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.
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