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Back from the Brink

Updated on July 11, 2015

The little guys who could

I'm not really much of a birdwatcher, well at least I didn't used to be! But some of the hubs I've been reading recently have helped me to "start looking to the skies" and take a little more notice of whom we share our planet with.

There are so many items in the news that tell us how things are going wrong and how we need to change our ways that I thought it time to take a look at some of the "good news" stories where we have made a difference.

This is the story of two species that came close to leaving us altogether (extinction) but through a bit of careful management have been brought back from the brink of extinction.

1. Takahe

Takahe or "porphyrio hochstetteri"

This little fellow was once thought to be extinct. In 1898 what was thought to be the last of the breed were hunted for food, but then in 1948 in the Murchison mountains near Lake Te Anau (part of the Southern Alps) a man by the name of George Orbell re-discovered them.

They are a flightless bird from a time when New Zealand was a land of birds and insects with no natural predators.

The arrival of Humans is what changed that as the Takahe was hunted for food, introduced pests such as rats, stoats, possums, cats and dogs all took their toll until they were taken to the brink and thought wiped out.

Takahe are unusual in that they don't normally live in the forest but in grassland fairly high in the mountains, they nest in tussocks.

By the way, if you want to see the Takahe you'd have to travel to the remote southwest corner of the country, to Fjordland, or you could settle for his bigger cousin the Pukeko who's found all over New Zealand

Since their re-discovery Government has sought to monitor the population to make sure they don't face extinction again, helping out with this is one of their old enemies. Specially trained sniffer dogs find the nests and alert their handlers who note the condition of the eggs and chicks to keep record of their recovery. There are still less than 250 birds but that's better than being extinct!

In the last few years there's been a concerted effort to re-introduce the Takahe into various parts of the country. Special areas have been fenced off and huge efforts put in to get rid of pests in the area, walking paths built so that Joe public can see these and other precious bids in their natural habitat and learn why it's so important to preserve them for the future

The photo below is taken at a inland "Island reserve" created just about an hour from Hamilton

Just wonderful, Takahe where they used to rule the roost

These were introduced to a predator free zone in the North Island just a few miles from where we live in 2006
These were introduced to a predator free zone in the North Island just a few miles from where we live in 2006 | Source

Where the Pukeko might be

Our river. Pukeko can be seen in places (Barney stays on the lead)
Our river. Pukeko can be seen in places (Barney stays on the lead) | Source

The species lives on

Some birds still threatened

2. The Black Robin

For this little critter even I'd have to travel over land and sea to find where they live. About six hundred miles off the east coast of New Zealand is a group of Islands called the Chatham Islands, a small group of Islands where the original Human settlers (even before the Maori) still live, and they share their Islands with some wonderful little creatures , one of which is the Black Robin or Chatham Island Robin.

Bringing the Black Robin back from the brink of Extinction is one of the biggest international conservation success stories of the last thirty years, why? Because thirty five years ago (1980) conservationists realized that there were only five birds of the species left at the time! Five males and one breeding female!

I suppose the female could at least have her pick of the fellas to breed with, but the situation was so critical that action was called for and things happened.

The Black Robin isn't that good of a flyer (not over long distances anyway) but they hadn't needed to be as the Chathams are at least five hundred miles from the nearest land mass and there were no natural predators, but with the arrival of Humans and particularly Europeans with their cats and dogs all that changed!

By the 1870's they were extinct on the main Islands of the Chathams and only lived on one remote place called "Little Mangare Island" A small rock outcrop of about 15 Hectare five miles from the nearest Island and five hundred miles from civilization, yet we're the ones threaten their existence!

Recovery programs were begun and soon the female was even given a nickname (Old Blue). Black Robins are only about the size of a sparrow and lay one or two eggs a year. They start breeding at about two years old and life expectancy is about four or five years but Old Blue lived a total of fourteen years! when she died apparently it was such a big thing that her death was announced in Parliament, but then again she was the little lady who saved her species!

We're unlikely to ever see a Black Robin even here so close to where they live, but that doesn't mean that we can't take heart from such an amazing success story!

