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Rare mainland bird colony in Southland records highest breeding success in more than a decade

Volunteers working to protect a rare mainland species of bird in Southland have recorded its best breeding season in years.

In the past 10 years the highest recording was just 30 tītī (Sooty shearwater) chicks in a Bluff colony, but attempts to rid the area of pests meant this year the Bluff Hill Motupōhue Environment Trust recorded 45.

A new predator trap network installed on Bluff Hill last year is being hailed as the reason for the successful 50 per cent increase in chicks hatched at the colony this season.

"Nesting success is our main measure of the survival of these colonies, so to see the chick occupancy of burrows up from 30 chicks to 45 is a fantastic sign of success," Bluff Hill Trust Chairwoman Estelle Leask says.

"This is an incredible turnaround as we traditionally have lost so many chicks to predators."

Monitoring by the community group responsible for protecting native species in the area shows last year's installation of 80 automatic rat and stoat traps greatly improved the survival rates of tītī chicks.

Tītī chicks and eggs are vulnerable to predation by rats and stoats, particularly while they are still in their burrows. Tītī only lay one egg per year, so have a low annual productivity. Mainland tītī colonies are protected by law.

Traps were laid out on Bluff Hill to provide additional defence to the native flora and fauna on the hill – especially the vulnerable tītī colonies there.

The A24 automatic trap, developed by Wellington conservation technology company Goodnature, is the world’s only predator trap which automatically resets up to 24 times.

It has been proven to reduce pest populations down to near undetectable levels and keep them suppressed of rats and stoats.

A Sooty Shearwater, Puffinus griseus gliding over waves. (File photo)
A Sooty Shearwater, Puffinus griseus gliding over waves. (File photo) Source: istock.com