First Chicks of the 2023-24 season

Today (15th Dec 2023) we had our first chicks found in their burrows at Te Rae o Atiu.
This one in burrow 59 was our first, and seems to be about 4 days old.

First chick of 2023-24 season – B59

Two eggs were found broken today, and 4 others are unlikely to hatch due to various odd parental behaviours, but that leaves 29 more that could possibly hatch (of the 37 laid this season).

The season has started reasonably well, and we welcome our little bits of Christmas cheer to their new home.



Te Rae o Atiu 2022-23 season report

27 July 2023
A comment today from someone that this site has not seen much activity has prompted this brief update.   The comment is true enough, because we no longer have a paid administrator, and all activity is now purely voluntary, and most of us are busy in multiple roles.   And there is always more to do than people to do it.

The 2022-23 season was a reasonably successful one for our colony.

We had 86 birds return, up 1 on the previous year, but 8 of our previously regular returnees failed to return.   That is probably an indication of an extremely harsh season in early 2022, which saw us having to supplemental feed our chicks for a couple of weeks to keep them alive.   Most birds seemed to be underweight prior to leaving for Australia.   Looks like about 10%  of breeding adults didn’t make it there and back, it might be a very bad year for chicks.

Our season at Te Rae was reasonably successful.  No supplemental feeding required.   We had 35 eggs laid, 19 hatch, and 18 fledge – with the unexpected late death of what looked like a chick ready to fledge.   At 55% that isn’t great, but it is slightly better than average (53%).

It wasn’t a great hatching rate, but it was a very wet spring, with many burrows being flooded.   That lead to us having several working bees where we installed drainage into about 20 burrows, and did a lot of remodeling of terrain to divert water away from burrows.

Lots of issues that always happen in a project of this scale, and we are making progress, and we are learning a great deal.    The old recorder boxes are being replaced by new ones of a new design, which makes their upkeep easier and the data more reliable.   I rewrote the download software to be fully automatic and to speak when something needs attention, which made the process of downloading data from the recorders about 5 times faster – it is hard to see laptop screens and mouse pointers in sunlight, so keeping interactions to a minimum, and speaking as well as displaying information, has made a big difference.

Toni has been doing a lot of work keeping the growth under some sort of control, and in the process has found 4 carcasses of chicks that didn’t make it from previous years.   That too seems to be something natural.   In my time in the Kowhai colony observing birds at night with thermal imaging gear, I have seen chicks fail to take off and crash into hohera trees on their first attempt.   What really amazes me is that over half of the eggs that are laid manage to fledge (about 53%) and over half the chicks that fledge come back to our colony (about 55%).    We cannot be sure if some of them go to other colonies, or if the ones we don’t see have died, but given that they are essentially on their own from when the fledge, and they have to find food on instinct, and navigate to Australia and back multiple times (3+) before we see them again, it is quite something.

Marine heat waves don’t make it easy for our birds, and they are surviving.   They are tough.  They need to be.

Thanks for your interest in reading this far.

If you are interested in volunteering time, please contact Ted (027 442 4281)

Chick Translocations – A Summary To Date

The Trust began Hutton’s shearwater chick translocations from the Kowhai River colony (one of only two remaining wild colonies) in the Seaward Kaikoura Range to the artificial Kaikoura Peninsula/Te Rae O Atiu colony in 2005.

Translocations followed in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2012 and 2013.  Chicks adapted well to their artificial burrows within the predator-proof colony on the Kaikoura Peninsula. They were fed sardine smoothies, regularly weighed and fitted with metal bands and microchips – before fledging and migrating to feed in the warm coastal waters off western Australia. Immature birds remain there until 3-4 years of age, and then return for their first breeding attempt at the Kaikoura Peninsula colony. Translocated birds have already begun returning to their artificial colony and made first breeding attempts – great news!

The next translocation will likely take place in 2018.

The Trust is grateful to the many sponsors and volunteers who made translocations possible. Each of you has directly helped make a difference for this endangered species.

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Successful Hutton’s Shearwater Chick Translocation

During March 2013 the developing colony at the Kaikoura Peninsula/Te Rae o Atiu was given a boost with the addition of a further 103 chicks translocated from the Kowhai River colony. The season’s crop of chicks were in excellent condition, with the birds selected for transfer having exceptional weights. The chicks were transferred from the mountain colony in two batches that were flown by helicopter directly to their new home. Here they were placed in their own artificial burrows and fed by hand with a sardine smoothie daily. The transfer went without a hitch and all 103 chicks fledged successfully. These young birds will in time provide an important boost to the number of breeding birds returning to the colony and will help ensure that the number of breeding birds continues to increase.

The chicks needed carefully daily attention, being weighed, measured and fed to ensure they were developing healthily and were in good body condition. For this we are grateful to the army of volunteers who gave up their time to assist.  The chance to take part in this ground-breaking project was well taken up, and was summed up in one volunteer comment: ‘To have such an amazing project on our backdoor is truly an inspiration’.


2013 Translocation – Volunteer Positions Filled

There is great demand in the Hutton’s shearwater chik feeding volunteer spots, so much so that the roster is now full!

Please check back here or on Facebook for the latest updates.

Volunteer information here


2013 Translocation – Public Opportunities

On Tuesday February 26th, Hutton’s shearwater chicks will be translocated from the Kowhai River mountain colony to the Kaikoura Peninsula / Te Rae O Atiu colony. There is public opportunity to view the arrival of the chicks and the subsequent chick feeding programme.

Arrival Of Chicks – Tuesday 26 February 2015 at 2pm

Meet at the South Bay carpark at 1 pm, to walk to the Kaikoura Peninsula colony to be there for the arrival of the chicks by helicopter at 2 pm.

Arrival of chicks and all visits to the colony are weather and project manager dependent. Please check the website or Facebook page for the latest information.