Bird of the Year 2017

Voting for the annual Bird of the Year is now underway. This year is the year of Hutton’s shearwater/tītī! Tītī are a tāonga of Ngāi Tahu, an icon of Kaikōura, and have sustained considerable losses from the earthquake. HSCT has a research programme approved and funded for this summer which will provide a clear picture of earthquake damage from which a clear direction for future management will emerge. Bird of the Year status would provide a springboard to launch a funding drive to provide the ongoing management necessary to ensure that not only do the tītī of Kaikōura survive, but they thrive!

Tītī have long been a species of importance to Māori and to the Ngāti Kuri people of Kaikōura. The story of Rakihouia is well known; when his party set foot on the shores of Kaikōura, his pregnant wife Tapuiti craved eggs. After observing seabirds flying into the mountains, Rakihouia sent men to the cliffs and mountains to find eggs, which they duly did. This tradition of use was acknowledged by the naming of the Ka Whata Tu o Rakihouia Conservation Park, “The standing storehouse of Rakihouia”. The significance of Tītī to Ngāi Tahu was also acknowledged in the Ngāi Tahu Claims Settlement Act 1998 which list Hutton’s Shearwater as a tāonga species.

The bountiful seafood of Kaikōura is well known, less well known were the large wetlands providing many resources, and when combined with the additional food resources of the Tītī, Kaikōura was a very treasured environment in which to live. Perhaps more than any other species, tītī provide the link between the mountains and sea which is so iconic to Kaikōura.

When the earthquake struck, the people and environment of Kaikōura were severely affected. The tītī were nesting with chicks high in the mountains, and many were swept away. At least 10 – 15% of colonies were destroyed by landslides, and some preliminary work showed that significant numbers of burrows had collapsed. Tens of thousands of birds were lost. A site survey is planned this summer to determine the impact of the earthquake on the birds.

The Trust wants to use the Bird of the Year and the summer research as a springboard from which to launch active management of Tītī to secure their future and the Trust’s vision of flourishing populations. Having Hutton’s Shearwater/titī as Bird of the Year would put it in the limelight and help obtain the funding necessary for ongoing management. If ever it is to win this accolade, it should be this year after the devastating Kaikōura earthquake. So please vote in this year’s Bird of the Year at Voting is open now and closes on 23rd October.