After visiting dozens of lakes and waterways around the MacKenzie Basin and seeing many
different birds which included a Black Stilt family with a chick & one hybrid parent, another adult bird defending it’s nest/chick from a hawk and two juvenile Black Stilts up close, we had yet to see an adult Black Stilt up
So it was a great thrill when we finally managed to locate not one, but two
very confiding adult Black Stilts/Kakī feeding in a shallow pond overflow on
farmland not too far from Twizel.
Not only were they happy to carry on feeding but I managed to get very close
without disturbing them.
Going by the flattened grass track leading to a fence that separated the
birds from the road, I got the feeling that these two are very much used to
weird humans crouching and crawling through the grass with a camera
lens stuck to their face.
Intensive conservation management of the endemic (found nowhere else in the world) Black Stilt began in 1981 when the
population had declined to just 23 adult birds. Despite this management the Black Stilt still remains the rarest wading bird in the world, with fewer than
100 breeding birds.
Over 150 captive bred juvenile black stilts (a season record) have been
released into the MacKenzie Basin area this past breeding season which should
increase the breeding adults over the next 2-3 years, providing they survive predation and
the harsh winter environment they live in.
Unlike other birds that make the braided rivers of the South Island home, the
majority of black stilts don’t migrate to warmer climates for winter.
We visited the birds twice while we were staying at Lake Ruataniwha and I’ll
certainly be checking in on them again the next time we pass through. We also
located another two adults further down the road but they were a lot further away than these two.
That’s another bird we can tick on our virtual list. And it was well worth the wait and effort in finding them, they are a stunning bird.