The Birds were moved from Little Mangare island to the larger Mangare Island about five miles away where about two hundred of them now live and the population is steadily growing.

The little bird who could

The Black Robin. no bigger than a sparrow
The Black Robin. no bigger than a sparrow | Source

How it was done

Not much of a bird watcher

As I said at the beginning, I'm not really much of a birdwatcher, but over the last few weeks I've started to take note of those who fly across our path. It would be easy to think that birds will always be with us, after all they've always been there, but the fact is if we're not careful there could come a day when the skies are barren and there is no singing in the trees.

Tragic as it sounds that day could come as we take away their habitat, yet simple little things like planting trees in our concrete jungles, or putting a few crumbs of bread out in the depth of winter when the ground is hard and unrelenting can make all the difference to these creatures who spend their time flying around entertaining us and bringing the music of their singing to our ears.

How about you, you don't have to be an 'eco-warrior' to make a difference.

The Kea

The Kea is actually a Parrot
The Kea is actually a Parrot
Did I mention they're a bit of a Vandal! They can wreck new cars better than a crusher in less time!
Did I mention they're a bit of a Vandal! They can wreck new cars better than a crusher in less time!
They;re also very inquisitive
They;re also very inquisitive

What's your favorite bird

If I was to choose a bird that would be my favorite it would be the Kea or New Zealand Falcon, what would yours be?

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    • lawrence01 profile image
      Author

      Lawrence Hebb 2 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Alexadry

      So true. Every species we lose is a precious piece of creation. This hub is about hope that we can change things for many species.

      Thank you for the visit

      Lawrence

    • alexadry profile image

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 2 years ago from USA

      What a shame some animals are going extinct and some have been near the brink of extinction. Extinct animals will never be brought back and we lose something unique and irreplaceable. Voted up and useful.

    • lawrence01 profile image
      Author

      Lawrence Hebb 2 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Lisavanvorst

      That is an awesome story! Something as special as that is tobe treasured. Thabk you for sharing it with us.

      Suhail

      I will do more but meanwhile you might want to check out "If you go down to the beach today" about the Maui Dolphin the rarest dolphin and one in serious danger of extinction.

      Lawrence

    • Suhail and my dog profile image

      Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 2 years ago from Mississauga, ON

      Thank you, Lawrence.

      I will be looking forward to more wildlife conservation hubs from you.

      Regards,

      Suhail and K2

    • lisavanvorst profile image

      Lisa VanVorst 2 years ago from New Jersey

      A very interesting article. I love nature and I too have seen many different birds. I would like to tell a story of one. It is red cardinal. Everyday it comes by my back den door and coo's. See I feed all the animals, squirrels, chipmunks and the birds. This one bird will call me and I feel all peanuts. But for the cardinal I open the shell and throw the peanuts in the yard. One day another bird came with the cardinal. It was smaller and only a small spot of red. I watched and realized that this beautifully red cardinal was feeding its peanuts to its offspring. Now I am feeding both. Nature and Gods pets are beautiful creatures and always bring a smile to my face every morning. Thank you for sharing your stories.

    • lawrence01 profile image
      Author

      Lawrence Hebb 2 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Suhail

      It wasn't intentional! Thank you for pointing that out though. Actually what got me thinking about this hub was a program where tracker dogs were being used to find Takahe eggs. The dog would just lie there after finding until the Ranger had recorded all the details about the nest! It was amazing.

      Glad you enjoyed the hub and I'll have to check that hub out

      Lawrence

    • Suhail and my dog profile image

      Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 2 years ago from Mississauga, ON

      You missed out one - the Kakapo, parrot from New Zealand. The successful back from the brink story is very well covered in William Stolzenberg's 'Rat Island'. I have also covered it in one of my hubs on using dogs to protect wildlife.

      In any case, your hub is very useful, informative and awesome.

    • lawrence01 profile image
      Author

      Lawrence Hebb 2 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Bdeguillio

      Sometimes we need to hear the success stories to know we are making a difference and helping preserve these creatures for future generations to enjoy. I'm going to have to look up the Californian Condor.

      Glad you enjoyed the hub and thank you for the visit.

