Hybrid New Zealand stilts
Cross-bred New Zealand stilts on the Miranda Wetlands mud south of Auckland. Photo: ©Tony Neilson

But maybe not for much longer

The New Zealand black stilt is the world’s rarest wading bird. And from a country with such a woeful history of native wildlife losses, you might expect the bird’s future to be bleak.

At last count (2017) there were just 106 black stilts (kaki) left in the wild in New Zealand.

But thanks to a half-million-dollar breeding aviary project funded by the Sangreal Foundation of the US, those numbers will soon rise rapidly.

Up to 175 extra birds annually are expected to be released to the wild from the new breeding facility, which opened late 2017 at Twizel in New Zealand’s South Island.

Cross-breeding problem

Nevertheless, there lurks another problem for the black stilt: hybridisation. Interbreeding with the much more populous black-winged (pied) stilt has diluted the black stilt gene pool and produced some undesirable mutations.

While photographing at two of the North Island’s best shorebird sites in early April, crossbred stilts were evident (pictured).

Attractive though they are, we were told by local birders that the hybrids’ days would be numbered. They will be ‘eliminated’ to preserve the genetic purity of the kiri.

Footnote: New Zealand has the dubious honour of having all four of the world’s rarest waders (according to Wader Quest): #1 black stilt (pop 106), #2 southern New Zealand dotterel (160-190), #3 shore plover/dotterel (156-220), #4 Chatham Island oystercatcher (50-249).

©natural images 2018

Stilts roosting on pond
Black-winged (pied) stilts share their early morning roost with incoming non-breeding bar-tailed godwits. Photo: ©Tony Neilson
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©2018 TONY NEILSON All Rights Reserved. All images are protected by Australian copyright law and cannot be downloaded or reproduced without my permission. Please contact me.

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2 thoughts on “WORLD’S RAREST WADER

  • IAN HUGHES April 18, 2018 at 11:37 PM Reply

    Birds of Paradise took my breath away for their stunningly unexpected brilliant exotic beauty. Congratulations to the lady who shot them.
    Excellent story on the World’s rarest wader’, but how do you spell ‘populous” Tony?

    • Tony Neilson April 20, 2018 at 8:59 AM Reply

      Mmmm, bad form. indeed. I claim the Spell Checker overrode me. Good to know somebody is out there maintaining my standards.

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