Weka Watch filesweka watch logo

Tuesday, May 31.1994


Tell by their legs!

It is always appreciated when we get a call from someone to say that they've seen a weka. Of particular interest is when we are told of the leg-band colours.

My husband Gary has a permit from the Department of Conservation to band birds and each weka has a numbered metal band on one leg and, for quick identification, individual colour bands on the opposite leg. Using just five colours and two colours on each bird there are 140 combinations.

We appreciate how difficult it is to see the colour bands - one is more likely to watch the bird than to notice what colour the leg bands are.

Complicated banding returns are required to be submitted to the Department of Conservation at intervals.

We are required by our release permit to put radio transmitters on a percentage of the birds that are released so those birds can be tracked in more detail.

The radios measure about five centimetres by three centimetres and encase a battery with a 12-month life.

An aerial extends about 20 centimetres from one end. The radio is fixed to the bird by means of a cord harness which fits around the wings of the bird.

Although flightless, the weka does have quite substantial wings and it is a pity they cannot use them to escape their predators.

Tracking using the radio equipment can be difficult. Rough tracks sometimes have to be cut through thick gorse, blackberry, etc, not only to traverse ourselves, but also to manipulate the aerial.

Sometimes the ground is very swampy. It is a disappointment after negotiating a particularly difficult area to pick up a dead bird.

Both our pairs of birds are sitting on eggs at the moment. Soon there will be concentrated weka watching to see how many chicks we have.