      Lawrence

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 2 years ago from Massachusetts

      Great hub Lawrence. It's so nice to hear about a couple of success stories. Here in the U.S. we had a similar success story with the California Condor. It's great to see that enough people care to help save these species. Thanks for sharing.

    • lawrence01 profile image
      Author

      Lawrence Hebb 2 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Mel

      You're talking about the Moa and you're right, it stood about 8 feet tall. Some of the ancient Maori chief's costumes had Moa feathers in them.

      The Takahe is special as its nearest relative (the Pukeko) still flies and although it looks awkward it has been found on Islands up to 200 miles off the coast!

      Glad you liked the hub

      Lawrence

    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 2 years ago from San Diego California

      Watch out, this bird watching becomes an obsession after a while. I've read that rails like the Takahe lose their ability to fly on islands, and this holds true for other bird families as well. There was an enormous flightless bird on New Zealand, whose name I have forgotten, that was hunted to extinction. Man and his escaped feral animals are primarily responsible. Great hub!

    • lawrence01 profile image
      Author

      Lawrence Hebb 2 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Avionnovice

      Pleased you enjoyed the hub. It's good to get "good news" occasionally and I'm sure this was an encouragement.

      Say Yes

      I looked the pied peacock up and it was fascinating. Thank you for sharing it

      Lawrence

    • Say Yes To Life profile image

      Yoleen Lucas 2 years ago from Big Island of Hawaii

      I don't know how pied peacocks get their colors; I believe it's natural, rather than albino. Here's a link to some pictures:

      http://uat.startupwebz.com/zookemaman/author/dilab...

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Very nice work. I really enjoyed this(as I would), and it would be such a thrill to be involved in working with your birds one day!

    • lawrence01 profile image
      Author

      Lawrence Hebb 2 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Peacocks are beautiful birds. Though one with a white body but blue green plumage would be amazing (and rare) I wonder if its an albino effect?

      Glad you enjoyed the hub. We all like a little good news occasionally

      Lawrence

    • Say Yes To Life profile image

      Yoleen Lucas 2 years ago from Big Island of Hawaii

      I love pied peacocks. The zoo in Hilo HI has lots of blue peacocks strutting around. It mysteriously acquired one with a white body to go with the blue and green plummage. Peacocks also come with purple plummage, and solid white.

    • lawrence01 profile image
      Author

      Lawrence Hebb 2 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Chris

      So do I! They're great stories and sometimes we just need to know we can make a difference!

      Glad to be an encouragement.

      Lawrence

    • cam8510 profile image

      Chris Mills 2 years ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      Lawrence, I love these success stories. This is very encouraging. Thanks for sharing.

    • lawrence01 profile image
      Author

      Lawrence Hebb 2 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Catherine

      I love stories like these. Where someone decides to do something about the situation and it makes a difference. The Takahe was thought extinct but when he found them George Orbell decided he was going to make a difference.

      Both these species were brought back by people who wanted to change things

      Glad you enjoyed the hub

      Lawrence

    • CatherineGiordano profile image

      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      It is always nice when we find that a species we thought was extinct is not really extinct. The loss of species diversity is a series problem. Thanks for bringing this to people's attention

    • lawrence01 profile image
      Author

      Lawrence Hebb 2 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Larry

      When the missus and I first got married we moved into a tiny two bedroom upstairs apartment on the edge of the city

      No yard but an amazing view of the local gully complete with a Morpork owl in the tree opposite. We used to sit at night reading and listening to its call!

      Owls are amazing birds and great physics teachers

      Lawrence

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 2 years ago from Oklahoma

      To me owls are the coolest. They seem to defy physics in a number of ways.

    • lawrence01 profile image
      Author

      Lawrence Hebb 2 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Jodah

      The Kea is cheeky little thing. But they're native birds so we love them.

      Lawrence

    • lawrence01 profile image
      Author

      Lawrence Hebb 2 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Annart

      Seeing a Sparrowhawk take another bird mid flight would be amazing! I've only ever seen that on TV. The precision required to do so and then pull out of the dive is staggering!

