A new generation of ōi chicks takes flight

As the new year kicks off, the Karioi Project team are relieved to have made it through another busy ōi season, getting six new ōi chicks to the stage where they can safely leave their burrows and fly seaward as adult birds. 

Despite a few challenges, the ōi population which nest in burrows around the coastline of Whāingaroa is growing slowly but surely with the help of volunteers and the local community. 

Each week over the breeding season – which runs from May to December – a dedicated team of ‘burrow buddies’ visit the burrows to monitor the bird’s activity and respond to predator threats. 

Seabird ranger Georgia Cummings leads the programme and checks the 24-hour field cameras near the burrows. 

“We started the season with a good amount of activity and adult ōi regularly visiting burrows and laying eggs, but unfortunately as the season progressed we had a notable fall off in activity including quite a few abandoned eggs,” Georgia says.

“Despite these setbacks, we ended up with six ōi chicks fledging from the burrows.”

“A highlight for me was seeing our 50th chick fledge – a big milestone for these seabirds and something we’ve been working towards over the past ten years,” Georgia says. 

“I love getting up close and personal with ōi chicks while helping with banding and it feels really rewarding knowing our population here in Whāingaroa is growing – we’re on the right track,” she says. 

The resilient chicks who survived to fledge will head to sea for approximately seven years before coming back to their natal colonies to pair and breed. During this time they roam thousands of kilometres, mainly staying in the Tasman Sea and the Australian coast, but also north into the Coral Sea.

“The next step for our team is maintaining and extending our trapping and bait station network so we can better protect next season’s chicks,” says Georgia. 

Thanks to long-term monitoring and intensive predator control, 53 ōi chicks have fledged from Karioi in the past six years. This result is a testimony to a community that has come together and made a real difference to a vulnerable bird species and a threatened ecosystem. 

Want to contribute? Become a regular volunteer, trap at home, or donate to the project. 

Written by Holly Dove

This content is brought to you thanks to sponsorship from Wahinemoe Boat Charters

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