More trees planted will boost NZ falcon’s chances of survival

In November 27, 2017

The threatened native falcon, one of the world’s fastest flying birds, should prosper if the new Government holds to its promise to boost forest planting.

Under new Forestry Minister Shane Jones, the Government has set a target of an additional 50,000ha of planting a year, mostly radiata pine.

With a population of between 5000-8000, the karearea has thrived in pine forests, provided it has the right mix of mature trees from where it can see to hunt prey, and open spaces where it can nest.

Chifuyu Horikoshi, who has just completed a PhD in falcon behaviour and non-breeding ecology in Kaingaroa Forest in the central North Island last breeding season, welcomed the promise of more trees, saying the more the better for the raptor, one of New Zealand’s few birds of prey.

“It’s undoubtedly much better to plant more forest because that’s a more suitable breeding habitat for falcons than farmland, and in the central North Island a lot of small areas of forest have been converted to farms.”

She also worked in Otago forests on karearea. The two regions were in striking contrast. Kaingaroa, managed by Timberlands, is one of the largest plantation forests in the world, whereas Otago features many small forest blocks among farmland.

In Kaingaroa, Horikoshi looked at how falcons coped with changes of forest structure, and the impacts of 1080 poison.

The last PhD study in Kaingaroa was carried out 14 years ago and since then annual logging has increased, and over a wider area.

Horikoshi said both studies showed Kaingaroa falcons preferred to live in mature forests with open habitat nearby, and this determined their home range. With increased logging, there were more open areas, and falcons now need a greater home range than before.

“When home range size increases, the forest carries fewer falcons. Forestry companies can enhance their suitability for falcons if harvesting is structured in ways that maximise the density of the mature-open edge habitats throughout the forest.”

The risk of 1080 secondary poisoning on adult falcons she studied was low, while further investigation needed to be done to see if hungry juveniles feed on animals which had died of the poison, resulting in their deaths.

Timberlands forest risk manager Colin Maunder said more and more forestry companies have to show they are responsible managers, or else they will face barriers in selling their products.

An important stamp of approval is the internationally-recognised Forest Stewardship Council certification, and Timberlands has been able to show the Council a number of initiatives aimed at safeguarding the falcon.

For example, during nesting, Timberlands logging gangs are careful not to disturb the birds, and work closely with the advocacy group Wingspan by reporting and recording whenever they see them.

“This often comes at considerable operational cost, for example moving machinery away from a newly discovered nest can cost over $10,000. Also at times we have to re-schedule an operation that is planned for an area with a nest. All this is important to ensuring the continued growth of the plantation falcon population,” Maunder said.

Debbie Stewart, director of charitable trust Wingspan, said if eggs or chicks were in danger, they were transported to its Rotorua centre and placed in incubators and brooders.

Timber products company, Kimberly Clark, which sources some of its wood fibre from Kaingaroa Forest, has helped Wingspan upgrade to the latest technology in infant bird care and expand the centre’s rescue and breeding capacity.

It has enrolled more than 10,000 school children in efforts to protect the falcon as Wingspan Warriors and funded a new lesson plan about falcons developed for primary schools.

Through the Timberlands and Wingspan partnership, scientists such as Horikoshi have also been supported.

More trees planted will boost NZ falcon’s chances of survival by Gerard Hutching.  Available from <> [Last updated 12:38, November 20 2017] Photo Credit:  Article Source (STEPHAN JACQUIERY)

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