      I'm not really one for hunting but they are doing it for food and only taking what they need. Thank you for sharing it

      Lawrence

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 2 years ago from Queensland Australia

      I have seen a few documentaries on TV featuring the Kea. They certainly seem to be inquisitive and have a personality all there own.

    • lawrence01 profile image
      Author

      Lawrence Hebb 2 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Linda

      Wow! What a list! Some amazing creatures there. The woodpeckers must be special, just seeing them doing what comes naturally. The rest I'll have to look up but having them visit your backyard must be amazing!

      Lawrence

    • lawrence01 profile image
      Author

      Lawrence Hebb 2 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Bill

      We'd have to go back a long way to find animals that died out naturally but man and some things he's done are responsible for most.

      Thats why we should look at the 'good news' stories and what they did!

      Glad you enjoyed the hub

      Lawrence

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 2 years ago from SW England

      Yes; the conservancy does what it says and has several hawks that are endangered. You can handle a Harris Hawk and you see Red Kites and Bald Eagles - amazing!

      The Sparrow Hawk can sometimes be seen crashing through the bushes after something; one once destroyed a seagull in our garden (twice its size!).

      There are also many kestrels around here as well as buzzards over the moors. Fascinating and majestic birds.

      Ann

    • lawrence01 profile image
      Author

      Lawrence Hebb 2 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Annart

      I'm being a bit cheeky here and looking up any birds folks list here, its amazing how much we just don't 'see' even when we spent years there!

      I grew up in Cheshire yet can't remember ever seeing a Hawk! I took what you said about the Hawk and looked up a few English Hawks. The Goshawk and yge Golden Eagle are two stunning birds and both are endangered with only 200 breeding pairs.

      Glad you enjoyed the hub.

      Lawrence

    • Carb Diva profile image

      Linda Lum 2 years ago from Washington State, USA

      What a great hub Lawrence. As for what bird is my favorite, I checked "other", and the answer is--too many to isolate it to just one. In my backyard we have goldfinch, hawks, chickadees, flickers, several types of woodpeckers, owls, grossbeaks, and the list goes on. About 30 years ago we lived near a game farm and so were treated to the sight and sound of the occasional peacock in our backyard. They are all unique and beautiful. Thank you for helping make us all aware.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I suppose it's possible that some species become extinct as a natural process, but far and away the majority of extinctions are man-made. That's why articles like this one are so important. Great information, Lawrence. Thank you!

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 2 years ago from SW England

      I love all birds of prey and adore visiting the Hawk Conservancy in Andover, Hampshire.

      However, my favourite bird is the blackbird; hardy, wonderful singer, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.

      I've seen a Kea in NZ and a few of your other wonderful birds.

      Great hub.

      Ann

    • lawrence01 profile image
      Author

      Lawrence Hebb 2 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Jodah.

      Thabk you for the visit. The Cassowary looks an interesting bird and the destruction of its habitat bringing it into urban areas could spell trouble for the unwary.

      Glad you enjoyed the hub

      Lawrence

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 2 years ago from Queensland Australia

      It is great to hear thee success stories of these species being brought back from the brink of extinction Lawrence. I have been taking a lot more notice of our feathered friends since I moved away from the city to the country about 10 years ago. Now I note every uncommon species that visits and have bird feeders and fountains throughout the yard to provide for them. My favourite bird would probably be the king, and red wing parrot that feed outside our bedroom window, but in wider Australia it would be the Cassowary which is also endangered because man has continually infringing on its natural habitat. These large flightless birds (similar to Ostriches and Emus though they have a large bony horn on their head) are being forced into suburban areas searching for food and can be dangerous to humans if disturbed or provoked.

    • lawrence01 profile image
      Author

      Lawrence Hebb 2 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Word55

      Thank you for the visit. The real heroes of this story are the birds who refused to go quietly into extinction!

      Glad you enjoyed tge hub, its good to get good news sometimes.

      Lawrence

    • word55 profile image

      Word 2 years ago from Chicago

      Wonderful awareness here lawrence01. There are some wonderful people left here on earth that really cares about the environment and living species. I applaud your research about preserving these birds. You have a very good heart. Keep up the good work! God bless1