinct of a weka is quite incredible, says Mr Staples.

A few years ago wekas were simply transported to a suitable area and released. Many of the wekas tried to return home.

"One bird which originated in Gisborne was set free in the Waitakere Ranges and then some time later was found dead on the road at Taneatua.

"It had walked right through Auckland and was on its way back to Gisborne."

How the birds work out what direction to take, is not yet known.

Mr Staples says some people believe they track the direction of the sun while others suggest the birds sense the earth's magnetic field.

The Staples have nine birds in their aviaries at present, all of which will be released over the next few months.

'The first lot we release will stay quite close to the aviary, but as more are set free they will establish themselves further and further afield, avoiding each other's territory."

In November Mr Staples plans to attach transmitters to some of the birds enabling their movements to be tracked more precisely.

Although the scheme, which began in 1991, got off to a slow start, he says interest in the weka programme is growing.

He hopes the current number of 15 people breeding the birds will continue to grow.